Until Tuesday and Seva

I just read Luis Carlos Montalvan’s memoir, Until Tuesday. Luis is a veteran with chronic physical injuries and PTSD. Tuesday is his service dog. Some of you have probably met Luis and Tuesday, and more of you have probably read Until Tuesday. In 2012, Luis and Tuesday were the guests of honor at a Helping Paws fundraiser for their PTSD dogs pilot program (photos by Scott Stillman). And if you read the Helping Paws newsletters, you probably already know that Until Tuesday was an inspiration for the program (read story #4). I’m afraid I was unable to attend the fundraiser and have not met Luis or Tuesday, but I feel like I know Tuesday thanks to the memoir.


Until Tuesday and Seva

Luis and Tuesday with a Minnesota veteran.

Until Tuesday and Seva

Tuesday greeting some Helping Paws dogs.

Until Tuesday and Seva

Luis talking to a full house.

Until Tuesday is a quick, enjoyable read. I found myself thinking “just one more chapter before I get up and do blank.” That said, Luis writes about some pretty awful things, like the attempt on his life in Al-Waleed, and some serious things, like his insistence that the US military take responsibility for the people it sends to war. He is honest about his own troubling past, like self-medicating with alcohol, falling out with his parents, and coming to terms with the fact that he has a disability. There were times I put down the book so that I could absorb what I had just read about some troubling realities, from a young military couple facing medical restrictions mandated by their insurance company to water boarding detainees in Iraq.

Despite this being a memoir about struggle and disillusionment, it is enjoyable, because it is also a memoir about hope and love. Luis strikes a remarkable balance between light and dark, so that at no point did I feel the dark material was more than I could handle facing. Perhaps the secret here is that he opened with Tuesday as a puppy. And I knew going into the book, as any reader would, that the outcome would be uplifting. Open with puppy, close with uplifting image of best friends: hard to beat that combination.

Clearly, Luis is an activist. I engaged with his message and never felt he was preaching to me. I think that is because he was sharing a narrative of personal experience–a lot of raw, deeply moving personal experience. If he had told me a lot of statistics or distanced himself from his message, using abstractions, he would have lost me. But he didn’t, and I cared through the entire book.

Now, I titled this post Until Tuesday and Seva. How does Seva fit in here?


Until Tuesday and Seva

Seva and geese in Loring Park


Tuesday and Seva are a lot alike. I mean, peas in a pod.

Tuesday knew all the commands, but was described as immature. For example, in this retrieving exercise, “He didn’t have trouble identifying the right object, but after a few runs he couldn’t help taking a victory lap around…the room.”

Seva likes to prance and shake the object in her mouth on the way to delivering it, her version of the victory lap.

Tuesday used to bring Luis his socks. Tuesday “loved to wrestle with them on the way back from retrieving them, and half the time [Luis] delicately slid slobber-covered socks into [his] desert combat boots.”

Whenever Seva performs Tug to remove a sock, she first uses the tips of her teeth, lips pulled back, to nibble at the sock until she gets a grip without biting toes, then she leans back and pulls. Once the sock is off, she can’t just put it in my hand. She has to gobble it into her mouth and then prance it over to me and regurgitate it into my hand, making certain it is good and slobbery. I don’t know why socks are so irresistible, but I’m glad it’s not just Seva.

Luis describes how Tuesday walks slightly ahead of him, which was a negative during training, but is beneficial to Luis because Tuesday provides a buffer in crowds.

Guess who else likes to be out in front? I often ask Seva, “Hey, who’s driving this boat?”

“Tuesday does his happy dance, ducking his front half and raising his behind and sort of pounding his head and shoulders into the rug with a scrape and a wiggle, first one side and then the other…It is energetic, goofily joyful, and mesmerizing.”

Yep. Seva does that all day long.

One day, if Seva’s person wants to know what Seva’s life and training were like before graduation, he or she will only have to look here. I am grateful Luis documented his journey with Tuesday. I don’t know what Seva’s person will need from her, but it was meaningful to read about Luis’s experience bonding with Tuesday and how that dog changed his life. It is such a remarkable thing, what these dogs do.

I sometimes wonder if Seva will make it. She knows her skills, is super smart, enthusiastic, and loving. She’s also “immature.” Like any mom, I worry about sending her out into the world. Reading about Luis and Tuesday brought home the fact that it is really about the match between human and dog. When the time comes, I’m sure the right person will be there to match with Seva.

I’ll leave you with one more thought. I realized, while reading Until Tuesday, that Seva won’t fulfill her service dog potential with me. I don’t need her the way her person will. I don’t need her to monitor my anxiety. I don’t need her for balance. I don’t need her to pick up dropped keys. I pretend I need her for all sorts of things when we’re training, but it’s not the same. I believe that the dog, once matched with the person who truly needs her, will respond to that need. And that is when Seva will achieve her full potential.


