Dasko’s eyes never leave owner Kevin Cameron.
Cameron walks around the bay in the Sacramento warehouse that serves as one room of the training facility, pointing to the concrete and plumbing that he’s been working on in preparation for dog kennels he’s aiming to install.
Dasko, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, sits perfectly still until Cameron gives him the command in German to come. As Cameron moves, Dasko moves, like dancers in perfect unison.
Dasko is both Cameron’s own service dog and a prime example of the work that Cameron’s organization, Alpha K9, can do for others in the community. Cameron, who served as a K9 handler in the Army for about 13 years, is the founder and chief operator of the nonprofit, which specializes in training service dogs for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has severe PTSD, having served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
“We’re here to save lives one dog at a time,” Cameron said.
Book of Dreams has been asked to provide $5,000 for the supplies and labor needed to complete the kennels.
The first life he saved was his brother’s.
Brian Cameron, 30, was having a hard time while in the Army. He had served on two NATO missions and had two tours in Iraq. Therapy was getting him by, but not really working.
“A therapist recommended getting a service dog, but they were really expensive and the wait list was between one and five years,” he said.
Kevin offered to train a service dog for Brian. A nonprofit was born, as was a new life for Brian, whose 4-year-old German shepherd, Lobo, is a constant companion. He accompanies his owner everywhere, from trips to see family to the grocery store.
“He enables me to get out of the house and be a better person,” Brian Cameron said. “He just lets me live.”
The typical cost for a service dog can be upward of $13,000 and the wait list to find and receive an eligible dog can take years, said Kevin Cameron.
His organization trains dogs at cost only and works with clients to try and find sponsors. The average cost for a service dog through Alpha K9 is about $1,000 to $1,500, and it can take as little as a few months to connect a dog with a client, depending on the dog, he said.
Having a service dog helps veterans with PTSD integrate back into society when it feels impossible to do so. The dogs help prevent anxiety about everything from being in a crowded room to going out in public.
One client had become a recluse before getting his German shepherd trained by Alpha K9. His wife almost called the police one day shortly after acquiring the dog because her spouse had gone missing. He and the dog had gone for a walk at the mall. It was the first time he’d left the house in three years.
“This job allows me to help give kids an opportunity to get their parents back,” Cameron said.
BOOK OF DREAMS WISHES
Here’s a list of wishes published so far in the series: