Why the French Police Dog's Death Matters

Diesel, a French police dog, was killed yesterday during a raid in Saint-Denis, Paris, where a number of terrorists had reportedly been found with ammunition and explosives identical to those used in the November 13th attacks. After the raid, the French police published a photo of Diesel on Twitter in tribute to him and other police dogs that are crucial to the safety of officers and the success of dangerous missions.

Soon, #JeSuisChien, or #IAmDog, was trending on Twitter and national publications had picked up the story. Many think it crass that one animal's death receive so much attention when 129 human lives were cut violently short. But society is apt to forget how we symbolically associate animals, in this case dogs, ignoring both their literal and spiritual impact on society.

In Western culture, dogs are guardians. They make the evening news when they smell smoke and wake their owners to alert them of fire. They are trained to sniff out bombs and trails, and to lead our blind. They bark away danger, and so we feel safe. In sum, we think of them as fiercely loyal, protective animals.

And then we think of Diesel, caught in the crossfire of a violent exchange, or lunging at the female terrorist reaching to self-detonate. To kill a dog is to attack the very virtues of loyalty and innocence. In Diesel's death we are reminded that we are at odds with an ideology out to destroy not just Western virtues, but also everything that represents these virtues. This includes freedom, like the freedom to enjoy our public spaces. Hope, which we associate with our youth. Loyalty, like the pure, selfless kind we receive from our dogs.

129 people are killed and the perseverance of these virtues is challenged. But there is still safety in numbers; democracies stand with France.

A dog dies, and then it clicks. #JeSuisChien. I am not safe.