An Alberta organization that provides people with service dogs is getting some much-needed support from a Calgary veterans group.
The initiative is aimed at helping to heal people who put their lives on the line to keep Canadians safe.
Veteran RCMP constable Julie Letal said she knows the huge difference a service dog can make.
Letal relies on daily comfort from her trained dog Chance.
“She’s my medical service dog,” she said.
Letal was part of the RCMP team at the scene of the shooting of officers at a farm outside Mayerthorpe, Alta., in March 2005.
It was the worst attack on police in Canadian history.
“Four very good friends of mine were murdered that day,” Letal said.
It was one in a series of tough days over her 20 years in uniform.
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“Fatalities, suicides, homicides — and it was to the point where I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress injury and I was to the point where I was going to commit suicide. I couldn’t handle the nightmares anymore,” Letal said. “And I got her (Chance) and she changed my life around.”
Letal is volunteering as one of the leaders of the St. Albert-based Courageous Companions organization.
“We supply service dogs to military veterans and first responders,” Letal said.
Over the past decade, the group has provided people with more than 500 dogs across Canada.
The Veterans Association Food Bank (VAFB) is now helping out with a 50/50 and raffle to raise money for Courageous Companions.
“A few of our members have actually been fortunate enough to have received their service dogs through Courageous Companions (and it has been) just a total game-changer for them,” the VAFB’s Charles Redeker said.
“(It’s an opportunity) for the association and our veteran members to give back to the community that supports us year-round.”
Any support the VAFB can provide is much appreciated by Courageous Companions.
“With COVID and everything, our donations have been down, so we need the help,” Letal said.
“A lot of us are going through hell.”
Letal said she knows she can count on Chance to help get her through it.
“She is amazing. If she feels that my heart rate is going up or if I’m upset, she’ll be right on top of me, making sure (I’m) OK.”
Letal said that her work with Courageous Companions is her “way of giving back.”
“Because (Chance) saved my life, (so now I can) hopefully save somebody else’s life with giving them a dog.”