LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — At the age of 25, Eric Haynes enlisted in the Army and was a sergeant.

“I served in Iraq from 05 to 06,” Haynes said of his service.

After 12 years of active duty he retired. There was a part of his service that stayed with him.

“What we see on television and stuff like that now is what all of our military see 24/7 when they’re deployed,” Haynes added, “And it takes a toll.”

It was something he dealt with for years.

“I actually ended up attempting suicide three different times,” he recalled.

On the day, he was going for the fourth attempt, he was in a shelter and received an unexpected call from the Wounded Warrior Project.

“They had asked me ‘have you ever thought about getting a service dog?’ And I said no, what are you talking about. They said ‘this could be exactly what you need,'” Haynes explained.

The search began and could take up to two years. Haynes didn’t think he could wait that long. In that time, he was pursuing his longtime hobby of being a singer and songwriter. Something he didn’t really do publicly. e was invited to a conference to perform and by chance bumped into someone who had a service dog she was training named Ciara.

“She opened up the van and Ciara jumps out of the van and she comes over and she puts her big mitts on my shoulders and she starts lapping these kisses on me,” Haynes recalled. “That was the moment I met Ciara. That was the moment we became a team.”

Ciara also served as a military dog.

Eric and Ciara did everything together and went everywhere together – including the White House. Ciara helped him find his voice as a singer. As an advocate for fellow soldiers. Ciara opened his heart to love again. He’s now engaged.

“You just never know how long you have, whether it’s with your animals, whether it’s with people,” Haynes said. “This photo here, this was our last dance. I actually picked her up on the last song.”

Ciara died on May 20th. She was 14 years old, but her spirit lives on. Eric marched in her honor during the Jordan-Elbridge Memorial Day Parade. His mission now is to encourage others. “There’s hope after all of this,” Haynes said.

He’s living proof that there is. He often speaks to his fellow veterans to let them know they are not alone and he is working on his album that Ciara inspired him to start.

You can learn more about Eric and Ciara here: https://ciaraheartofaservicedog.com

If you are in crisis please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, it is available 24/7. The number is 1-800-273-8255.