A golden retriever named Tuesday was greeted like a rock star when he entered Westminster Presbyterian Church last Sunday. More than 300 people came to the Upper St. Clair church to meet him, and Tuesday wagged his tail and posed for photographs. Everyone stood and applauded as the dog and his partner, Luis Carlos Montalvan, made their way to the podium.
Mr. Montalvan needed the dog and a cane to make that walk.
He wrote the 2011 best-selling book "Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him." His speaking appearances, and his book, raise awareness of the medical and psychological problems soldiers face when they return home after military service. Most touchingly, Mr. Montalvan uses his own service dog to show how highly trained dogs provide life-enhancing and life-saving support for wounded warriors and for other people with disabilities.
"Tuesday saves my life every day," Mr. Montalvan said during the program put on by the church's pet ministry. "He brightens my days and comforts my nights."
Even as a young child, Mr. Montalvan said he had always wanted to be a soldier. He was highly decorated in 17 years in the Army, including two bronze stars and the Army Commendation Medal.
Multiple tours of duty in Iraq left him with a fractured back, vertigo and migraines from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He left the military in 2007 when he felt he couldn't get the medical and psychiatric care he needed. He left as a captain with an honorable discharge.
The "invisible wounds and scars" of trauma and PTSD have been the most difficult to deal with, he said. The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, panic attacks and nightmares. Tuesday wakes him up at night to stop the bad dreams. The dog can sense his partner's moods, preventing daytime panic attacks "and helping me not think so much about Iraq and bad experiences."
Before Tuesday, Mr. Montalvan said he was frequently unable to leave his Manhattan apartment for days on end. "Tuesday has been able to rekindle my ambition," helping him to earn a master's degree from Columbia University, write a book and go on speaking tours.
Tuesday and Mr. Montalvan were in Pet Tales last April after an appearance in Mt. Lebanon. They're in Pet Tales again because much has happened, and Tuesday is becoming a VIP -- Very Important Pooch.
Tuesday is one of five dogs to win an AKC (American Kennel Club) Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence. ACE awards go to "dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities." Tuesday won in the service dog category. Each winner's owner will get $1,000 to donate to the pet-related charity of his or her choice. The dogs will get silver medallions on Dec. 14 at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show in Orlando, Fla.
A motion picture about Mr. Montalvan and Tuesday is in development, and a documentary about them is expected to be released in 2014.
After meeting Mr. Montalvan, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been pushing to get money and legislation to team wounded veterans with dogs such as Tuesday. Training costs are generally $20,000-$25,000.Pet food myths
The next Westminster pet ministry topic is "The Truth Behind Pet Food Myths" on Oct. 30, 6:30-7:30 p.m. The speaker is veterinarian Brad Carmichael of Pleasant Valley Veterinary Clinic. He will "discuss nutritional facts and reveal many of the secrets behind the pet food industry," the news release says.
The event is free but you must go to www.westminster-church.org/wroctalk.html to register. The church is at 2040 Washington Road, Upper St. Clair (15241).Positive parroting
Parrots are now the third most popular pet in the country. Because they have "the intelligence of a 6-year-old child but the emotional maturity of a 2-year-old," many owners struggle with behavioral problems, according to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Macaws, cockatiels and even those cute little parakeets are all members of the parrot family.
"Many people don't realize the amount of attention and mental stimulation parrots need," said Pilar Fish, the veterinarian at the National Aviary. "They require specialized housing, nutrition and even toys to maintain proper mental and physical health. Even small birds like parakeets have these needs."
The Aviary is offering three "positive parroting" classes. Each is 10 a.m. to noon and costs $25. Here's the schedule:
• Next Saturday: The Healthy Happy Parrot. Shows how to create the best environment, from cage design and perches to safe toys and healthy diets.
• Nov. 16: Pet Bird Enrichment. Redirect chewing, screaming and other problem behaviors and make toys to take home to your pet.
• Dec. 7: Training Your Pet Bird. Includes live demonstrations with National Aviary birds.
All classes are for people only -- leave your parrots at home. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-258-9439.Pet photo shoots
Get a professional portrait of your pet and 100 percent of the "sitting fee" will be donated to the Animal Friends shelter in Ohio Township.
Nicole Begley is making this offer to anyone who books a photo session with her before Oct. 31. The session can be scheduled for any time through April. The regular $135 fee is reduced to $95.
To schedule, go to www.nicolebegleyphotography.com or call 724-766-6103.
Ms. Begley is one of the professional photographers who shoot the amazing pet portraits for the annual "Best Friends" desk calendars that raise money for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.Pooch parade
Shortly after Arlene Weintraub of Upper St. Clair was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, her husband, David, organized an event to benefit the organization that helps people with the rare debilitating chronic disease that affects muscles. This is the fifth year for the MGA Pooch Parade.
Dogs and people walk 1mile on Oct. 27 near the South Park dog park on Maple Springs Road, off Corrigan Drive. Registration is $25 for a walker with one dog and $10 for the second dog. Dog-less walkers pay $15. Proceeds go to the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Western Pennsylvania. Registration is 9 a.m. The walk starts at 10 a.m.
Your registration gets you a long-sleeve T-shirt, goody bag and dog bandana.
After the walk there's a picnic, and participants are asked to bring a covered dish for sharing. There's a pet costume contest with prizes, gift basket and 50/50 raffles and a silent auction with prizes that include a Myrtle Beach vacation.
Veterinarian Marina Siegert of the Bethel Park Animal Clinic will host an "ask the vet" booth. Vendors will hand out free products and services. The Lions Club of Upper St. Clair is a supporter of this event and will be collecting used eyeglasses. At noon, Woody's Dog Wash & Pet Boutique hosts a free Halloween party for all participants. You can register online at www.mgawpa.org or at the event.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM