Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Until Tuesday, a book review of sorts

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan with Bret Witter is an eye opening book. It is a book which takes us to Iraq and Afghanistan, to the streets of New York as seen by a wounded warrior with PTSD, into a prison where service dogs are being trained while helping inmates find their own humanity and into the life of Luis and his service dog Tuesday. 

This book touched me in many ways. It is a story about a man and his dog. It is not just any story. Tuesday is a golden retriever who was raised to be a service dog. In the book, we learn the steps it took to get one puppy ready to be a companion, a service dog, for someone in need of healing. Tuesday's journey was not without its frustrations. He was in a prison training program for awhile. He ended up bonding with two prisoners during his time there. They both got released. 

Luis Carlos Montalvan was a warrior serving our country in Iraq and later Afghanistan.  While I knew that these were not great places to be, I really had no understanding of what we ask our servicemen and women to undergo when we sent them there. It is a life very different from what most of us experience here in the United States. It was not just the culture of the countries, the war, but our government did not always do what was needed. He was wounded, and yet returned to combat. As a captain, he felt the responsibility for his men and his country. He continues leading today as a journalist and as a person speaking out for his country, his army and his dog.

The chapters where Luis and Tuesday bonded were great. Here are two hurting beings that grew to trust one another. Tuesday has that personality that some many golden retrievers have. He was generally a happy dog with a sense of play that just had to come out from time to time. In one of the chapters, Luis starts taking Tuesday out at night so they can play and get exercise finding an abandoned area that they could toss and catch balls. 

But there were hurdles that had to be crossed as well. And this really spoke to my heart. There appears to be a lack of understanding of  what a service dog is, and how we should treat them and their owners. Service dogs are not just for the blind. Luis was suffering of Post Stress Traumatic Disorder, as a result of his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tuesday became his anchor, that allowed him to function. Yet, he had a hard time taking a bus because the bus driver had a limited concept of what a service dog should look like. Restaurants refused to serve him because they did not understand that even with his jacket announcing him as a service dog, that he could enter their establishment. I have seen service dogs in action with persons in wheel chairs. The service they provide is invaluable. We need to educate ourselves and others about how to treat the dogs and their owners. 

In the end, Luis and Tuesday are continuing their journey. They are helping one another cope with the day to day experiences of living. They are moving on in their lives. 

As a result of reading this book, I have a greater understanding of the role of service dogs, of what our service men and women are going through in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what some of them may face when they return home to the United States. 

This is a book well worth reading. I highly recommend it. It is available on Kindle, in hardcover and on audio.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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