Jones College has a service dog marching in the JC Maroon Typhoon. Sophomore Sara Beth Mckellar, who plays the Baritone Saxophone for the college band, marches alongside Lori, a young golden retriever in training to be an active service dog. Mckellar has been in the band since she was in 6th grade and says she really enjoys it.
“Music isn’t my strong suit, but I love a challenge,” said Mckellar.
Service dogs are specifically trained to assist a person with a disability. Today, more than 80 million people nationwide own service dogs. The purpose of these specifically trained dogs is to help individuals with disabilities lead more independent lives, since they can count on their animal friend to help when needed. Service dogs are reported to lower stress and increase happiness, in addition to their training to assist in the event of an emergency regarding their owners’ disability.
Mckellar has epilepsy. Her first seizure happened sophomore year of high school, so now she has Lori. Lori is still in training but ultimately, the goal is for the golden retriever to be trained to press a button that notifies emergency contacts that Mckellar is having a seizure. This way, Mckellar can continue to live life as normal, knowing that in the event that an emergency takes place, Lori will know exactly what to do.
Many people are unaware that they are not supposed to pet service dogs, as it distracts from their surrounding awareness and their reaction time. Mckellar describes that often people do try to pet Lori or call out to her. She said that she is aware some people don’t know any better, but that it’s still frustrating. If a medical emergency were to take place while the dog is distracted, the reaction time may be delayed, which can be the difference between a serious emergency and one that is for the most part under control.
Service dogs wear vests to alert people around them that they are on duty. If a dog is seen wearing a service vest, know this dog is doing its job and don’t distract it. Remember not to make judgements on whether or not approaching a service dog is okay based on the appearance of the owner. Mckellar emphasized, “Not all disabilities are visible.”
by Ashton May