Collective Giving helps Alpha K-9 give a second chance to veterans (and dogs, too

_MG_0296by Matt Jocks

Veteran Dave Singh and his dog Nala, a Belgian Malinois, have been inseperable since they were matched up thanks to Sacramento nonprofit Alpha K-9.  Whether it’s figuring out how to sit, heel or roll over, dogs often learn from their masters. Sometimes, though, it works the other way around.
When Army veteran Dave Singh was asked what Nala, his Belgian Malinois, has done for him, his response was simple:
“Basically, she taught me how to love again.”
He adopted the dog through Alpha K-9, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that pairs dogs with veterans. Many of these veterans are struggling with the transition back to civilian life and are able to adopt the dogs free of charge with the help of corporate sponsorship.
“The majority of the dogs in the program are rescue dogs,” said Jackie Pfister, Director of Operations for Alpha K-9. “So they both benefit from this. It’s a beautiful process.”
The dogs are not service dogs as most people know them. But they are more than simply companions.
“These dogs are able to pick up on changes in a person’s body chemistry,” Pfister says. “They’re able to identify stress and even distinguish between good and bad stress. They are able to comfort the veteran and get their minds off situations that can be negative.”
Another benefit is the reassurance the dogs can give veterans in unfamiliar situations.
“It’s like a safety net,” Pfister says. “The dogs pick up on so many things. In a new situation, the owner can feel that, if the dog is not bothered by it, there’s no reason why they should be.”
Alpha K-9 is the beneficiary for Collective Giving, a collaboration of Sacramento-area medical marijuana dispensaries to benefit local charities. Collective Giving founder Kelsi White chose Alpha K-9 because medical marijuana dispensaries are very supportive of the veteran community.
“Many veterans are able to find relief from so many problems — from PTSD to cancer — through medical marijuana, so the dispensaries have a lot of veterans coming through their doors,” she says. “I was impressed with the unique service Alpha K-9 provides for veterans and that it’s a local charity doing good in our community.”
Singh, who lives in Sacramento, was a volunteer for Alpha K-9 before realizing how much he could benefit from it. That’s when he and Nala became a team.
“She didn’t like me much at first,” he said. “Now, we’re inseparable.”
How has he benefited?
“Well, she has pretty much eliminated my road rage,” he said. “When my anxiety level gets up high, she picks up on that. Based on her reactions, I realize I have to check myself and evaluate my emotions. Sometimes, she senses I’m feeling something I’m not even really aware of.”
Pfister says she’s seen Singh and so many other veterans improve after being paired with canine companions.
“We have clients come in and we ask how they’re doing, and it’s all really positive,” she says. “They’re able to work through the day and not have to leave because of stress. It just helps them get through the day.”