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Home Features Learning Lessons from a Service Dog

by Savanah Baker


The role which professor Curt Beck’s 11-year-old service dog, Major, has played in his life is slowly drawing to a close.

Three years ago, Major was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, he has undergone surgery twice. The cancer is back, and this time Beck and his family chose not to operate because the doctors told them it could be a traumatic experience.

Beck, associate professor of business administration at Concordia, attributes his knowledge of care, service and integrity to lessons he learned from the black Labradoodle, which he and his wife adopted as a puppy.

“He is a very close member of our family, and to me, he is a companion. He’s been by my side almost every day for these eleven years,” Beck said.

Beck was responsible for Major’s training as a service dog. Major received his official certification just over one year after beginning classes.

Beck did not disclose the reason for Major’s service nor the specifications of his training. However, Major has left impressions on students and faculty alike since joining the Concordia community in 2012.

“It’s interesting to observe students’ reactions to him,” Beck said. “There have been several who come by my office to see him and interact and pet him.”

Beck jokes Major receives more visitors to his office than he does.

“There’s usually a regular stream of students who want to stop in and say hi to (him) and usually ignore me, which is fine because they love interacting with him.”

Major follows Beck around campus, including to his classes and his office.

“This is his fourth year at Concordia, so we’re hoping he can get an honorary degree since he’s had to sit through all my lectures,” joked Beck.

Not only does Major attend classes and act as a service dog for Beck, but he has shown that he is in tune with human emotions and comforts those who need him.

“He is a dog who interacts with people in a way that is very positive,” Beck said.

Beck reflected on a time when a student was stressed out about an upcoming test. The student came to his office and asked to pet Major to calm down before going to class.

As a service dog, Major travelled with Beck and his family to Disney World. During their Disney vacation, a little girl came up behind his family in line and tickled Major on his belly.

“She just had a big smile on her face and it was touching to see her having a great time through his act of service for her,” Beck said.

“He didn’t go through some of the more advanced training … but he has a real sense of when someone is either having a medical or emotional issue.”

Since Beck and his family have chosen not to do the surgery for Major, there is no knowing how long Major will still be here, although surgery was only expected to prolong his life 3-6 months.

However, Beck finds it a blessing to know that as Major’s life comes to a close, they are able to make each day count.

“It’s really a point of understanding that all lives matter,” Beck said. “Even though (Major) is not human, he is still a creation of God and we cherish the opportunity to know every day is special.”

Major continues his role as a service dog for Beck. He seems undaunted by the future and still seeks to help those who need him.

Beck said Major is selfless in his acts. He goes up to people when he senses an issue as if to say, “I’m here, interact with me, pet me, and you’ll feel better.”

For Beck, this serves as a reminder of how humans should relate to one another. “It’s just a daily reminder of how God wants us to be and how I should be serving others more,” Beck said.

Major’s role as a service dog and a self-sacrificing creature of God will be remembered long after he is gone and live on in legacy through Beck and his family.








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