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Nathan Burton/Taos News

Shane, the Victim Advocate dog with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office, sits in chair at the front of the courtroom on Friday (Sept 10) at the Taos County Courthouse.

A courtroom often isn’t a comfortable place to be, not where you would, say, spend your free time if given a choice. After all, some of the most serious, life changing events happen in them. Heinous crimes are recounted in excruciating detail. Defendants can be sent away to prison, sometimes for good. And victims sometimes have to recount some of the most agonizing experiences of their lives to people they've never met.

That’s why courtroom dogs, like Shane, the unusual subject our lead story this week, are so important.

While the people that work with these animals know the tremendous value they can provide, canines who serve in courtrooms or which are trained to respond during emergencies are often overlooked, the furry hero at the heels of their handlers, just below view of the frame.

Over the millennia, dog breeds that evolved from their gray wolf ancestors went from circling the perimeter of campfire lights in search of food to develop the unique bond they have with humans today, but that relationship can have highly valuable real-world applications. Specially trained canines don’t just provide emotional support. They can help the blind find their way safely through the world. They open doors, retrieve belongings and provide stability while navigating stairs or people with physical disabilities.

They can save lives, too.

Hundreds of search dogs looked for survivors in the burning rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, search dogs again worked alongside first responders, paddling through the flood waters to lead rescuers to people stranded in their homes.

Here in Taos County, dogs serve on every one of our local law enforcement agencies, helping to sniff out narcotics and to take down dangerous suspects.

In January 2019, when an avalanche buried two skiers near Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley, some of the resort's rescue dogs helped in the desperate search to find them. Izzy, a lab retriever that helped in the time-sensitive search to find the two skiers that were ultimately killed in the snow slide, is one of five rescue dogs that work with Taos Ski Patrol at TSV.

In ways big and small, dogs make a major difference in our lives. For the ones that go above and beyond, consider a donation to one of the following organizations that help train them:

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