The tail-wagging golden retriever named Tuesday walked into the Mt. Lebanon Public Library on Wednesday and turned soft brown eyes on the audience, all but begging people to pet him. But his harness and collar were emblazoned with the warning: "Service K9. Do Not Pet."
Luis Carlos Montalvan, 40, the man at the other end of the leash, promised that at the end of his speech he would use the special command I've never seen given to a working dog: "Go say HI!"
More than 50 people -- lovers of books and lovers of dogs -- applauded loudly when Mr. Montalvan finished talking about his book: "Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him" (Hyperion $22.99 hardback, now in paperback).
When enthusiastic applause filled the room, Tuesday's ears perked up, and his expressive eyes twinkled because he knew it was time for the special order. Not one person passed on the chance to pet the dog, who clearly loves the attention.
The book "is dark," Mr. Montalvan admits, when he writes about his two U.S. Army tours of duty in Iraq. Here's one of those passages:
"Death wasn't a number; it was something that crept up in quiet moments and stabbed at my neck, then reared back to strike again."
War was hell, but coming home was worse for Mr. Montalvan and many other soldiers.
He walks with a cane, the only visible sign of injuries that include a fractured back. His worst wounds cannot be seen. He needs the cane and the dog to keep from falling because of vertigo and balance problems from a traumatic brain injury.
The most debilitating and crippling injury is post-traumatic stress disorder that has left him, at times, unable to leave his New York City apartment for days at a time. He battles PTSD to this day with the help of his special dog.
People who consider themselves warriors know they are supposed to be tough and brave, Mr. Montalvan says in the book. Family, friends and employers have a hard time understanding why soldiers who survived war have so much trouble dealing with peace.
Mr. Montalvan's writing explains this better than anything I've ever read: "The defining state of PTSD is not fear. ... The defining state of PTSD is hypervigilance. ... You are (always) in survival mode, ready to fight or flee for your life."
His military decorations include the Combat Action Badge, two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. In 2007 when the Army would not provide him with the medical and psychiatric help he needed, he quit "and it broke my heart," he said this week.
On Sept. 11, 2007, he was honorably discharged with the rank of captain.
He writes that, in his opinion, senior Army officers betrayed U.S. soldiers and the people of Iraq. After his discharge, he felt betrayed by the cumbersome bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration.
In 2008, he learned about dogs trained by East Coast Assistance Dogs and Puppies Behind Bars. He was teamed with Tuesday, who had some psychological problems and trust issues. The now 6-year-old dog spent much of his puppyhood in the care of prison inmates. The VA had nothing to do with him getting the service dog, Mr. Montalvan is quick to point out.
The two helped each other and now "Tuesday saves my life every day," Mr. Montalvan said. Tuesday senses his companion's moods, comforting him and averting anxiety attacks and flashbacks.
I tend to avoid books and movies about war because I find them sad, depressing and maddening. But this book is ultimately about second chances, courage, hope, love and the resilience of Mr. Montalvan, who has battled for his own recovery as heroically as he battled for his country in war zones.
Mr. Montalvan and Tuesday graduated from Columbia University on May 18, 2010, with a master's degree in journalism. In a picture in the book, both wear caps and gowns and Tuesday was the star of the commencement ceremony. Mr. Montalvan is working on a second master's from Columbia as he writes and speaks out for better treatment of soldiers, especially wounded warriors.
Local rocker Joe Grushecky is performing on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at a fundraiser for the new organization Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team. The group aims to raise money so local pilots can transport dogs and other pets from high-kill shelters to no-kill rescue organizations.
The event is 6-9 p.m. at the Rowdy Buck at 1325 E. Carson St., South Side.
A $10 cover charge includes a silent auction, 50/50 drawing and cash bar. Rowdy Buck is donating 25 percent of proceeds from food sold and 10 percent of drinks.
For more information, go to the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team Facebook page.
Wildlife baby shower
This is the time of year animals are born, and that means a lot of work for people who care for orphaned, injured and ill wildlife.
A fundraising baby shower will be held from noon to 4 p.m. next Saturday at Skye's Spirit Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, 889 Farren Surrena Road, Harrisville (Butler County), 16038.
People can visit with live birds of prey and a bobcat, and watch baby wildlife from a live feed camera.
There will be an auction, plant sale, and craft and yard sales. Needed items include money, paper towels, hay, sunflower seed, pine shavings, frozen berries and mixed vegetables, lumber, gas cards, postage stamps -- and more volunteers.
Information: www.skyes-spirit.com or its Facebook page.
Tests for Lyme disease
Pennsylvania is a hot bed for tick-borne Lyme disease, which can cause crippling joint problems in people, dogs and horses. Local veterinarians are reporting increased numbers of canine cases, even in the city and suburbs.
From 2 to 5 p.m. next Saturday, a Lyme disease screening clinic and symposium will be held at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve between Routes 30 and 981 at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe.
Dogs will be given blood tests. Cost is $30 if you register in advance at http://tinyurl.com/dogtickclinic or $35 on the day of the event.
Many local veterinarians are recommending that dogs get blood tests once or twice a year because there are often no symptoms in the early stages.
Screenings are sponsored by the Saint Vincent College Equestrian Program, K. Vet Animal Care of Greensburg, Merial Co. and IDEXX Laboratories.
K-9 cancer walk
The second annual Chase Away K-Cancer Walk is April 28 at North Park Boathouse. The first walk last year attracted 293 people and their dogs. They raised $26,000 for research.
The walk was started by Mary Hummert of Penn, Westmoreland County, in honor of her Irish setter, Chase, who died of lymphoma in April 2011.
Check-in is at 9 a.m., and the 5K walk starts at 10 a.m.
From 11 a.m. to noon there are meet and greets, raffles, prizes, and a balloon release in honor of dogs that have died. Registration is $25.
Download advance registration forms at www.chaseawayk9cancer.org under events or go to the local event's Facebook page.
Cats and dogs older than 3 months can get rabies shots for $6 at a clinic that benefits the Ophans of the Storm shelter in Kittanning. The clinic is April 28, 1-3 p.m. at Tractor Supply, Franklin Village Mall, Kittanning. Pets must be leashed or crated. For further information, call the shelter at 724-548-4520.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to email@example.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.