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There’s a trend in culture I’ve been noticing, and it saddens me. There’s a list of names that we know all or most of: Timothy McVeigh, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, Midal Halik, and now, James Holmes. We know their stories, their motives, their childhood histories, we know their hair color, how many people they killed, their ethnicity and what kind of music they listened to. We know every facet of their lives, because the media has told us their stories. Which is, in a lot of cases, exactly what they wanted. More interesting than what we know, however, is what we don’t know – the victims. Can you list even one name of one victim from one of the mass murders perpetrated above? I know I can’t. I had to scroll through the same articles with the same facts about James Holmes to even find one paragraph of information about any of his victims. The headline story on news websites yesterday featured a picture of Mr. Holmes sitting in court. The articles that followed were pages and pages long. The articles I managed to glean about the victims? A few paragraphs at most, and almost every single one was accompanied by a celebrity’s PR move, be it Christian Bale or Barack Obama.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the President and Mr. Bale visited the victims, but the stories shouldn’t be about them doing what is, quite simply, the right thing. The stories should be the victims’ stories, not James Holmes’, not the President’s and not Mr. Bale’s. And if the victims don’t want to tell their stories, then so be it, but this tragedy shouldn’t be about James Holmes, because that’s exactly what he wants it to be. Nor should this tragedy be used as a platform for debate about gun control, the presidential election, party values or religion.  People died. Other lives are forever altered. Is it really right for us to use tragedy to advance our own agendas? If you were a victim of a horrendous crime like this and every time you turned on the TV you saw the face of the man who had shot you or your loved one, how would you feel? If you saw politicians screaming at one another and holding your case up for the crowd to see, would you feel represented or singled out? I can only speak for myself, but neither of those scenarios sounds very pleasant to me.

This is why dogs are so much better than people. Dogs don’t care about political agendas, celebrity or the press. They just want to be around people, and we love them for it. Smokey graduated his first class on his way to his therapy certification last night, and I sat and watched the smile on his and Joe’s face, and I could only think to myself, “This is a wonderful thing that they’re doing.” Smokey came out of a horrible tragedy and persevered, and I can’t wait for him to be able to help others who have suffered, so we can all listen to their stories instead of being forced to dive into the minds of monsters. Not to be hypocritical and use this tragedy for my own agenda, I will refrain from talking about positive reinforcement training today. Instead, I would like to celebrate the lives of the victims of the Colorado shooting and say a thank you to those who really, truly care, and to those who give to victims every day, not just in light of a national tragedy.

Thank you to all the men and women around the country who perform service work every day of their lives, to police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, therapists, charity workers, and so many others. Thank you to the wonderful handlers of therapy dogs who take their dogs into hospitals and warzones alike. Thank you to those dogs who perform not only therapy work, but protection work, and search and rescue. I can only hope that one day, Smokey will join your ranks.

And to those who have ever been victimized in any way, and especially to the victims of the Colorado shooting – I hope you know that the country is behind you even through the media spectacle of James Holmes. One day, you will have justice and peace. In the meantime, there are those people who will tend to your wounds for no other reason than they care about humanity. Be it human hands or wet noses, find comfort in the fact that we are all thinking about you.

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