FAIRBANKS — “He’s my best friend,” Luis Carlos Montalván said, referring to the golden retriever that keeps a careful watch over him night and day.
Montalván is a former captain in the U.S. Army trying to cope with injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder after serving 17 years in the military, including two tours in Iraq. Tuesday was a service dog living with separation anxiety after being passed between trainers, correctional facilities and a home for troubled boys.
In 2008, the two were paired through a program that provides service dogs for disabled veterans. Trained to help with everyday tasks and recognize the early stages of anxiety, Tuesday became a constant comfort in Montalván’s life.
“As a highly trained service dog, he provides me with physical and psychological support,” Montalván said, “so he enables me to live independently and to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do without his help.”
With the golden retriever by his side, the veteran earned a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University, and is working on another one in strategic communications. Inspired by his experience with Tuesday, Montalván wrote and published “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.” The book has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller, and is currently being turned into a motion picture.
Every year, Access Alaska invites a disabled speaker to share their stories with the community. “We do this to celebrate the passage of the American Disabilities Act, which is in July,” Doug Toelle, Access Alaska advocacy and development director, said, “but we’ve found summer isn’t the best time to get people to events in Alaska, so we’re kind of fudging the date.”
Montalván and his service dog will be in Fairbanks Tuesday to share their story.
“On the one hand we hope to discuss some issues related to veterans, service members, and their families to inform, help, and inspire,” Toelle said. “On the other hand, beyond the veteran community, we are disability advocates so we hope to talk about a number of issues.”
Access Alaska is a nonprofit organization that supports older or disabled Alaskans so they can continue living independently. They offer home modifications, advocacy and skills training. The event is co-sponsored by UAF Student Services.
“It seems that with respect to disability issues,” Montalván said, “Alaskans are ahead in some things and behind in others, so as advocates we hope to do what we can to help.”
If you go
What: An Evening with Luis Carlos Montalván, Tuesday
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Wood Center Ballroom at the University of Alaska Fairbanks