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Iraq veteran’s service dog receives AKC Award for Canine Excellence

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Tuesday, a service dog partnered with wounded Iraq War veteran Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván, was given the American Kennel Club Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) at a presentation during the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando Saturday night.

Speaking at his public appearances, Capt. Montalván says the Golden Retriever saves his life every day. Returning from two tours of duty in Iraq with both physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), now Tuesday gives Capt. Montalván the will and desire to live every day to the fullest.

Based on his experiences in Iraq and his life with Tuesday, Capt. Montalván wrote the New York Times bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.” Capt. Montalván also has a children’s book coming out in May 2014, “Tuesday Tucks Me In: the Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog.”

Tuesday helps Capt. Montalván stay in the present, but he also has an innate sense to nuzzle whoever needs him. At one of Capt. Montalván and Tuesday’s appearances at a juvenile detention facility in Monroe, Mich., a young female offender was obviously shy and withdrawn. Following Capt. Montalván’s presentation, Tuesday planted his snout in the girl’s lap, inviting her to pet him. She did and within minutes a smile came to her face for the first time that morning.

For the next thirty minutes or so, Tuesday visited with the rest of the juvenile offenders, but always kept his eye on the young girl, returning to her over and over again.

Ironically, Capt. Montalván and Tuesday almost did not make it to Orlando. Just before boarding Delta Airlines Flight 2885, the Delta gate agent asked for Tuesday’s “identification card.” (According to both federal regulations and Delta’s own website identification cards are not required for service animals.) Capt. Montalván asked to speak to a supervisor, and a few minutes later, boarded the flight.

A customer service representative who would only identify herself as “Nancy” met with Capt. Montalván on the aircraft. She apologized to Capt. Montalván, agreeing the gate agent handled the situation incorrectly and was not properly trained. Federal aviation regulations require the training of airline employees to handle these types of situations.

When contacted for comment, Delta Airlines spokesman Morgan Durrant said he was unaware the Delta gate agent asked for Tuesday’s identification card. Mr. Durrant said he would provide Delta’s comment on Capt. Montalván’s complaint, which was never received.

“When it comes to training personnel on disability access issues, whether you’re talking about fast food employees, hotel employees or transportation employees, it’s pencil whipped. It’s not taught, not instructed, it is not deemed important, which is ironic because we’re talking about the human and civil rights of people,” Capt. Montalván said in an interview. This is the third time Capt. Montalván had problems with Delta Airlines when travelling with Tuesday in the last year.

After serving his nation in Iraq and being wounded, now suffering from PTSD, Capt. Montalván feels especially disappointed at Delta’s seemingly casual attention to service dog regulations and the impact it has on Capt. Montalván, Tuesday and other service dog teams. “Of course it is outrageous and egregious to any person when this sort of thing happens, but it is more so when it happens to a service member or a veteran. When you go abroad and are essentially fighting to defend our nation’s interests and to protect our freedoms and then you have your freedom, your rights, trampled on, it’s that much more offensive,” Capt. Montalván said.

Acknowledging the almost sardonic juxtaposition between how he and Tuesday were treated by Delta Airlines and the award given to them by the AKC, Capt. Montalván said, “When you realize you are coming down here to receive an award for having helped be an ambassador of goodwill, educating and helping other people, it’s like being psychologically waterboarded.”

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