Thursday, June 27, 2013

Zoo Animals

What do people think about when they look at animals in zoos? 

Research has shown that the average visitor spends thirty seconds to two minutes per enclosure (Mullan and Marvin 1999). Visitors barely watch the animals, and ignore the educational signs about them. After visiting the zoo, for many visitors, the take home message is that humans are superior to other animals, according to social ecologist Stephen Kellert (1979, 1997).

But what do zoo animals think about their lives, while people are watching them? There's no real way to know, of course. 

Daniel Zakharov is a photographer whose series Modern Wilderness focuses on the daily lives of animals. In these images, which feature the lives of zoo animals, we see the animals engaged in the limited activities that their captivity allows them: pacing, sleeping, watching, and thinking, perhaps, as Alison Nastasi writes, about the conditions of their own existence.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Police Dogs and People

Two heartbreaking photos came out this week to remind us of the incredible bonds that form between police officers and the dogs who work with them. While Clinton Sanders has written of the complex and even contradictory relationships that form between police officers and the patrol dogs who work with them--the dogs are "both occupational resources and weapons" but at the same time are members of the officer's household and spend more time with the officer than the officer does with members of his or her own family (Sanders 2012)--it is clear that a very tight bond forms between officer and dog. This is demonstrated in the following two photos.

The first is of Kaiser, a police dog in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who is taking his final walk on the police force before his retirement due to kidney disease. Shortly after this photo was taken, Kaiser's partner and caretaker, Officer Jamie Lebretton, made the heart-wrenching decision to put him to sleep. He wrote, "RIP my boy. I could not have asked for a better partner or friend. You made me a better person, a better handler, and a better cop. Till we meet again, Kai. I love you and will miss you daily."

This second photo is of another police dog, Figo, at the funeral of his human partner, Jason Ellis, of the Bardstown, Kentucky Police Department. Officer Ellis was shot and killed in an ambush on a highway interstate five days earlier, with Figo by his side. During the funeral, Figo, who has now been retired to live permanently with Ellis' family, reached out with his paw to touch the casket. Observers have speculated that Figo may have been able to smell that his partner was in the casket and was trying to reach out to him.

Both images are heartbreaking signs of the love and respect between human and dog.