Monday, November 15, 2010

Devil's Advocate: Rosie the Newfie

I've read posts from a number of different bloggers about Rosie the Newfoundland who was shot (4 times) and killed by police officers.  The story is a sad one, that's for sure.  You can read it here.  I thought I might give my own take on the situation given that I often have a different view on these things than the majority of "dog people".

First let me say I do not find the police department or the particular officers involved to be without fault in this case.  Their actions were foolish and terribly disappointing.  More on that later.

However, I found my first huge problem with this whole story when I read that Rosie's owners left her outside while they left the house for a few hours.  This kind of poor judgment is something that makes me ask "Are you out of your $%&#ing MIND?" on a pretty regular basis.  I can think of about 20 different ways Rosie could have died as a result of being left outside while the owners were away.  This was pure foolishness on the part of her owners, and a huge lesson to be learned for people who think this is ok - it absolutely is not.

I had a boyfriend who left his dog outside while we went to a movie.  We had "disagreements" about the dog previously and I decided to just ignore it and let him do whatever he wanted since it wasn't my dog or my problem.  I didn't even like the dog all that much, but I can tell you I was a nervous wreck during the whole movie.  I couldn't even tell you what movie we saw, only that I kept imagining all 20 ways the dog could end up dead while we were at the theater.  I don't shut my mouth about this anymore.  Fortunately, the dog was fine.

So, since Rosie wasn't poisoned by the neighbor kids, teased and hit with sticks, hung and strangled by getting her collar caught on the fence, or any other number of terrible things that can happen when her people aren't there to stop it, she just jumped the fence to go explore the world.  Despite the fact that she ran in traffic, she wasn't hit and killed by that either.  Somebody called the police and tried to help her.

First, let me be very clear about this:  MANY people are afraid of dogs.  If you are going to be a dog owner and refuse to accept this fact, you are kidding yourself and putting your dog at risk.  It is in no way unreasonable to assume that the police officers who dealt with Rosie were genuinely afraid of her.  MANY people are not only afraid of dogs, they also know almost nothing about how to deal with dogs.  Again, failure to realize this is to the detriment of the dog and his owner, nobody else.  It is NOT the responsibility of ANYBODY who does not have a dog to learn ANYTHING about dogs for the benefit of dog owners.  It is also NOT acceptable for a dog owner to expect ANYBODY to like or even tolerate their dog just because they happen to like them.  It is NOT acceptable to expect ANYBODY to assume your dog is "friendly" just because you said so.  Don't EVER forget that.  EVER.
I can absolutely 100% guarantee that if I were to bring an adult Newfie into my mother's home, she WOULD be afraid of it at first.  She has grown to know and love my dogs, but strange dogs are a whole other story and Rosie's black coat wouldn't help matters.  Large black dogs are scary to many people no matter how sweet they are, and their owners need to be aware of this. 

Here's where my huge beef with the police department comes in.

Just as Police officers don't start an IV line on an injured person at the scene of an accident, they have no business attempting to catch and restrain a dog.  Contain the dog, yes, which they did by keeping her confined in a neighbors fenced yard.  The INSTANT she was no longer a danger to other people or herself, their job was done.  There is absolutely no reason they should have been trying to catch her, they are not qualified for that kind of work any more than they are qualified to start and IV line.  That is what Animal Control is for.  Even just looking at it from the standpoint of officer safety, they were putting themselves at risk by approaching a dog they are untrained and unqualified to deal with - guns don't always stop dogs, they could have been seriously hurt themselves as a result of their foolishness.

I have been working with dogs and people for long enough to know that NOBODY can tell me Rosie was a sweet perfect wonderful dog.  If I haven't seen it with my own eyes, I don't believe it.  Ever.  I have seen dogs people call sweet and friendly - they most certainly were not.  I am also well aware of the fact that people sometimes love their dogs to the point of making them monsters.  I'd say there is a good chance Rosie was a wonderful and very frightened dog, but for people to claim she was this perfect harmless defenseless dog without ever having seen her is a joke.  Just for good measure, I'll throw in the fact that if the owners hadn't left Rosie outside alone, they would have been there to tell the officers that Rosie was a wonderful dog and call her back home where she belonged. 

Now there's the fact that Rosie was not only shot 4 times, she was tasered.  This, to me, is another indicator of incompetence on the part of the officers.  I'd love to see the place in a police officer's training where it suggest a TASER as a good option in a case like this.  If it's there, somebody better do some long hard thinking on the topic... and maybe talk to somebody who knows a little something about dogs before they recommend it any further.  Talk about a good way to get very seriously hurt.

As far as I am concerned, there is plenty of responsibility to go around here.  Even if mistakes were made, nobody deserves to lose a dog this way.  I feel terrible for Rosie's family.  I hope that this series of events will serve as a wake-up call for dog owners who think it's ok to leave their dogs outside while they are not home (particularly those who live in urban areas); and for police departments to require officers to leave the tasks they are not qualified to deal with to the people who ARE when the opportunity presents itself.  It sure would save a whole lot of people a whole lot of heart-ache.  


  1. Yes, that was well said. There have been cases around here of police raiding suspected grow-ops and shooting a family dog in the process.

  2. Thank you for leaving your comments on my blog regarding this issue, I appreciate your point of view and your post was very well written.


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