Meet Cst. Julie Letal, who has worked in policing for nearly 20 years. Cst. Letal was one of the first Members of the RCMP to work with a service dog, Chance, who is trained to help ground her and provide relief when she is experiencing symptoms of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
Cst. Letal developed PTSD after the loss of four of her colleagues in the Mayerthorpe shooting tragedy in Alberta in 2005, as well as after continuously experiencing many of the difficult moments that police officers face each and every day at work. Originally, she was supposed to be one of the Members responding to the Mayerthorpe shooting.
Service dog Chance helps Cst. Letal with her anxiety and depression, picking up on her emotions and acting accordingly. Because of Chance, Julie is able to better navigate the symptoms of her PTSD and lead a happier, more fulfilling life. #GetReal #MentalHealthWeek
[00:00:03] My name is Julie Letal. I’m a constable with the RCMP. All my service has been in Alberta. I have 19 and a half years of policing, 18 and a half years with the RCMP. And I have an amazing service dog, Chance.
[00:00:21] People are amazing. They treat us like family. Like I know many times up in the reserve in Alexis, I was invited in for coffee. If anything went wrong in the reserve when I was policing the reserve, they would come and back me up. Not Members, but people on the reserve. And I’m adopted into a family on the reserve after the Mayerthorpe shooting.
[00:00:53] The people in regular society don’t see what we see, and it makes it tough. We had the Mayerthorpe shootings where four RCMP Members were murdered and I sent one of the Members in my place that day, and the guilt and everything that’s gone on. And after that, you’ll be on highway patrol with the bad wrecks. I’ve been there for suicides, homicides, traffic collisions. It’s accumulative over the years. Your brain can only handle so much and all of a sudden your brain just shuts down. After the Mayerthorpe shootings, they brought in people right away. We talked with people and I started to get really, really depressed and sad and nothing was joyful anymore. So going to see the psychiatrist and psychologist and I was finally diagnosed with PTSD. And that was about four months, it took. I was off work.
[00:02:11] My best friend said, why don’t you look into getting a service dog? They’re phenomenal. So I go in there and sit down and there’s like 15 dogs in there. This yellow lab comes up to me, kind of sniff around, and then he leaves. She crawled into my lap. So ok, put a leash on her, she’s yours. When she crawled up into my lap, it was just love at first sight. And that night she was down in my room with me sleeping. And then we bonded over the week that we’re there. Yeah, she came home and we trained together for another six months because we have to train to bond right. So she was already trained and she was already working that night.
[00:03:01] She does a lot with my anxiety, my depression, she does grounding, she wakes me up from nightmares. I think the worst part is not being able to go into stores. Then just having a complete meltdown. You’re always walking right up against the wall and with her, if I’m in a mall and I start to get the panic, we’ll actually walk against the wall and have her give me my space so she’ll she’ll give me a big bubble. So she’ll actually go to the end of her lead and give me lots of space around people. So people have to go way around me, which is kinda cool that she picks up on that. Right. If I’m in a crowded building and she feels me starting to amp up, she actually pull me out of that room. And if you’re crying, if I cried right now, like, really got in my face, she would be here in an instant and jumping all over me and trying to get my mind off of things. And she’s she’s just cute. What can I say?
[00:04:06] This year, I don’t know why all of a sudden everybody seems to be more interested in service dogs and how they help people, and I’m surprised, and I’m happy that we’re able to put it in perspective for people that she helps me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be going out this door. I wouldn’t be going shopping. I wouldn’t have even been at work without her. They help us with our freedom. They get us out of the house and, we can live our lives again.