PHOTO: DAVID I. MUIR/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
I opened the door and walked into the exam room. A Belgian Shepard lunges at me. Snarling. Growling. Barking. He means me no good. The fact he is on a leash and firmly held by his handler ensures my safety. I stand just inside the doorway with my hands behind my back looking down at the dog. I calmly glance up, catching the attention of the handler and raise my eye brows. He shouts a command in German and the dog’s aggressive actions cease as if a switch had been turned off. In what I interpreted as a strangely proud but perverse statement, the handler said “He was just doing that because you are a large black male.” I replied, “Yes I am.” I deemed this strange because the animal is a police dog and the handler a deeply brown skinned Hispanic police officer. In light of recent events of our time, this event more accurately can be described as bizarre.
The reasoning the officer gave for the dog’s actions is chilling. When the statement is analyzed in a linear thought manner, as I am prone to do, the conclusion to which I arrive is personally unsettling. I conclude the dog was trained to see a person like me as a threat. Not a potential treat, but as an actual THREAT. Not my actions or reactions, but my being. To take the linear process further, it is disturbing any police officer, and particularly concerning a Hispanic police officer would make such a statement. Does he not realize he is just a uniform and a bad experiencing form being perceived by his brothers in arms as me? Stockholm Syndrome (Google it.) in full effect…but I digress…or take another logical linear step.
After this experience, my memory could not help but flash back to the grainy black and white video of civil rights protesters in Montgomery, Alabama. The sight of people protesting for their human dignity being mowed down with fire hoses and more vividly having police dogs unleased upon them. Mental images of the video of the protesters crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridges some fifty years ago with police dogs and horses at the ready to disband and disperse protesters. Images of Ferguson, Missouri and marches from around the country protesting the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, still fresh in my mind. It seems in this country when and where ever there are people gathered in the name of justice and human dignity, there are dogs at the ready to be used as instruments to “keep the peace.” Dogs as weapons. A chilling thought, especially when that weapon is designed to be used against you.
The Belgian shepherd was at the clinic for an exam and testing. He passed with flying colors. Later that day, as I was working at my desk in the treatment area, the dog was accidently released from his cage. He made a bee line for me. He came over and stood by my chair and nuzzled his head in my lap. I calmly continued my work and gently scratched between his ears. I considered each scratch a step in his deprograming. I dare say I was probably “deprogramming” the wrong officer.
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls. He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com.