I’ve had two dogs in my life that have passed on; A German Shepherd/Collie mix named Aspen and a Bassett Hound named Claire and I loved them both probably more than I loved myself. A dog isn’t just a dog. They’re a true friend and companion. Cats are nice but give me the sloppy unconditional love that only a canine can bring to a sad day. They aren’t pets, they’re members of the family.So, having established my dog loving credentials let me say that it is time to lay off Officer Paul Stephens. Seriously. It’s long past time to move on.
I’m not excusing what Stevens said. It was simply inexcusable. You can’t “just get another one”. However, let’s not let the heart override the head. Let us, instead, look at some very uncomfortable facts.
Michael Gonzales was speeding on I-35; a practice universally understood as not being safe. Weighing the crime of speeding and being pulled over for it versus the life of a dog needing to get to the vet is a no brainer. You pull the speeder over and be thankful that you were able to. If we’re going to make this into a numbers game, as cruel as it may sound, better one dog than a whole family. Sorry folks, but that’s just common sense.
Michael Gonzalez was agitated, as he should be. His dog was dying, or was already dead depending on who you talk to. However, as someone who was just pulled over for speeding and was already in an agitated state I think it was a good call to detain him so he wouldn’t start speeding again. That’s not being cruel. That’s being conscious of public safety.
However, as tragic as Missy’s death was, and the militant insensitivity Stephens showed, this act probably saved human lives. Nobody has a crystal ball and can tell the future, but unsafe is unsafe. Officer Stephens said the wrong thing, but I’m convinced he made the right call, and I’m glad he’s still one of San Marcos’ finest.
If anything I’m pretty comfortable guaranteeing he won’t ever do this again.
Why? Because his life, his family and his home has been threatened. People who were willing to pick up pitchforks and torches for the life on one dog had no problem threatening the most obscene kind of violence towards him as a person and the ones he loves. Hypocrisy anyone?
Folks, if you want to do something about tragedy just look out your door. Something or someone is out there that actually needs help and it’s the height of insincerity, and is in fact insulting, to raise all this fury over a dog while people go hungry or homeless under our noses. How is a dog worthy of more compassion than them? How does that speak to our values? You want to exercise compassion? You want to express moral outrage? Then try standing up for a live human instead of a dead dog. Believe me when I say that one is far more useful and does more to uplift us as a community than the other.
It really is so much easier to sit back and condemn without rolling up your sleeves. The cheap seats do have their charm and Monday morning quarterbacking can be fun. However, how many of us have walked a beat? How many of us know the awesome pressure that comes with being a police officer? Now we aren’t so certain are we? That’s the thing about the cheap seats. The price is right but the view leaves a lot to be desired.
I do not begrudge Michael Gonzales or Krystal Hernandez their grief and I’m not even going to try to minimize it. It’s an awful, unimaginable, pain. However, theirs is the only pain where I see any legitimacy whatsoever. This dog did not belong to the city. It was their dog, not ours. It definitely wasn’t some do-gooder political carpetbagger from San Antonio’s dog either.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about what happened. I’m not asking to sweep this under the rug. I am saying, however, that if we go to such lengths over a dog while ignoring the very real human suffering we see every day then that doesn’t say much about us as a community, does it? It points to some tragically misplaced values. Mourn the dog, yes, but can we please do something about our fellow citizens who endure things that really are worth all this energy and furor. I know the homeless, the sick, the needy, the people that are just trying to make ends meet and the less fortunate aren’t quite as cuddly and sweet as a dog, but they sure as hell are just as, if not absolutely more important than a dog, and are worth of the same level of outrage.
The Mayor and the Police Department made the right call keeping Officer Stephens on the force. I think it would behoove us as a community to adhere to the old rule that everyone should get a second chance. He’ll have a hard road back, but he should have a fair shot.
One mistake, no matter how callous, does not define a career or a life. Nor should it destroy it. It’s time to back off of Officer Stephens.
By SEAN WARDWELL
(Note: the opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and are not the position of Newstreamz.com or its staff)