One of the many little stories to come out of France in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks is about a dog named Diesel.
A seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, Diesel was trained to sniff out explosives and worked with French anti-terrorist forces. When police raided the suspected lair of the terrorists who planned the Paris attacks earlier this week, Diesel entered the target building to do her duty. Unfortunately, she was killed when a female terrorist came out shooting and then used a suicide vest to blow herself up.
There was an immediate and overwhelming reaction to Diesel’s death. The announcement that she was killed was shared on social media far more than a related announcement that five police officers were injured in the operation, and a new Twitter hashtag — #JeSuisChien (“I am dog” in French) — was created and went viral.
The reaction to the death of Diesel does not demonstrate a lack of concern about the police casualties, but rather shows the special bond between humans and canines — and the special appreciation we have for service dogs. Whether it is the sniffer dogs like Diesel that work to ferret out explosives or illegal substances, guide dogs that help the blind, or therapy dogs that are found in many care facilities and nursing homes, dogs often perform a service beyond the pleasure of their companionship. (And, not to point a finger at our feline friends, there are a lot more dogs than cats employed in the service of mankind.) When a dog is killed in the line of duty, as Diesel was, it’s perfectly understandable and appropriate to recognize her sacrifice on our behalf.
The photo accompanying this post shows an attentive Diesel, sitting as she was trained to do, with two of the medals she was awarded for her service. The dog lovers among us know, of course, that Diesel wasn’t doing was she did because of any medals or a desire for recognition. She did it because that is what she was trained to do, and her performance of her duty allowed her to be with the humans that she loved. It’s a sad photo, in a way, because it shows the human need to recognize her efforts with some sort of tangible object, when Diesel herself — like any dog — needed no such material affirmation. Simply being with the humans who trained her and fed her and showed her affection and treated her like part of the family was its own, ample reward. Is it any wonder that Diesel’s death would produce its own, unique outpouring of emotional support?
Je suis chien, indeed.