Diesel's death, on Wednesday 18th November, during the RAID attack in Saint-Denis, Paris, sparked an emotional outburst across the world.
The international press, along with thousands of internet users, paid tribute to the dog who died serving his country. She was part of the elite hostage rescue and counter-terror team known as RAID in France. Diesel was an exceptional dog who underwent a highly selective training process along with 12 other dogs.
Source : @PoliceNationale
The consoling hashtags (in particular #Jesuischien) were posted and retweeted all around the world. A French Facebook group named "Je suis Diesel" has already acquired over 3,000 followers. There are numerous photos on the page, particularly of other dogs, paying tribute to the canine in the RAID unit.
Source : @JeSuisDiesel
Mixed reactions spark debate
Whilst many acknowledged the heroism of the dog whose sacrifice potentially saved many lives, others believed the massive stir was completely disproportionate to the 129 people who were killed in the terror attacks in the capital last Friday.
Furthermore, some animal rights activists have criticised the purely utilitarian role assigned to these special forces dogs who are sent out in the front line, treated like "canon fodder". In response, the national police service reminded the world that RAID dogs were indispensable in these types of missions.
Source : @LeDépêche
12 of the most carefully selected dogs
During the raid on the apartment situated on rue Corbillon, Saint-Denis, Diesel waited sensibly for her officer's signal whom she worked with everyday.
The officers in the RAID brigade spend 365 days a year with their dog, whether in missions or in training. And Belgian Shepherds, which are characteristically brave, fast and very obedient, are the preferred breed for this type of service.
Source : @SciencesEtAvenir
Like their fellow human officers, they are rigorously selected and only the best dogs manage to join the RAID ranks. The squad only has a dozen dogs which are divided into two duties: the raid dogs and the dogs who search for explosives.
The first lot are sent ahead in the front line to take out individuals who are hidden away. The latter are specially trained to detect explosives, their heightened sense of smell able to recognise around 40 different substances, a lot more than the 7 or 8 that a normal police dog can detect.
Source : @Interieur.gouv.fr
Yesterday, Diesel was supposed to launch herself onto the enemy and sink her jaws into their flesh. The seven-year-old Belgian Shepherd sadly didn't have the time to as she was killed by a succession of bullets by the hidden terrorists.
A new technique developed this year by RAID
Le Parisien, the French newspaper which investigated Diesel's training regime, discovered that the female dog had been practising a new technique over the past few months which involved the use of a robot:
Thanks to a little device on wheels equipped with a camera, the officers can see the inside of these places besieged by terrorists and thus identify their hiding places. The sounding of the alarm along with the flashing light on the device, resembling no sight or sound known to man, leads the dog into the right room where the extremist lies hidden.
Source : @LeParisien
Unfortunately, this robot could not be used during the raid in Saint-Denis because all the rubble left in the apartment building would have hindered its progression.
Several special forces dogs with honours
We will always remember Diesel as the first RAID dog killed in action. But other special forces dogs have received official honours in the past. In 2009, Pacha, a 10 year old Belgian Shepherd, a member of the canine squad in Paris, received a bronze medal for "deeds of courage and dedication", Le Figaro reported.
Source : @LeFigaro
More recently, in 2011, Frax, a RAID dog, and his human officer were awarded for their intervention on the front line when they managed to hunt down a terrorist who shot off his lower jaw with a rifle.
The chief of police, Richard Marlet, author of « Profession: chien-policier », expressed in his book (translated) :
The RAID officers were just as upset as they would be if one of their human colleagues died. In these dog units, the bonds between the dogs and their handlers, which are based on absolute trust, are formidable.
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