War veteran says goodbye to his 'hero' service dog, hello to donated pup
Luna was one of the first dogs certified for use with veterans in Canada, helped spur change
For the last 11 years, Luna the dog has brought love, protection and friendship to Geoff Logue.
"She's helped me tremendously, from waking me up from nightmares, getting me motivated to do things, keeping me calm and keeping me happy through those times of depression or sadness."
Logue is an Afghan war vet and has had an unbreakable bond with Luna, who suffered from deteriorating health in recent years. Unable to walk and leave her bed, the service dog officially retired two years ago.
Logue said he didn't leave his Virden, Man., home after her retirement very often. He stopped going to malls and restaurants.
Scarred from the horrors of being on the ground during the Afghan war in 2008 and sending friends home in coffins, he still lives with anxiety around crowds and fear of people.
"I still do have a hard time with it out in crowded areas, being vulnerable, the trust issue with people."
His bond with Luna ended Monday when Logue put her down. "It's probably the hardest thing that I've ever had to do in my life."
Luna was one of the first service dogs to be certified for veterans in Canada, and together with Logue, Luna inspired a change in policy allowing service dogs to be on military bases.
"Definitely a hero. Without a doubt she's a hero ... She was an inspiration to other soldiers and to other veterans."
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Logue still has a visitor's pass from a trip to parliament in Ottawa with the dog framed proudly on his wall. The trip is one of his favourite memories with Luna, who was trained to jump on him if he was crying and to make a physical shield while in public when Logue would get overwhelmed.
"She holds a legacy that I don't think any other dogs will ever hold."
Logue meets Lucy
But there is one dog that will work to live up to her legacy. A few days before Luna was put down, Logue received a new service animal donated by Winnipeg man Richard Armstrong and his wife Claudette Ledoux.
"The story is just, it's heartwarming, it's heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time," said Armstrong.
He said he found Lucy, a Belgian Malinois, abandoned and tied to a fire hydrant near his home in the bitter cold last February.
"We realized that as time went by that she was a very special dog, very smart, she learned how to open all the doors in the house, very very young, we knew she had a higher calling."
Armstrong had gotten training for Lucy with a former Winnipeg police canine handler to help manage her high energy and drive to work. That trainer knew Logue needed a dog, and when Armstrong and his wife offered to donate her, he contacted Logue and did special training with her for free.
Logue said he couldn't afford the cost of a new service dog on his veteran's pension. The federal government has a tax credit for veterans and others who rely on psychiatric service dogs and has given funding to Wounded Warriors Canada, but does not fund the dogs directly.
Armstrong and his wife say they plan to keep in touch with Logue and hope to still have visits with Lucy.
"It's a beautiful ending. It's like my husband said, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once," said Ledoux.
"Lucy has some big shoes to fill, but she'll do a good job," added Logue.