RCMP officer with PTSD hopes to help service dog organization
A dozen years years after the fatal shooting of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, one officer is still feeling the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Julie Letal was one of the officers on scene the night RCMP went to James Roszko’s property to seize his truck.
She went home early the next morning, but was one of the first officers called back to the scene where four of her colleagues were ambushed and died in the line of duty.
“When we were driving in we could see the scene and it was pretty traumatic,” explained Letal.
Her PTSD diagnosis came shortly after the tragedy that unfolded in Mayerthorpe and she’s still dealing with the trauma to this day. “We see horrific things…we have ghosts. You know, they’re with us all the time from the nightmares to the anxiety.”
Back then she found it difficult to find support.
“It wasn’t spoken of, it was very hard to find help for it,” she explained.
But she has a furry friend named Saint to help her now.
“He’s been a godsend,” she said.
Letal believes Saint has saved her life, “I was to the point where I would turtle at home. Close my windows, close my doors, just leave me alone.”
The Australian Shepherd can identify when she’s experiencing heightened anxiety, wakes her from nightmares and will physically remove her from a place that’s causing her panic.
“I was at the funeral of a good friend of mine who just passed away and we were in the reception and he literally yanked me out of that room because he knew I was done. He pulled me out of the room, out of the funeral home and to my truck.”
He’s still in training but will move through the ranks as he continues to work with Letal.
Saint was donated to Letal in February 2016, by an organization called Courageous Companions.
The non-profit works to give service dogs to veterans and first responders struggling with PTSD across the country.
The pups can either be trained by the organization, or a person (like Letal) can choose to train them themselves, depending on the severity of their PTSD or Occupational Stress Injury at the time.
It can cost Courageous Companions anywhere between $10,000-$20,000 to take care of each dog for its working life - which includes training, transportation, food, vet services and more. That is why Letal is sharing her story, in the hopes of inspiring people to donate to the non-profit so other first responders can get a furry friend like Saint.
“I want to get the word out that we're human, and we don't have to live with this stuff, there's help out there for us.”
She’s hosting a Paint Night fundraiser at the Innisfail Legion on September 9.
100 percent of the proceeds from the silent auction will go towards Courageous Companions, and $15 from each ticket sold will support them as well.