Meeko’s alleged attacker is behind bars, charged with cruelty to an animal.
Neither Overland Park police nor the TIPS Hotline is saying if the $12,000 in reward money played a role in the arrest of Matthew Oden, 32. Police believe Oden broke into an Overland Park home to burglarize it and shot 8-year-old Meeko, a golden retriever-cocker spaniel mix.
For those who wondered what type of person would shoot a beautiful dog like Meeko in the face — how about what kind of a person would shoot a child?
The fast fundraising to help solve Meeko’s case raised eyebrows among those who are concerned about the gun violence that takes human lives, especially the lives of children. Meeko’s family, neighbors and strangers added $10,000 to the Crime Stoppers reward of $2,000.
Why is it easier for people to react to a dog being injured than a child being killed? We’re quickly moved to donate, to show concern, for an animal, but not always for a human.
The question isn’t a slight to Meeko or his loving family. He’s adorable from photos, perpetually smiling. And Meeko’s value extends past his immediate family, through his work as a therapy dog with the elderly. He’s a canine with a higher cause.
It’s not that Meeko didn’t deserve the response he received. It’s that others do as well. And they are children.
In the Kansas City area, at least 16 children have been murdered since last October.
“It’s just sad,” Sgt. Kari Thompson, a Kansas City police spokeswoman, told The Star. “This is family violence. There are not armed, unknown perpetrators coming after children.”
She has named a piece of the response problem, why benevolence stalls.
Rather than prompting an outpouring of concern, the ever-rising tally seems to be fomenting a numbness, a distancing. If someone donates to one murdered child’s fund, does that obligate or excuse them from contributing the next time? And there will be a next time.
This week, a father was charged with shooting his 7-year-old daughter in the hand and lower back. The probable cause statement quoted another child in the home telling police that her dad “acts weird when he smokes,” as he allegedly had been doing prior to the shooting.
A mental sorting occurs when people hear that story. Sympathy for the child, but the question arises of whether adults involved would squander a donation. But what about giving to capture the perpetrator?
Meeko is one dog, with one harrowing injury, surrounded by caring people. People write the check. It’s easier.
People donate when they feel their money will have an impact. The seemingly intractable problems of urban poverty, which affects so many children, feel overwhelming. The complexity stagnates compassion.
It’s not all cold-heartedness.
Nor is it all due to a crass attitude toward the victim, often an African-American child. But that is part of it. A shared race, class, life experience feeds into empathy. And Internet trolls prove daily that racist blaming happens whenever a low-income black child is harmed. It’s not the child’s fault.
No more than Meeko’s injuries were his fault. He’s at home, recovering now. The family is reportedly overwhelmed by the outpouring of well-wishes, toys for Meeko and donations to cover his veterinary costs.
Local television stations report that the family intends to donate any further funds to help an autistic child afford a therapy dog through the Lee’s Summit-based Paws 4 Autism. So they are paying the generosity forward.
That’s illustrative of Kansas City’s often faith-driven, neighborly manner.
What we are challenged with is finding ways to connect that sense of goodness to other innocent victims of violence. Children and families who desperately deserve our concern. People will donate their time, their money, their prayers when asked. They just need a solid avenue, a way for their goodwill to have an impact.