Last week the story broke that the a long time officer in the small town City of Marietta was retiring and he thought he'd be able to keep his K9 partner. They didn't have any other K9 handlers. The officer brought in the money to buy the dog ($3,500 which was the value of the K9) but was told instead that K9 Ajax would have to be auctioned off.
My Most Excellent Good Dog. I call him "Sir." Not a shovel
In a now legendary comment the legal director for the town justified this by saying that K9 Ajax was personal property ..."just like a shovel."
To say there was an outcry on social media in an understatement.
There was an online petition and the gofundme donations are up to just about $70,000. What can I say? People love their dogs. Who doesn't know that?
The City of Marietta, that's who.
Their facebook page is a bloodbath. The handling of this situation should become a case study for first year Communications majors in What Not To Do. The press conference was live-streamed by the local TV station and was nothing short of a caricature of what is wrong with this country.
My Bubby is a BucketHead... but not a shovel.
To be sure, I doubt that K9 Ajax is the world's best police dog. I doubt if he could hold a candle to retired MWD Layka. He's probably never been in the Hard Dog Fast Dog competition. No one is saying he is on par with Mike Ritland's spectacular Trikos dogs. But all working police dogs are important.
It would take hours or days for people to find a missing kid when a well trained dog can do it in about 15 minutes. Police dogs are also good community outreach ambassadors, not to mention they usually get their man. So there is no doubt of their value.
People love their dogs. People love working police dogs. The folks in Canton know that their police dog K9 Jethro was not just a shovel. This is how you treat a working dog and his handler -with respect. Who didn't understand when Officer Popp collapsed to the ground in relief when he found his partner K9 Karson after being lost during our coldest weather last year? Heck, who hasn't thrown themselves down and hugged their dog like this gal?
No one doubts the bond between the handler and their dog. So to most folks it was completely understandable when former Officer Hickey was upset when he learned his partner would be sold at auction ..... like a shovel.
My beautiful Kai. We call her Digger but she is not a shovel.
It seemed to be a tough weekend for the City of Marietta. They tried to calm everyone down by putting useful posts on their fb page such as telling folks to send emails instead of crapping up their page. That didnt' work out very well for them.
So they announced there would be a press conference. We all tuned in. This is what I expected to see...
*Cut to scene - The former officer, the dog, the mayor, and the Chief of Police standing on the lawn somewhere... everyone smiling. The dog wags his tail. The Mayor speaks...... "Folks, thanks so much for your concern. We understand you are upset at what is a complicated situation and we want to assure everyone that we are doing everything we can to keep this crime fighting duo together in their golden years of retirement!" The Mayor and the former officer shake hands, pictures are taken... everyone goes on about their business confident in their City's leadership.*
Nope. Look at them all sitting there. It went just about how you'd expect. Here - watch for yourself. See the spectacular display of finger pointing, name calling, who is a liar and who isn't, the ever popular quoting of regulations, the non-apology, the dismissiveness, the acknowledgement of the apparent "bad blood" between the parties ..and all of us just waiting for that law director guy to actually utter the words "What are you all so upset about it's JUST a dog?"
Thank heavens that last bit didn't actually happen. But you could tell it was on the tip of his tongue.
Somewhere in there, in between calling the former officer a liar and that "I'm a big fish in a small town"attitude that we all recognize...and the statement that the Chief had his own damn problems.... there seemed to be an offer to the former Officer that he could become an "auxiliary" member of the force and in this way the dog would still be in active duty and he could keep K9 Ajax. There seemed to be a lot of conditional statements attached to this. It wasn't a firm plan but it might be plausible. Maybe.
Lucky, actually is a Bucket Head.... Not my most able warrior but still not a shovel.
We also learned that last week, somewhere along the way that the Chief said he was sending another officer out to get the dog back from the former Officer Hickey.
Who was a jerk? Who is a victim? Who was right? Well, I think they all pretty much deserved each other and there is a lot of backstory that none us really need - or want - to know. The hard truth is that the way the law is written, and in this circumstance, there has to be an auction.
But in this case there is a pretty big divide between being right and doing the right thing. There should have been a way to work this out. It should have been case closed. Everyone should have had confidence in the right thing. But it wasn't. Therein lies the rub and why folks are mad.
Not to mention, in a parting shot the Mayor told everyone who was commenting on the facebook to "get a life."
Oh no he didn't. Oh yes he did.
This is your elected official, folks, this is how he responds to the community's concerns.
Here's the thing. Sure, there are a lot more 'important' issues out there. This country is divided. None of us can solve the refugee crisis, racism, or put the broken economy back together. But regular, normal people can see that guy should get to keep his dog. Should be a done deal, right?
Instead what we all got to see is a microcosm of how far removed our leaders are from regular people. Folks are frustrated and no one is listening. How are you supposed to trust the leadership when they can't even use a little common sense in this situation? What if something really bad happens? Do you really want these jokers be in charge?
It's not just Marietta - it's everywhere. In a not-too-far-away community the County Clerk went to the hoosegow for skimming funds off the top, the wife of the mayor elect will probably be getting a lovely orange jumpsuit for "allegedly" feeding her gambling addiction to the tune of $80,000's worth of someone else's money, don't get me started about a 'keep your hands to yourself' situation in the Prosecutor's office... and no fewer than four somewhat-local teachers have been hauled off for having inappropriate sexual relations with their students.
Oh sure big cities have their problems too. A black kid will get shot 17 times because he looks dangerous... but this guy gets a get out of jail free card even though he killed four people on a drunk driving charge. And apparently it's kind of OK to poison an entire generation of kids because they are poor and no one cares.
This situation needed a hero and there wasn't one. We all need a hero right now. We all need to see something work out. We all need the right thing to be done and for regular folks to get a fair shake. If this guy, who has worked for the police department for what - 30 years? - if he can't get a fair deal then what chance do the rest of us have?
So go on now City of Marietta, keep up with your public relations disaster. Keep showing us you know best and we should all just get a life. Or I don't know, maybe actually lead the community out of this? Show some compassion. Come up with a winning solution. Just be that light. Prove to us regular people that it can all work out.
That's all we can ask for, right?
Anyway. That's all I've got to say about it for now.
My thanks to a good pal who saved my bad day yesterday by posting this adorable video. Yay!
Happy Tuesday, everyone, such as it is.