Meet Mike and guide dog Cameron
[Video description for our community of people with vision loss: Mike Cook’s interview takes place in a studio with a blue background. During the video interview, photographs featuring the pair are shown. The first image is of Mike and Cameron standing on a street corner. Trees and construction barrels are behind them. Next, Mike and Cameron walk down the sidewalk with trainer Katie following them. Next, Mike, Cameron, and trainer Katie walk past the Tampa Bay Rowdies Stadium. In the next image, Mike sits on a park bench with a harmonica in his hand, and he pets Cameron’s head as the dog sits on the ground next to him. Mike kisses Cameron on the top of his head. Two images show Mike, Cameron, and trainer Katie cross streets together near Rowdies stadium. In the final image, Mike plays his harmonica as he sits on a bench, and Cameron looks up at him. The Southeastern Guide Dogs logo appears on screen, and then Mike plays his harmonica on video.]
Mike Cook and guide dog Cameron
As a veteran, Mike Cook believes in teamwork. He served as a jet engine technician in the Air Force for almost five years, spending time in Vietnam and Germany before working for the Department of Agriculture as a food and citrus inspector. A traumatic brain injury caused Mike to lose his vision 15 years ago, plus diabetes made his eyesight worse. When doctors suggested a guide dog to help him, Mike turned to Southeastern Guide Dogs and teamed up with Ned, a goldador, who, unfortunately, died a year-and-a-half ago.
Mike has missed his teammate Ned and returned to be matched with Cameron, a handsome yellow Lab with just the right skills and personality. “He’s very laid back, which is exactly what I need,” Mike says. “When he’s in harness, he’s accurate and intelligent but also not spontaneous. He hesitates just enough and is smooth and easy to work with.”
A service-related injury causes Mike to wear a leg brace, plus he has post-traumatic stress and looks to Cameron for emotional stability, companionship, stress relief, and independence. “The trainers emphasize teamwork,” he notes. “They give us all the tools we need, and the strongest and best tool of all is the bonding. It’s working for me and Cameron.”