On Dogs and Death…

As I write this, a very special and somewhat unique funeral service is taking place in the City of Pittsburgh.

On January 28, K-9 Rocco was stabbed in the course of pursuing a fugitive while in service as a police dog with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.  On the evening of January 30, after two days of impassioned pleas for blood donors and attempted emergency surgeries, Rocco succumbed to his injuries.

Pittsburgh is a passionate city.  A city that rallies around its sports teams, its local culture, and most importantly around its neighbors during times of crisis and need.  And so it did not surprise me in the least that Pittsburghers both near and far would be so moved by the sacrifice of a dog whose death may have helped save his human partner’s life.  In the words of Mayor Bill Peduto, “Pittsburgh showed its soul that night, a soul that shines with compassion and recognizes the good not only in every human, but in every being.”

This morning, Rocco is receiving a full police honors in a line of duty funeral.  Dozens of police K-9’s and their handlers have descended on Pittsburgh to pay their respects, and many more police officers and community members are participating as well.

As someone who has a special fondness and respect for members of the emergency services, as well as for dogs, I’m left trying to sort out how I feel about this.  For many people, myself included, our pets are considered a part of the family; the bond between a police officer and his or her working dog is even stronger.  By no means am I saying that I think having a funeral for an animal is inappropriate, but I’m curious how others feel about this particular incident and the loss of pets in general.

If you’re willing to, please share some of your thoughts in the comments area below.  I’m interested to hear how my friends and colleagues  feel.



If you feel like you’d like to read up on the incident a bit more, here’s one of the many articles available from nearly every Pittsburgh media source: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5547197-74/rocco-dogs-pittsburgh#ixzz2seXKj5XE


Posted on February 7, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. We inherited this strange concept that human beings have a “soul” that is apart from the rest of creation, and is the only thing that God cares about. Yet, whenever the Bible talks about the resurrection and the reign of God, ALL of creation is said to be a part of it, with all of creation experiencing a rebirth and a resurrection. It seems clear that God’s intent is for all of creation to be made new.

    I think it is appropriate, then, to mark the passing of life from one side of the fence to the other–from this world to the next, upcoming one–even if that life is not human. I would use different words than what would normally be used for a funeral, as those are drawn from scriptures used to mark the death of a human, and the relationship is different.

  2. Ritual is important when an individual or a community has had a loss. It helps us affirm what is important and what we value. That we value God’s creatures is an important part of being stewards of the creation gift God has given us.

    It is also appropriate to offer thanksgiving to God for an animal companion that has worked along side of us to save and protect lives.

    I too would not use the words we normally use for a funeral since our deaths are linked to baptism, But there are plenty of psalms that praise God for creation and other literature that would be appropriate. If we have a blessing of the animals, we can have a blessing at the time of death. Thanks for getting us to think about the question.

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