“Tuesday Tucks Me In” teaches children about giving back

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog”

Rating: Five Stars

September 11, 2014  

Can a battle-weathered Iraq War veteran, suffering from multiple physical injuries, including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), write a children’s book to which kids could actually relate? A better question – can that veteran share his story and interact one-on-one with children effectively?

That’s what I went to the South Lansing branch of the Capital Area District Libraries in Lansing, Mich. recently to find out.

The veteran is Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván and the book is “Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and His Service Dog” (with Bret Witter, photography by Dan Dion, Roaring Book Press.) Due to his injuries and resulting physical and emotional issues, Tuesday is Capt. Montalván’s constant companion and best friend. “Tuesday Tucks Me In” is narrated by Tuesday, telling the reader how he spends his day with Luis.

Juxtaposing his 6 foot 2 inch frame against his 3-foot tall audience of children ranging from 3 to 12 years-of-age was eye-opening. Luis, with Tuesday’s help, effectively and endearingly related to the children and told them in detail about the daily life of a service dog. Luis gently touched on the subject of war and PTSD for less than a minute.

Demonstrating Tuesday’s daily hygiene ritual told about in the book, Luis groomed Tuesday right there in the library. Tuesday started licking Luis’ hand as he was grooming him, and an adorable little girl pointed it out. Luis told her, “He likes that I’m taking care of him…it’s a very natural, good loving thing to do for your dog.”

I have written about Capt. Montalván before, including a previous review of “Tuesday Tucks Me In.” But watching the children form a semicircle around Luis and Tuesday, listening and watching intently, the overwhelming universal truth of Luis and Tuesday’s story suddenly hit me. This is not just a story of an injured Iraq War veteran and his service dog; it is a story as pure and simple as Jesus’ commandment for us to love each other as we want to be loved. Luis’ relationship with Tuesday the Golden Retriever is the living example of the Golden Rule.

A few months ago I interviewed Mike Farrell, death penalty abolitionist and human rights advocate, formerly of “M*A*S*H” and “Providence” fame, about his book, “Just Call Me Mike.” He kindly shared a speech he delivered to the graduating class at the U.S. Air Force Academy last February.

In that speech, he referenced Wangari Maathai, who lived as a poor child in Kenya, but her intelligence transcended her impoverished circumstances. Wangari entered a scholarship program funded by then-Senator John F. Kennedy and studied in both the U.S. and Kenya. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and during her acceptance speech Wangari reflected on the severe environmental damage our earth has suffered, finishing her remarks by reminding everyone that “our task today is to give back to the children a world of wonder and beauty.”

Wangari’s theme to give back to our children a “world of wonder and beauty” is another iteration of the Golden Rule, and doing so will secure they will do likewise with their children. Just as the children with whom Capt. Montalván interacted were being taught to give back to their future children and animals alike.

Today is September 11th which is recognized by most people as a day to remember a great tragedy. But in 1893 on this day, the Parliament of the World’s Religions met for the first time. One hundred years later, in 1993, the same group adopted the “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic,” which established the Golden Rule as one shared fundamental truth of all religions.

In “Just Call Me Mike,” Mike Farrell recalls a turning point in his life when he realized what he needed most in life were three things, “Love, attention and respect. It’s amazing how simple – and powerful – it can be.”

The significance of Mike Farrell’s epiphany those many years ago is underscored daily by the increased recognition that all people must help and watch out for each other and the earth’s animals. Everyone must be treated equally, as we all would want to be treated. The understanding that the Golden Rule is as simple and basic as grooming a furry best friend in return for a lick on the hand.

“Tuesday Tucks Me In” teaches children about giving back — Detroit Examiner 

Photograph Credit: Angel Vogel

PTSD service dog Tuesday is world’s best tucker

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog  
Rating: 5 Stars

June 27, 2014

Teaching children about war and mental illness is a challenge at best, so imagine this — a children’s book narrated by a Golden Retriever that tackles war and mental illness while emphasizing good oral hygiene and the important role of service dogs.

“Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog” (by Luis Montalván with Bret Witter, photography by Dan Dion, Roaring Book Press for Kindergarten through Grade 4) does just that in a loving, kind, funny and beautiful way.

Children’s books in the modern day were introduced to teach them about learning fundamentals, language, shapes, color and basic math concepts. But Tuesday Tucks Me In teaches America’s youngest readers what it is like to be an injured Iraq veteran’s service dog.

