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Camden's dogs: Family seeks homes for rescue dogs after son's death

Camden Verlaan of the Sunshine Coast died in March 2023 while volunteering in Peru 
Camden Verlaan of Roberts Creek, B.C., photographed with Dude the dog before his death on March 8, 2023, in Peru.

It’s what Camden would have wanted. 

In 2023, Camden Verlaan of Roberts Creek spent the last few weeks of his life taking care of others. The 20 year old had struggled with celiac disease for years before he embarked on a journey of a lifetime. He worked at the Gumboot Cafe to save up funds to volunteer his time at a dog sanctuary in Peru, his first time travelling on his own. There, he spent months making friends, learning to salsa and surf. On March 8, 2023, he stepped on an exposed live wire on a beach in Huanchaco as he came in from surfing. Camden died on the scene. 

An investigation is ongoing. While Vince Verlaan, Camden’s father, prepares to go to trial, he’s also taken on part of his son’s mission. Vince went to the Esperanza Canina shelter in Huanchaco, where his son had been volunteering. There, he met Dude and Layla, two rescue dogs that Camden formed a deep bond with and had planned to adopt.

Vince remembers Camden talking about the sweet-tempered Dude on their first phone call after Camden arrived in Peru. Soon, he began singing the praises of Layla.

“They were genuinely sweethearts. Dude has a very inquisitive, friendly in-your-face energy, like coming over and poking you with his nose. Layla is more gentle, on the edges, circling around and then slowly coming up to you and then wagging her tail and making friends. They’re both very friendly, but in different ways,” Vince said.

Now, a year later, the shelter where Dude and Layla live is in the process of closing and the dogs are in need of a home.

While he doesn’t have the space to take in the dogs himself, Vince is fundraising to cover the necessary medical and documentation costs and organize flights in an effort to bring them to B.C. after September (when the heat subsides). Vince is being advised by a woman who has helped bring more than 50 dogs to Canada from Peru in the last five years. He’s spreading the word about the two dogs, who he says are good natured, friendly and calm but in need of some house training. They’ve already been vaccinated and dewormed. They’re around 40 pounds each, he notes.

“It’s such an immense tragedy as a father, that it has really scrambled my brain and heart. I don’t really have a sense yet of how to live without Camden. I know that part of the future is to memorialize Camden in some way, and I’m trying to clarify what that means,” Vince said. Camden always loved dogs and these two dogs in particular. “It’s like I can hear his voice saying, ‘Let’s do this.’” 

“It's pretty neat to think that we might be able to say, after a year, that there's something good we can do… A small thing, but a meaningful thing. And that would make a difference,” Vince said. If the dogs could be adopted on the Sunshine Coast, it would mean a lot to Vince to be able to visit them.

Anyone interested in supporting Vince’s mission can make donations or inquire about the dogs at [email protected].