All Hail the Great Alliance

Today I stumbled out of bed, bleary-eyed on a rather cool, rainy day. But two days ago the weather was quite sunny and warm and The Woman and I went down to see something billed as the “Hyper Parade of Animals”. You can see the poster for it here.

The “hyper” part comes from the fact that it took place on the grounds of Cora, which is a hypermarket, a word little used in American English. The “animals” part however referred exclusively to dogs. Why it couldn’t be billed as the “Hyper Parade of Dogs” is beyond my ability to grasp.

There were dogs from one side of the grounds to the other. We got there just in time to see a cavalcade of different dog breeds, with the owners doing that Westminster style deal of jogging in a circle alongside their dogs. Then the host was supposed to give a brief description of each dog breed, which he did, in the sense that I could see his lips moving but since he had no working microphone or loudhailer (Rom: portavoce), only about ten people could hear him.

Pay no attention to the FOX van in the background

All that was fine and cute (and The Woman took dozens of lovely photographs, including the one on the right) but what came next was quite surprising. And to me and me alone, it was quite disturbing. The rest of the crowd was thrilled and delighted.

It was a demonstration from the Centrul Chinologic Sibiu, which parses out to the “Sibiu Dog Center” from a word I hadn’t known previously – chinologic – meaning “of or related to the study of dogs”.

If you click on the link above, you’ll see their horrific Web 1.0 site but they seem to be the sole center in Romania that trains police dogs. Although they never specify their training methods, it looked to me like a combination of Schutzhund and Mondio Ring. And if you click on the poster (first paragraph of this post) and look in the bottom left-hand corner, you’ll see all the logos from the various police and military departments that these CCS guys train dogs for.

If you’ve never seen or heard of this, I’ll briefly summarize it. Certain breeds of dogs (in this case, German shepherds) are trained to do a number of things including: defend their handler, attack someone attacking their handler and attack (and release) someone on command, even in the face of distractions.

The CSS dogs were also evidently quite well-trained in a kind of dressage or what I call “fancy tricks”, including walking in a particular way, spinning in a circle, jumping through hoops, etcetera. What in the world this has to do with police dog training is utterly beyond my ability to understand but it was quite clear from the demonstration that the CSS guys were thrilled at all the tricks they could make their dogs do.

Here is why I found the whole thing disturbing. On one hand you’ve got an earlier demonstration of ordinary humans parading their various dogs out onto the field to applause. All fine and dandy. And then the police guys, dressed entirely in black paramilitary stormtrooper outfits, come onto the field and demonstrate their dogs doing fancy tricks, again to applause and the delight of children. All fine again.

But then came the demonstration of using police dogs to attack people. The Woman was also filming and you can see a short clip below (link here if it doesn’t load for you):

In other words, using animals to attack human beings was treated like just one more entertaining event of the day’s festivities. There were several little kids sitting right next to us and they were clapping and squealing and enjoying “the show” just as much as all of the adults.

There was also a demonstration (not filmed) of a supposed police takedown in which a car with two “bad guys” pulled over after being chased by the police and then the “bad guys” began “shooting” at the police, who “fired” back. The police then let their attack dogs off the leash and then disabled the “bad guys” in a manner similar to the video clip above.

All of it reminded me immediately of a post I wrote last year concerning police and law and order in this country. Here I was, witnessing a supposedly realistic scenario in which two desperados jump out of their car and begin firing a hail of bullets at the police and then “fortunately” the police had their trained dogs, which successfully took down the bad guys. But the entire thing looked exactly like they were filming a movie (right down to the potentially dangerous use of real guns loaded with blanks) and had absolutely no element of realism to it, in terms of scenario.

Thank goodness that guns in Romania are extremely rare and the likelihood of two bad guys actually hopping out of a car and throwing a hail of bullets at the police is about nil. But what disturbed me were the children (and adults) all laughing and clapping with delight as the agents of the government prevailed in their use of overwhelming force.

I’ve known and worked with guys (and it’s always guys for some reason, never women) who work with police dogs, including in real situations, and it’s nothing to cheer about. In the rare cases when a dog is called upon to capture an armed suspect, there is a high likelihood that the dog will be killed or maimed. After all, if the “bad guy” is already committed to shooting at human police officers, it’s natural that they would turn and target a large dog coming their way.

Secondly, setting aside the use of the dogs, the police techniques used by these CSS guys was shamefully inadequate. I realize it was “just a demonstration” to show off the dogs’ abilities but you never train for something that’s the opposite of what you want to do in real life. Instead of calling for massive reinforcements after receiving gunfire from two assailants, they just let their dogs off the leash. If this had happened in real life, it’s likely there would’ve been multiple human and animal fatalities. But yay, let’s all cheer and clap and enjoy the show, eh?

What more can I say? Cheering in delight for demonstrations of violence on behalf of government agents (and later there was a police dog used to take down a drunk, unarmed man on foot) is creepy. I like animals and hold no grudge against them – they considered all of this (rightly so) as a game and were clearly having a lot of fun (tails wagging, etc). But seeing children clap as heavily armed men dressed entirely in black used dogs to attack people was only “fun” because it was a demonstration on a sunny, spring day. If it had been real life, if it had been someone you cared about (whether the dogs, the police officers or the “bad guys”) and they had gotten hurt or killed, well then it wouldn’t be quite so amusing, would it?

The CSS guys clearly did a great job at teaching their dogs a variety of harmless tricks like walking backwards and jumping in the air on command. And I wish them well in that enterprise. But considering the fact that they are the sole supplier (and trainer) of military and police dogs in this country, I shudder to think of the future news I will one day read in which people and animals are grievously wounded.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I should just sit back and enjoy the show like everyone else and not take it so seriously. And I should applaud the fact that someone might one day have to actually face two Hollywood style banditos who get in an armed shootout with the police. But I will say this – all of the guys I’ve ever known who used police dogs in real situations never once sent their dogs toward gunfire, nor used their animals to attack unarmed people. Instead they used their dogs only in very narrowly-defined situations because once a dog is actually attacking (and not just biting a padded arm) it’s very, very difficult to keep it from turning and attacking someone else, whether another police officer or else an innocent bystander.

And yes, the CSS dogs were also used in demonstrations to show their skills in drug detection. It looked nice and all but in real life dogs are essentially useless in this field. Nobody will ever tell you that but nonetheless it’s true.

But hey, we did see some cute dogs on parade, so that’s good! :)