Tuesday Tucks Me In is narrated by an adorable Golden Retriever named Tuesday and he tells the reader how he spends his day with Luis. Luis is former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván, author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.”

Wonderful, warm, well-shot photos take the reader, whether child or adult, through Luis’ day along with Tuesday’s narration. Opening the book is a delight, because the first thing you see is the same thing Luis sees first thing in the morning, Tuesday’s golden snout. And the reader is left with the last image of Luis and Tuesday saying their prayers at the end of their day.

The text is well coordinated with the photos and draws the reader in to share Luis and Tuesday’s day together. Children, especially though who are a little shy with reading, will be absorbed by the photo and text interplay, enhancing the child reader’s ability to form and understand the words.

Tuesday Tucks Me In is more than an entertaining children’s book. Luis and Tuesday teach kids about difficult issues like war and mental health in a gentle and thoughtful way.

Groups like Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) suggest children should be taught about war and mental health issues in a responsible way. Subjects like the war in Afghanistan, the current escalation of violence in Iraq and returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are covered in the news daily and many children are exposed to those broadcasts.

According to ESR, many children as young as four and five years of age would value speaking with trusted adults about what they hear in the news, and reading Tuesday Tucks Me In with young children is an excellent way to open the door to discussing war and PTSD. Educating young children about armed overseas conflicts and the physical and mental health after burn sensitizes these future leaders at an early age about the long lasting effects of war.

Becky Hartlaub wrote a Goodreads review of Tuesday Tucks Me In, “My 14 month old grandson saw the cover and went woof, woof. Then he bent his head down and kissed Tuesday.” Ms. Hartlaub’s grandson, and children just like him, will be making world-affecting decisions 30 years from now. Exposure to books like Tuesday Tucks Me In gives these now-children, then decision makers, a much better basis for understanding a war’s consequences.

There are many good reasons for both children and adults to enjoy Tuesday Tucks Me In. Intellectualizing aside, what I like best about the book is that every time I read it, I feel like Tuesday is tucking me in too.

Photograph Credit: Dan Dion

Back to the future with dogs

March 19, 2014   

A room filled with adorable Golden Retrievers is hard to top, but it happened at the Golden Retriever Rescue of Michigan (GRRoM) fundraiser last Sunday in Troy, Mich. Former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván was the keynote speaker at the event, along with his best friend and service dog, Tuesday.

GRRoM is one of several Golden Retriever rescue organizations in Michigan, accepting surrendered Golden Retrievers and finding suitable homes for them.

Capt. Montalván is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.” Before separating from the military he served two tours of duty in Iraq and returned home with physical wounds, including traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One event highlight was Luis’ coaxing Tuesday, a Golden Retriever, to sing a do-re-mi scale for the audience. Tuesday did his best and the crowd cheered.

Luis and Tuesday’s musical collaboration underscored one of Luis’ main themes in his remarks. He pointed out dogs have befriended and worked with humankind for the last thirty-thousand years, as evidenced by cave drawings depicting large dogs working beside humans.

“In the future dogs will be everywhere,” Luis said. The University of Pennsylvania is training dogs to sniff out early ovarian cancer markers, Luis added. Service dogs are also being trained to detect low blood sugar in diabetics and warn epileptics of seizures before they happen.

With so much evidence demonstrating the love, usefulness, value and irreplaceability of dogs, why every day are dogs beaten, abused, mistreated and tortured?

The U.S. Justice Department has charged at least 190 individuals with federal animal cruelty charges. The importance of these charges is the recognition animal cruelty can be a predictor of violence against people as well. Justice Department research shows a connection between animal cruelty and violent behavior.

Unfortunately there is no shortage of examples substantiating the Justice Department’s research, like the case of Jimmy Lee Dykes, who allegedly snatched a boy off of an Alabama school bus. Mr. Dykes held the autistic boy, known as Ethan, in an underground bunker for several days. The standoff ended with the boy’s rescue and Mr. Dykes being shot and killed by police.

Here is the disturbing precursor to the kidnapping — a few weeks before Dykes kidnapped Ethan, he beat a neighbor’s 120 pound dog with a lead pipe because it wandered onto his property. The dog died a week later. Local animal control did question Dykes about the issue, but he was never prosecuted. He reportedly said his only regret was that he didn’t “…beat him to death all the way.”

Recognizing Dykes’ actions as a predictor of future violence, as the Justice Department has said, may have saved five-year-old Ethan from a horrifying and life scarring experience.

