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Veterans with PTSD find help through AlphaK9 and service dogs

SACRAMENTO-Veterans Day is a week away. A local non- profit is changing lives for vets with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Sacramento non-profit helps connect veterans with dogs for PTSD help.

With Veterans Day a week away, a local non-profit is changing lives for vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

AlphaK9 has trained and matched nearly a thousand service dogs for needy vets in Sacramento and cities across the country. The service is at no cost to veterans, so the group says they could really use help to serve more needy veterans.

A very special bond is growing between military vet Joel and his new four-legged friend, Zorro. They've only seen each other four times now during training. But the hope is, when Zorro finally goes home with Joel, it's going to be life-changing for both guys.

Joel is a 32-year-old Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's a father of 3 young kids and is dealing with PTSD, which often comes with stress, anxiety and an emotional toll.

"We're taught that our environment is a dangerous area, that everything is out there to try and hurt us, something is going to blow up, someone is going to shoot us," said Cameron.

AlphaK9 in Sacramento wants to help match qualified needy veterans with trained service dogs.

AlphaK9 attempts to give veterans afflicted with PTSD a new outlook on life, saying that "man's best friend" could be lifesavers for vets.

"It could actually detect signs and symptoms of stress. They can come and alert individuals who are about to have a panic attack, or have a severe anxiety issue, and let them deal with it before it becomes a problem," said Cameron.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, every day 22 veterans with PTSD commit suicide. Dozens more attempt to take their lives.

Army veteran Kevin Cameron started AlphaK9 five years ago after being medically discharged.

"I actually started this program because my brother was diagnosed with PTSD and I came home one day and he had a gun to his mouth," Cameron said.

He said his brother needed a service dog, but learned that it would cost up to $50,000 with a four year wait list for veterans who need one.

But through the AlphaK9 program, those obstacles aren't a problem.

"Our mission is to get these service dogs out free," said Cameron. "Through corporate sponsors and people who support our programs." 

Cameron, who worked with the K9 program in the military, helps train the dogs. Through his program, it costs about $5,000 for each dog. The cost is often covered through donations or dog-obedience classes offered to the community.

"Every time we raise $5,000, we have the ability to save another life," Cameron said. 

PTSD dogs don't just help veterans, they also help first-responders and battered women and children with post trauma stress.

With Veteran's Day just around the corner, AlphaK9 hopes the community will continue to support its men and women in the armed forces and to help veterans groups continue to make a difference.

Thanks to AlphaK9, everything -- from the dog training to the service for veterans -- is free of charge.

The non-profit could really use help from the community, whether it's becoming a volunteer or being a sponsor for a service dog and vet.

For more information, go to AlphaK9.org.

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