By George Flynn | Opinions Editor
This past Thursday, we lost a beloved police officer. He was strong and incredibly heroic. He risked his life trying to stop a criminal and, unfortunately, did not make it. He passed on the evening of Jan. 30. Many people were pulling for his recovery and were devastated to find that he lost his life. He will be missed more than words can say.
He was not your average hero. He was 8-years-old. He had black and brown fur that was fluffy. Instead of walking on two legs, he walked on four. His name was Rocco.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the German shepherd lost his life due to a stab wound from a suspect he was trying to catch with the help of his partner, Officer Phil Lerza.
This is quite a difficult loss for Lerza and the police department as a whole. However, probably the most moving part about Rocco selflessly giving his life is that Mayor Bill Peduto ordered all the flags in the city to be lowered to half-mast. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that outside the clinic in which Rocco passed, bagpipes were played for the heroic canine and an American flag was draped over a gurney which was carried by the police.
According to the Post-Gazette “a procession of dozens of K-9 units, cruisers and motorcycles with flashing lights left the veterinarian center, headed Downtown and then to Oak Crest Pet Crematory, on Cemetery Lane in Ross.”
It is obvious this dog was not “just” a dog. Rocco’s unending prowess deserves every commemoration he receives. He was the partner of Lerza since 2010, helping with cases for nearly four years.
Rocco was obviously beloved by many, as a plethora of people tried to assist in saving his life. According to KDKA, many people were praying for the dog’s survival. Veterinary Surgeon Anthony Pardo said that every hour eight to 10 people from Pittsburgh were calling wanting to help.
With the people’s love and support for a canine as proof, this dog deserves to be commemorated with a memorial as heroic as a flag half-mast.
The dog was a hero, and heroes come in different shapes and sizes. American mythologist Joseph Campbell once said “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Rocco was just that, and it is not fair to discriminate against Rocco for not being a human.
Despite Rocco walking on four legs instead of two, he and all the other puppies in the world might have more in common with humans than you think, specifically when it comes to emotions and brain waves.
A New York Times article by Neuroscientist Gregory Berns entitled “Dogs are people, too,” discusses just that. Doctors performed a study in which they put 12 dogs through an MRI scan, and it turns out the results are more human than we think.
Within the study, the MRI scan focused on the dog’s caudate, which is between the brainstem and the cortex. In humans, the caudate is responsible for positive emotions due to things we enjoy. The activity within a dog’s brain reacts with joy similarly to the way humans respond to joyful moments.
“In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view.” Berns said.
Although this does not prove that dogs feel emotions like love, they do have similar reactions to humans.
Rocco was a hero with others who cared about him. He selflessly died for the greater good, and that should not be overlooked simply because he is an animal. His death should be respected just as any other person who was brave enough to fight the good fight. I am proud to have such a progressive mayor who found it to be the right thing to do to lower our American flag to half-staff. I believe dogs have a right to be treated just like humans, with love and respect.
George Flynn is a senior English major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.