Long Island woman's guide dog Milton dies after trainer left him in van during heat wave

L.I. woman's beloved guide dog dies after being left in van

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. -- Human error is being blamed for the death of a beloved guide dog that was a lifeline for a blind and deaf Long Island woman. 

The Labrador retriever was left in a van in sweltering heat while in the care of a trainer at the Guide Dog Foundation, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday. 

With a rare disease that left Michelle Krupa blind and partially deaf, she relied of Milton, her beloved 3-year-old guide dog and best friend. 

"He was my guardian angel. He was next to me all the time," Krupa said.

Milton is no longer a fixture at her side or in the Bellport deli she owns.

Milton was at the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown to learn new skills as Krupa's disease, Usher syndrome, progressed when she got an unthinkable call. 

"There has been a tragic accident and Milton had died," Krupa explained. 

Staff told her a trainer left Milton in a van from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. last Friday during the sweltering heat wave. 

"I'm so sad because I just don't know how I'm going to go on without him," Krupa said.

"He gave Michelle a whole new lease on life, a whole new outlook. She never, ever would even think of venturing outside and now we're back to square one," said Tom Krupa, Michelle's husband. 

The foundation, a nonprofit that has trained hundreds of dogs free of charge, told CBS2 it is, "taking immediate steps to review this tragic event to mitigate the potential of this ever happening again. If and when [Krupa's] ready to be matched with a successor dog, the foundation will be ready." 

Krupa knows she needs another guide dog, but first is grappling with the loss. 

"If experts can do this, anybody can do this. We all have to be reminded in our busy lives that our lives aren't just ours. We're on this plane to take care of other creatures," Krupa said. 

"I just find it astounding that even after all this time that the foundation, as good as they are, that they don't have some sort of checking-in system," Tom Krupa said. 

The Suffolk County SPCA said this tragedy is yet another reminder to never leave a dog alone in a vehicle, even with the window cracked. After 10 minutes on a 90-degree day, the car is 110 degrees inside and quickly becomes like a furnace. 

Counseling has been offered to devastated Guide Dog Foundation staff.

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