Canadians rally behind Astorville veteran in need of a new service dog

A retired military veteran and his wife in Astorville are thanking Northern Ontarians and Canadians from coast to coast to coast for helping them raise enough money to purchase a new service dog that will help him with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Eric Lalonde retired from the Canadian Armed Forces last February and his 11-year-old German Shepherd mix service dog, Nala, is set to retire from her duties due to her decline in health.

Eric served in the Canadian army for 23 years. He was deployed to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Kuwait. When he returned from overseas, he spent a portion of his career based in North Bay before retiring.

After he retired, Eric was sure he wouldn't need a service dog anymore. That is until he found that besides just working with him, Nala would encourage him to keep a positive mindset and keep him motivated.

"When Eric has too much stress, she'll absorb that stress and then after that, he's calm and he's better, but she'll have seizures," explained his wife Caroline.

Nala’s pancreas is failing and she suffers from hip dysplasia. The couple have already spent thousands of dollars for medication and vet bills.

"She helped me a lot and supported me a lot and made life a lot easier for me," said Eric.

Eric needs a new service dog. Unfortunately, there are no service dogs available because of COVID-19. They looked at adopting a rescue dog. But many of them have their own issues, they said.

That’s when a service dog trainer told them about a breeder with a puppy ready to go in March. The trainer moved Eric to the top of his list. But, the cost was high. It would cost $2,500 plus HST for the purchase, special food, and all related expenses. This comes while also supporting Nala’s medical care.

Caroline set up a GoFundMe page seeking donations to help pay for the dog. She was shocked to see the outpouring of help and support from people all across Canada, as well as people in Northern Ontario. They raised over $4,100. The money will be just enough to purchase the puppy and get Nala her much-needed medical help

"People are giving because it's a way to thank him for what he did," she explained.

The Lalondes say they are forever grateful to everyone for the financial help and can't wait to welcome their four-legged friend home.

"A big thank you to the community for all of the support and it's really amazing,” concluded Eric. “We didn't expect that.”