During a camp counselor meeting on Wednesday night, Justin Dorman began to realize the next day would be memorable.
“They said ‘who wants to take a bite suit’ and everyone turned around and looked at me,” said Dorman.
After three years volunteering at the annual Camp POSTCARD, it was the Natrona County Sheriff Deputy’s turn to play “bad guy” for K9 officers during demonstration day.
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“It’s like a vice with nails,” is how Dorman describes the feeling as the highly trained, 74-pound Belgian Malinois named Jopie (pronounced ‘Yopee’) bolted, lunged and finally clasped his jaw into the thick protective suit.
The pain seems worth it as the crowd of 5th through 6th graders cheered with delight.
It’s all part of a week-long camp to help shy and disadvantaged kids from all over the state find their confidence and footing.
According to Natrona County Sheriff Deputy Michael Scott, POSTCARD stands for “Peace Officers Striving to Create and Redefine Dreams.”
“It’s a leadership camp, and it’s for those quite kids in the class who haven’t come out of their shell yet,” said Scott.
“We camp for a week and we teach them all kinds of activities mainly with team-building,” he said.
Roughly 100 kids attend the camp free of charge at the Lions Campground on Casper Mountain. The camp is organized and paid for by the Volunteers of America.
On domo day, representatives from multiple law, military and first responder agencies around the state attend camp to give presentations.
It’s the K9 officers, however, who usually steal the show.
“They’ll talk about this the rest of the day,” said Dorman, who says being camp counselor is “the highlight of my year.”
Even while nursing the four bruises on his arm with the distinct look of a healthy dog’s dental pattern, Dorman’s already feeling bittersweet about the final camp day.
“I think we cry more than the kids do,” said Dorman.