6 thoughts on “Until Tuesday and Seva

  1. I tried to “like” this with the facebook icon, but as soon as I touched it the icon disappeared.

    Thank you once again for sharing. I will try to read Until Tuesday. Seva is growing and maturing when her current skills are compared to your early blogs. I think your right that when she and her person bond, she will step up to plate and do what is needed. You’ve shown her the way with great patience and love. I’m sure she’ll make you proud.

    • Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for the encouragement, as always! You’re right, she is maturing. I see it in a lot of little ways, even though I know she’s still got an immature streak and an obstinate streak, too!

      If you hold the cursor over the Like button, it should return in a second and then you can click it.

  2. I thought the same things when I read until Tuesday too. I have a TBI and PTSD from a serious head on car crash. And I have a wonderful Service Dog named Coco. She does all of these things too. We went through a 2.3 year training process together. Part of the intensive training was to mimic what my symptoms were so she would know what to do if I got dizzy or fell.

    One night the power must have gone off. Maybe there was a storm. I don’t remember. It was absolutely dark. I tried to stand but got so dizzy I fell to the floor. Coco, usually sleeps in my bed or at the side of my bed but for some reason she was sleeping in the living room. I called out, “Coco, where are you?” She came running to me right away. Now Akitas are not known for being great on recalls and we worked hard on all of that. But to this day if I say, “Coco, where are you,” she runs to me.

    I think they do know the difference between class and when they are really needed.

    • Jenn,
      I’m sorry you’re living with TBI and PTSD, but am glad you have a service dog! I’ve never heard of Akitas being used for service–how interesting. Helping Paws uses labs and retrievers because they are so eager to help and innately good at retrieving. Working on recalls with Seva has been a lot of fun. We work on recall with the dog’s name, and have a special word for what we call a Really Reliable Recall. If I use her code word for a Really Reliable Recall, she will tear across our big yard full speed, bound over the deck, and crash into the kitchen. 🙂

      I think your story illustrates the point that they know when they are truly needed. I’ve heard lots of stories of these dogs actually saving people’s lives. They are amazing. Hugs to Coco!

      • The third year after the accident I was still waiting for my service dog from PAWS With a Cause when I had gotten each of my children a dog.

        The Akita decided I was hers however and took it upon herself to take care of me. We had an organic farm and llamas and donkeys and other livestock. Using a positive, intuitive approach to training felt normal to me. But Angel taught me how to communicate through observation of everything.

        The fourth year of waiting I was notified I could come to meet some service dogs but I could not have any other dogs. They would only allow one old dog that was 10+ so Angel took care of me. So I couldn’t qualify as long as I had those other dogs. I rarely left the farm so I decided that Angel took care of me just fine and she was all I needed.

        Bear, my second Akita also took good care of me. By this time I understood Akitas and was amazed by how much they understood about my condition and how to help me.

        When Bear was 8 I put myself on the list with PAWS again. In the meantime I began to wonder, why aren’t Akitas used as service dogs? Because mine were amazing without anything more than basic good manners training.

        I started to read and do research and watch anything I could find through the library about training and training service dogs. I fostered dogs for three years while I was waiting because I knew, with my book I’d be doing book signings and art exhibits so I knew I was going to need a service dog.

        Then some one saw my artwork and they decided to donate one of their Akita puppies to me. I could pick out the one I wanted, except the one that had already been chosen. I picked out Coco. I thought we could do it and was willing to give up on going places if I couldn’t do it. With a lot of help from some amazing trainers I socialized Coco and we went beyond just good manners in her training.

        And then I was introduced to a service dog trainer and the service dog training school in the area. My sister’s neighbor volunteered there and fostered for them.

        I wasn’t sure I could do it. There were other dogs and noise and everything that would trigger all of my symptoms. With ear plugs and my dark glasses and after visiting classes, first alone and then with Coco, we decided to go for it.

        Coco learned how to brace for me; how to find me and because of my peripheral blindness and most importantly, she learned how to stop me from walking out in front of cars in a parking lot. She has even stopped me from walking behind an electric car that had started. The red reverse lights were on and the driver was behind the wheel but Coco blocked me from moving forward because I didn’t tell her, “I see it, we’re safe,” when she cued me about the car. I didn’t hear it or notice it at all.

        She/we graduated from the Morris Service Dog Program about 1.5 years later. During most of that time I continued to foster dogs for the love of it and for Coco’s socializing training.

        I think that the main reason Akitas are not used as service dogs here is because they bond so completely that training them and then turning them over to someone else would not suit them.

        If you want to see video of her in all of her cuteness you can find her on YouTube. She has her own channel!! CocoAkitaLuv. I will say, there were times when I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it but just when I was thinking I didn’t have the strength or ability she figured out what she was supposed to do and then she applied that to all sorts of things. This was what I really needed her for. To think for me when I got dizzy or out of focus. She knows it before I do and takes me to a seat, a bench, the couch or bed or even to a wall where it is quiet until I’m feeling better. Then she stands and looks ahead and I know, we are okay to go again.

        It is so wonderful, the work you are doing!!!

        • Thanks for sharing your story, Jenn. Coco is a beautiful girl! And that electric car story is amazing–but if they can sense a person’s blood pressure, etc., why not an electric motor? So cool.

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