Recently arrived at my house -- a belated birthday gift from my dear son, with shipment COVID delayed -- is this wonderful 2011 book by Luis Carlos Montalvan, called "Until Tuesday". This is absolutely one of the most moving books I've ever read -- and although I'm a life long dog person, it's taught me things about communicating with Henry which I can already see making a difference in my relationship with him.
Montalvan was a 17 year captain in the American army, highly decorated for bravery and then in 2003 severely injured both physically and psychologically in Iraq.
The book is the story of his relationship with his golden retriever support dog, Tuesday, beginning in 2008 which essentially changed and transformed Montalvan's life. .
Tuesday was trained at ECAD, an organization founded by Lu Picard.
The training starts when the puppies are only 3 days old and takes two years (at a cost of some $25,000 per dog) before the dog is matched with the disabled person.
Montalvan was essentially living in isolation, an alcoholic, despairing in the grips of pain and vertigo and complex PTSD. With Tuesday's support, he. completed a master's degree in journalism at Columbia. There is a "ghost writer" on the book but Montalvan himself is a terrific communicator. Despite his ongoing injuries, he embarked upon a program of public speaking to promote his book and to publicize the cause of underserviced American vets. It was not easy for him -- drawing upon the same calibre of bravery that made him such a fine military leader on his tours of service -- but he felt a very strong commitment to redress the harrowing problems experienced by so many American army vets. He was successful in working with Senator Al Franken to get legislation passed to provide more support dogs to veterans.
Montalvan dug out the statistics -- which had been withheld -- demonstrating that 18 American vets commit suicide a day in the USA. And 1000 a month attempt suicide.
I would have wanted to send an email to Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, thanking him for his work. However I discovered from a further internet search that in late December 2016 and after an amputation and failed prosthetic surgery, he himself succumbed by suicide to his own persistent PTSD. By that point (and there are lots of great YouTubes) Tuesday's muzzle was greying. He would have been very close to "retirement" age. Perhaps Montalvan simply could not face the need to "start over" again with a new support companion.
Remembering our own deep grief at Charlie's death, I wept to think of the emotional devastation for both Montalvan and Tuesday . . . who went back to live with the ECAD founder in her home and continued his work as a therapy dog visiting and comforting in hospitals and schools (Montalvan had also written two children's books . . . Tuesday Tucks Me In, and Tuesday Takes Me There . . . and the YouTubes of Montalvan reading these books with Tuesday to groups of school kids are so touching.)
That Montalvan's life ended the way it did is unspeakably tragic. Nevertheless, Until Tuesday is an amazing account both of Montalvan's relationship with Tuesday and of the deep spiritual relationship a person can form with a dog.