Military vet with PTSD appreciates support for new service dog

 
Military veteran Eric Lalonde is surprised how quickly people are responding to a GoFundMe campaign to help purchase a new service dog for his post traumatic stress disorder.
 
“I’m actually surprised and really appreciate it, I didn’t expect that much response,” Lalonde said of reaching the half-way mark toward the $4,000 goal.
 
His wife, Caroline, set up the fundraiser last week with a link submitted to the East Ferris Post It Facebook page. The couple has lived in Astorville for the past eight years.
 
Lalonde said he didn’t expect the support because members of the military don’t get that much respect in his home province of Quebec.
 
“It’s very different, they don’t appreciate the military as much,” he said.
 
Lalonde, 42, retired from the Canadian army last February after 23 years of service, including a decade as an infantryman with tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. His last 13 years of service were spent being a supply clerk in North Bay.
 
His current service dog, Nala, is an 11-year-old German Shepherd mix. They’ve spent several thousand dollars on her veterinarian bills and more than $1,000 on medicine for a failing pancreas and hip dysplasia.
 
“It’s time to take her into retirement,” Lalonde said, noting they found it difficult to find a new service dog due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They explored getting a rescue dog but many of them have their own issues and groups that help veterans with PTSD get trained service dogs had long waiting lists.
 
Money is also tight as they prepare to find a better-suited home in the area this summer. Home buyers are facing a seller’s market as residents in southern Ontario cash out of their properties and flee big cities.
 
Lalonde said he likes this part of Canada and the quiet peace of the rural area, adding he hopes their next home is the last.
 
“I’m not moving anymore,” he said.
 
Caroline Lalonde described their situation in detail for the online fundraiser.
 
“After his retirement, Eric was sure he was fine and didn’t need a service dog anymore as he was home and relaxed,” she wrote. “But after a few months, he found out the dog was doing more than just working with him every day. Nala is there to encourage him to get up in the morning and keep him moving during the day.
 
“When Nala feels Eric is about to overreact for something or having a short fuse, she will go to see him and lick him until he takes care of her, so it changes Eric’s mind and calms him down.
 
“She will also protect Eric from people who are approaching too fast or doesn’t reflect a good vibe while approaching,” she wrote.
 
Nala’s health did a nose-dive starting last August when her Husky died at nine years old.
 
“She doesn’t have the energy anymore, can’t walk more than a few minutes without having pain and every time she has to get up the stairs, we can tell on her face that she’s having bad pain,” she said.
 
“Eric was looking to wait for the next litter, in summertime, but Nala is too sick and she needs to be able to teach the puppy how to be a good service dog and the more Eric waits, the less Nala will be able to do it,” she said.
 
A service dog trainer introduced them to a breeder who moved Eric to the top of his list for a puppy that will be ready March 14. But they were scrambling to find the $2,500 plus HST for the purchase, special food, and related expenses while also supporting ongoing Nala’s medical care.
 
“The training will be paid by the Citadel Canine so I’m only asking enough money to be able to pay for the dog. I will provide all the proof of payments and also show pictures when I have some,” Caroline added. “If I get more than Eric needs, that money will go for Nala’s veterinarian bill, for pain medications for her hips, and also for the puppy booster.”
 
Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.
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