Even with the amazing advancements in dog training, building on their natural talents, it is still basic dog tricks and commands to which most people relate. When Capt. Montalván started training with Tuesday, he told his father he was “…getting a service dog that could respond to eighty commands.” His father razed his son in return, “That’s more than you know.”

Luis responded to his father, to whom he co-dedicated his book, “And whose fault is that?”

Back to the future with dogs — Detroit Examiner

Photograph Credit: Susan Vogel

 

 

 

Michigan legislature may not gamble on charity gaming

March 12, 2014

Many Michigan charities count on revenues from licensed charity gaming, like poker rooms and Millionaire’s Nights to fund their good works. According to the state of Michigan, many charity groups use this type of charity gaming, such as animal rescues, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, Humane Society and veteran programs.

Last year, according to the Michigan Charitable Gaming Division, charity gaming brought in $184,176,756. Who could be against gambling for charity?

Well, some Michigan legislative members to start.

This afternoon in Lansing, Mich. the Michigan legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will be considering allowing regulations to go into effect which charities say would cut-off an irreplaceable revenue stream.

The for-profit gambling industry in Michigan may also not be enamored with charity gaming. In 2003, according to Crain’s Detroit Business, charitable gaming brought in $3.4 million. The same year the three Detroit casinos generated $1,130,201,887.16. Fast forward several years, in 2010 the Detroit casinos brought in $1,377,929,084.94, which means after adjusting for inflation the Detroit casinos seem to have little growth in terms of gross proceeds.

Charitable gaming proceeds on the other hand increased 540 percent between 2003 and 2012. Michigan’s for-profit casinos may have lost some poker players to charity gaming.

The Golden Retriever Rescue of Michigan (GRRoM) is one Michigan charitable organization that benefits from charitable gaming. According to Lyn Baumann, GRRoM Fundraising Coordinator, 16 percent of GRRoM’s revenue comes from charitable gaming.

Lyn rescued a Golden Retriever named Jasper, so she understands a rescue dog’s love and appreciation. “The golden is that quintessential partner to a family or to an individual and they’re so forgiving and open to being who you need them to be for wherever you are in your life.”

Paddy Ash of Ypsilanti, Mich. knows all about that. In August 2003 he adopted an eight-year-old Golden Retriever named Rocky from GRRoM. Paddy took Rocky everywhere he went, including to Dawn Farm, a young adult alcohol rehabilitation facility.

In a letter written to GRRoM, Paddy describes the effect of Rocky on the clients at the facility for treatment, “One of the most touching incidents was when one of the young clients upon greeting Rocky, simply laid down on the floor and put his arm around him.”

About the same time Paddy Ash and Rocky were visiting young recovering alcoholics facing challenges, then-Second Lieutenant Luis Carlos Montalván was stationed in Al-Waleed, Iraq facing his own monolithic challenge.

The Iraqi border police had detained a civilian man suspected of transporting fake medicine. When the man refused to provide information to an American intelligence team, now retired Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván described what transpired in his bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him,“…they threw him on the concrete floor, elevated his legs, blindfolded him, stuffed a rag down his throat, and poured water into his mouth.” This man’s waterboarding in front of Second Lieutenant Montalván took ten minutes. “That incident is a scar on my mind,” Capt. Montalván wrote.

After two tours of duty in Iraq, Capt. Montalván had serious physical and mental injuries, including a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Tuesday, a specially trained Golden Retriever, assists Capt. Montalván in coping with his physical and emotional injuries. Capt. Montalván’s physical symptoms and agonizing memories of Iraq, like witnessing the waterboarding in Al-Waleed, are mitigated every day by Tuesday’s love and devotion.

Golden Retrievers like Rocky and Tuesday are among the numerous reasons why the Michigan legislature should not restrict charity gaming, and many feel should this type of gaming should be encouraged to assist charitable causes. In the meantime, Capt. Montalván and Tuesday will be helping support GRRoM this Sunday in Troy, Mich. Anyone who would like to buy tickets to the event can go to the GRRoM website at www.grrom.com/luistuesdayevent.html.

Groups dedicated to helping Michigan’s animals need all the help they can get. The proposed charitable gaming rule change reflects a larger conflict between big casinos and smaller charities. But when it comes to furry spirits enhancing the daily life of Michiganders, many decidedly come down on the side of pets over profits.

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Michigan legislature may not gamble on charity gaming — Detroit Examiner

Photograph Credit: Rochelle Lesser