Monday, July 25, 2011
Book Review: Until Tuesday
Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him (Hyperion) by Luis Carlos Montalvan was an eye-opener for me on several accounts: PTSD, war, and service dogs. This true account of a wounded warrior and his remarkable partner, a service dog named Tuesday is an amazing story of the manifestation of war, profound loss, and love.
After reading Until Tuesday, I finally have a grasp of the all-consuming affects of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). When highly decorated Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan returns from his second tour of Iraq with serious, multiple injuries, his physical condition is treated but not what is his most crippling injury, PTSD.
PTSD is many things to different people, but its main manifestation is that of a dwelling disorder, the inability to move beyond the trauma. This condition often prevents war veterans from being able to continue their former lives. Many are unable to concentrate, to work, even to resume their lives with loved ones. Such was the case with Montalvan. He received medical treatment for his physical wounds, but his psychological wounds kept him from living a normal life.
Montalvan also shares very personal views of the Army which he loves, but which he feels isn’t giving sufficient support to the men and women who are on the ground fighting. Rather, he feels the Army is allowing civilians to run the war effort. This, he feels, is often the cause of the trauma suffered by warriors, the frustration of decisions made that belie the reasons for U.S. presence.
When The Wounded Warrior Project, a veteran service organization, sends an email with the subject, “WWP and Puppies Behind Bars,” Montalvan finally sees hope. This organization provides 30 dogs a year to place, free of charge, with veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan who are suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries or physical injuries.”
The minute he heard of this program Montalvan knew it would be his salvation. And it was. Through East Coast Assistance Dogs, the agency which receives dogs trained by inmates in prison, Montalvan was matched with Tuesday, a beautiful golden retriever.
At first, it was tough going. Tuesday suffered from abandonment when she lost her prison trainer. Together they gradually gained confidence and respect for one another.
A service dog has different responsibilities than a guide dog for the blind. A service dog gives psychological assistance, is trained to sense what his handler needs, whether it be a nudge of reassurance or leading the way through crowds, a frequently terrifying ordeal for many who suffer from PTSD. Tuesday knows 140 commands, many of which are practical commands such as bringing shoes or opening drawers. But his real value to Montalvan is as a best friend, an anchor when crowds and strangers surround him, and a kindred brother.
Until Tuesday is a powerful account of a wounded soldier and his dog. Their love and devotion are a tribute to an organization who has found a way to make people whole again.