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.
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“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.
Needed: Funds to build kennels for the Alpha K9 nonprofit organization.
BOOK OF DREAMS WISHES
Here’s a list of wishes published so far in the series:
Dream: Help for avid book reader Priscilla Wong, who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy.
Needed: An electronic page turner. Total: $350.
Dream: Mobile beds for the nonprofit Family Promise of Sacramento, which provides shelter for families and helps them overcome homelessness.
Needed: 14 rollaway beds and bedding. Total: $4,200.
Dream: Supplies for Wellness Within, a mind-body wellness center for cancer patients and their families.
Needed: Supplies for classes, food for nutrition classes, drums for meditative sessions, and art supplies. Total: $5,000.
Dream: Portable computers for Stephanie Spidell and her daughters, one of whom seeks a career in the medical field. One of Spidell’s daughters, 2-year-old Khya, was born with a brain malformation and died Nov. 22.
Needed: Three laptop computers. Total: $3,000.
Dream: Musical instruments for United Cerebral Palsy of Sacramento and Northern California’s Adult Day Program.
Needed: Set of instruments that can be played together in harmony. Total: $3,000
Dream: Household items for Volunteers of America’s Sacramento Senior Safe House, a six-bedroom emergency shelter for people 62 and older.
Needed: A dishwasher and other kitchen items. Total: $2,000.
Dream: Cold-weather apparel for HOPE Inc.’s “GLoven the Homeless” campaign.
Needed: 1,500 hats and gloves. Total: $4,000.
Dream: Supplies for Women’s Wisdom Art, a low-cost program for women overcoming homelessness and other obstacles.
Needed: A color laser printer-scanner, art and office supplies. Total: $5,000.
Dream: Specialized wheelchairs for pediatric units at Sutter Children’s Center, UC Davis Children’s Hospital and the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.
Needed: Six race-car wheelchairs. Total: $5,000.
Dream: Presents for children attending the Christmas party hosted by Friends-CARE, a nonprofit organization providing services, educational workshops, support and resources to the at-risk children and families of the incarcerated.
Needed: Gifts, including skateboards, skates and scooters. Total: $2,500.
Dream: Enclosure to protect shoes to collected by Shoes 4 Sacramento be distributed to homeless people.
Needed: A storage shed for the shoes. Total: $3,000.