Recently, a police dog in Fort Myers, Florida, was accorded full honors commensurate with a fallen officer. The ceremony was held in a local Baptist Church. The service included speakers, a 21 gun salute, Taps and a presentation of the American flag to the animal’s keeper. Other area police departments joined in the service and formed an honor guard as Rosco, a four-year-old German shepherd was, as the media reported, “laid to rest.”
Rosco was killed by an armed suspect during a shootout with police. The teenage male suspect was also killed.
In former times the loss of a member of the canine corps would perhaps have been mentioned in reporting the incident. It may have even led to a spin off human interest story of how these dogs are chosen for the job and how they are trained. The real story, however, would have been the tragedy of the young man losing his life and how such tragedies could be avoided in the future.
Dogs, like Rosco, are trained to do certain things to protect humans, because the life of a dog is of limited value compared to the infinite value of the human person. This is due to the fact that humans have reason. This rationality confers on us freedom, as well as rights and responsibilities. A dog can lay claim to none of these.
In light of this, the designation of ‘hero’ can only be applied to a person, since the action applauded by society is one that had been reflected upon and done through free will. A dog like Rosco is not free. He did not choose his job. He is simply conditioned to react in a certain way. There is no altruism exercised. Animals operate on reward and punishment.
Rosco undoubtedly received treats during his training for good performance, which was his sole source of motivation. In no way could he weigh the consequences of intervening on behalf of his human handler.
No doubt Rosco was a fine animal, but that is where the accolades should end. The events honoring him were an affront to human dignity. They have cheapened human life and the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make on our behalf. Unless this nonsense stops, one can only say, our society has ‘gone to the dogs.
-- Rev. Michael P. Orsi, Oct. 4 CNSNews.com column