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September 3, 2014

On that Photo of the Police Dog Funeral

With all the difficult feelings lingering in the air from August, I’m not altogether sure what my takeaway is, but this photo called my name the other day.  The caption reads:

Aug. 28, 2014. Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City.

What with all the focus on police conduct, race and civil defense, the militarization of local police departments, etc., the picture appears at an auspicious moment. No surprise, then, it would surface in the photos of the week.  Maybe it’s the proximity to Labor Day, the resonance to Oklahoma City (as well as the photo of Michael Brown’s father from his son’s funeral) but the image made me pause for a moment and consider how quick we are to draw comparisons, to generalize and to judge. On one level, after all, one can recoil over the formality, the ceremony, and the high regard, especially by the state (accentuated by Old Glory, or perhaps because everybody’s white) for a dog. But then, on another level, it’s a surprisingly intimate portrait, animal pictures are arguably the emotional life blood of the internet … and the professional has just lost his partner.

(photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

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