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Back to the future with dogs

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A room filled with adorable Golden Retrievers is hard to top, but it happened at the Golden Retriever Rescue of Michigan (GRRoM) fundraiser last Sunday in Troy, Mich. Former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván was the keynote speaker at the event, along with his best friend and service dog, Tuesday.

GRRoM is one of several Golden Retriever rescue organizations in Michigan, accepting surrendered Golden Retrievers and finding suitable homes for them.

Capt. Montalván is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.” Before separating from the military he served two tours of duty in Iraq and returned home with physical wounds, including traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One event highlight was Luis’ coaxing Tuesday, a Golden Retriever, to sing a do-re-mi scale for the audience. Tuesday did his best and the crowd cheered.

Luis and Tuesday’s musical collaboration underscored one of Luis’ main themes in his remarks. He pointed out dogs have befriended and worked with humankind for the last thirty-thousand years, as evidenced by cave drawings depicting large dogs working beside humans.

“In the future dogs will be everywhere,” Luis said. The University of Pennsylvania is training dogs to sniff out early ovarian cancer markers, Luis added. Service dogs are also being trained to detect low blood sugar in diabetics and warn epileptics of seizures before they happen.

With so much evidence demonstrating the love, usefulness, value and irreplaceability of dogs, why every day are dogs beaten, abused, mistreated and tortured?

The U.S. Justice Department has charged at least 190 individuals with federal animal cruelty charges. The importance of these charges is the recognition animal cruelty can be a predictor of violence against people as well. Justice Department research shows a connection between animal cruelty and violent behavior.

Unfortunately there is no shortage of examples substantiating the Justice Department’s research, like the case of Jimmy Lee Dykes, who allegedly snatched a boy off of an Alabama school bus. Mr. Dykes held the autistic boy, known as Ethan, in an underground bunker for several days. The standoff ended with the boy’s rescue and Mr. Dykes being shot and killed by police.

Here is the disturbing precursor to the kidnapping --- a few weeks before Dykes kidnapped Ethan, he beat a neighbor’s 120 pound dog with a lead pipe because it wandered onto his property. The dog died a week later. Local animal control did question Dykes about the issue, but he was never prosecuted. He reportedly said his only regret was that he didn’t “…beat him to death all the way.”

Recognizing Dykes’ actions as a predictor of future violence, as the Justice Department has said, may have saved five-year-old Ethan from a horrifying and life scarring experience.

Even with the amazing advancements in dog training, building on their natural talents, it is still basic dog tricks and commands to which most people relate. When Capt. Montalván started training with Tuesday, he told his father he was “…getting a service dog that could respond to eighty commands.” His father razed his son in return, “That’s more than you know.”

Luis responded to his father, to whom he co-dedicated his book, “And whose fault is that?”

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