Thursday, September 16, 2010

For Parrot

Outside my window, half a block south, I can see candles flickering in the semi-darkness of the sidewalk. A small crowd stands in vigil. The occasional car honks in passing. There's a news van parked at the end of the block: a local television station has come to cover the event. All of this for Parrot. If you live in DC, you probably already know who that is.

Parrot was a pit bull who was shot and killed by a police officer last Sunday. There are conflicting accounts, but a few facts are agreed upon by the dog's owner, the MPD, and eyewitnesses. First, it happened in full view of a street festival that was in full swing in DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood. Second, Parrot and a poodle got into a sidewalk altercation -- both were leashed; the poodle may or may not have been bitten. Third, an MPD officer stepped in and subdued Parrot, before shooting the animal execution-style.

The crowd currently gathered in front of the Brass Knob, where Parrot was killed five days ago, and the presence of local media are a testament to how much this story has impacted locals, especially dog owners. I was shocked and sickened when I heard the news on Sunday. It didn't help that I own a dog that looks strikingly similar to Parrot, and that I live hundreds of feet from where it all happened.

A friend of mine knows the officer who shot the dog. Apparently, he is a dog lover (and owner) himself. Imagining the officer as a faceless cop, he's a monster who cares little for human rights (like property) and even less for animals. After hearing he may be a dog lover, he sounds like a human being who made a really, really bad snap decision.

To a certain extent I can understand. The officer was faced with a dog, a pit bull no less, who could have very well been dangerous, in the midst of a densely attended street festival. Allegedly, the owner's hand was bleeding. Maybe things looked worse than they were, and the officer did what he thought he had to do. Of course, this doesn't exonerate him. Disregarding the callousness of his public execution, he discharged his weapon in the midst of a densely attended street festival. At least Parrot was on a leash.

One good thing may come of this. The great public outcry, the disgust and anger that swelled with the news of Parrot's death, will, I hope, cause an officer to think twice before shooting a dog in the future, especially when no one is in immediate danger. Still, that's little salve for Parrot's owner.

I walked past the vigil on my way home earlier, before it got started. The crowd was solemn; a few eyes were red from crying. A woman handed me a leaflet with pictures of Parrot on it. Another handed me a dixie cup, to catch candle wax. And there stood Parrot's owner, wearing a white t-shirt, surrounded by strangers who were brought here on a rainy Thursday night to honor the life of a dog. Just somebody's pet. I still don't know if the feeling I had at that moment was profound hope, or sadness.