February 06, 2004
My life as a dog

Ok, so they found that schoolgirl in Florida whose abduction was caught on tape. They found her dead, of course. And for me the real pathos in the story isn't the fuzzy security camera image, her last portrait, but rather the fact that her classmates were met with the news of her death this morning at school, and the counselors arrived with "'comfort dogs,' which are trained to respond to emotionally upset humans, for the students to pet."

It also made me think about my friend James's story of working on the Police Museuem's 9-11 exhibit. He was making a video installation, and of all the footage he saw, the thing that really got him was some strange footage of rescue dogs, impatient and despondent at having no one to rescue. Every once in a while their keepers would lay down and play dead and let themselves be rescued to keep the dogs' spirts up. Sorry, no link to said video exists, but here's a nice quote from a dog handler:

"Morale is important... So it's my job as handler to remove her from the pile ... and then what we do is we set up a scenario for her that she can win at. We used a New York firefighter. He actually hid amongst a little bit of rubble ... and we sent her on a search. She finds the firefighter. He plays with her real good. She's real happy, and she's ready to go to work again."
— Mark Bogush, Tampa Fire Rescue, speaking about his partner "Marley"

Photo and full article here.

Posted by kio at February 06, 2004 12:53 PM

Actually, I was just about to post about the fuzzy security camera image, because I’m not quite sure how to process it, or how I feel about the media posting it after the fact – when she went from missing person to homicide victim. The photo went from useful public information (have you seen these people?) to a type of cultural pornography (the last images of someone alive, begging you to imagine what happened next) just like that. In fact, I was struggling with whether to post it myself and perpetuate the problem to call out the problem.

But ultimately, it reminded of the feeling I got at the end of The Conversation. When you hear the conversation one last time, but in context. And everything is too real for a while.

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