A police dog called Diesel was killed in an anti-terrorism raid in the Parisian district of Saint Denis on November 18. Not only was she praised by the French police for her distinguished career protecting the lives of her human colleagues but her loss also prompted an outpouring of moving tributes across social networks with social media users posting pictures of their dogs with the viral hashtag #JeSuisChien (I am dog), alongside #dieselthedog and #RIPDiesel. Indeed, the sentence ‘I am Dog ‘ says everything about the species: simplicity, unconditional loyalty and a loveable wit typical of dogs.
Police dog Diesel and the social condolences
A few days after the horror of the Paris massacres by a suspected ISIS cell, Paris woke up in fear once again after learning of an incident in the Saint Denis district. The Paris massacre ‘mastermind’ had been tracked down to a flat in Rue du Courbillon, and a tense firefight led by French Police Assault troops prevailed, resulting in the death of two jihadists and the arrest of eight others. At the SWAT team’s side throughout the raid was Diesel, a female Belgian Shepherd (Malinois), one of fifteen assault dogs attached to the special police unit operating in high-risk situations. The seven-year-old dog was sent in to the terrorist’s hideout for reconnaissance. There she lost her life helping to stop those who would probably have attacked again. The Police Nationale, reported the loss on Facebook and Twitter highlighting the key role these dogs play for the special brigade, RAID (Recherche assistance intervention dissuasion).
The outpouring of grief on social networks was widespread, rapid and almost unanimous in its support, and the news soon became viral beyond France’s borders. Gratitude, touching comments and firm condemnation of terrorism far surpassed negative responses, such as those criticising paying tribute to a dog among the victims of terrorism as well as the opinion of those who felt using Diesel for a such a dangerous mission was wrong.
Police dogs: from training to retirement
Of course, the story of our-legged heroine helped to highlight the importance of the role of the police dog, valuable partner of man just like avalanche dogs or livestock guardian dogs. Chosen from several breeds like the German shepherd, Malinois, Rottweiler, Dutch Shepherd, Doberman, Bloodhound, Labrador Retriever or Beagle – and specially trained in a variety of operations, such as explosive detection, prevention, protection, public order and judicial police, anti-drugs, research and public assistance – police dogs are given intensive training based on game or food rewards using a process called ‘operating conditioning’ where the dog’s specific reaction to a stimulus will earn a reward. The relationship with the dog handler is really important: he is a reference point for the dog, which after several years’ service retires, just as a human worker would. In their retirement, the ex-police dog can devote its time to the owner/pack leader just like any other dog: the lucky owner is likely to be the same police handler it has worked with for many years or, if not possible, a member of the public may offer it a new forever home.