Service Dog In The Marching Band

October 9, 2020

In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall.

Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. McKellar was preparing to lift the barbell during a powerlifting competition when she passed out and began seizing. She began taking medication for epilepsy to try to control the seizures, but they were happening almost weekly.

“It always seemed to happen at the most inconvenient time,” McKellar said. “I fell down the bleachers and herniated a disc, and I had a seizure in the bathroom and somehow locked the door. My mom (Kiely) is a nurse and she was very relieved when we got Laurie, especially when I decided to come to Jones for college.”

Having her sister Anna Claire on campus her freshman year helped to ease her mom’s concerns. Last April, the family decided to launch a fundraising campaign to get a service dog, for additional reassurance. The day before McKellar’s birthday, the family drove to Madison, Va., to pick up Laurie from Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers. This life-saving addition to the family has changed Sara Beth by providing her more independence.

“I’m a pretty shy person, and the last thing I wanted was to draw more attention, especially after having seizures,” McKellar said. “Having Laurie has certainly attracted more attention. However, she has also helped me to become more sociable and independent.”

McKellar is also happy to report she has been seizure-free since adopting Laurie six months ago. There have been a couple of close calls, she admits, but Laurie was ready to help.

“I have learned to take more breaks while working on the computer,” McKellar said. “Hopefully, I will grow out of the seizures like my dad, who inspires me, too.”

Sara Beth’s father is Dr. Jason McKellar, principal of the Academy of Innovation in Vicksburg.

Also inspired by Sara Beth and Laurie is Director of Bands at Jones College Dr. Ben Burge. This is the first time in his 21 years of teaching that he recalls having a service dog in the marching band. Laurie is also reportedly the first canine in the Maroon Typhoon Marching Band’s history.

“I’m grateful Sara Beth has Laurie to provide that very special service. The puppy has added a lot of smiles to the band! She is adorable. However, we know we must let her work and not disturb her, but after practice, Laurie gets some love from band members,” Burge said. “We gladly welcome our first ‘marching’ service dog and Sara Beth. We are glad they are both members of the Maroon Typhoon.”

Sara Beth said her freshman year in the Maroon Typhoon was a lot different than this year with COVID-19 and social-distancing protocols. Yet, her sophomore year has been special because of Laurie.

“Thankfully, Laurie enjoys band, too. She does not like Walmart,” McKellar said. “I also hope as people who are intrigued by Laurie and want to get to know her, they will also want to get to know her handler and learn how Laurie provides medical help, protection and loves her ‘person’ while continually working.”

The Maroon Typhoon Marching Band’s next performance will be Thursday, Oct. 29, during the home football game when the Bobcats host the Wildcats of Pearl River Community College.

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    October 9, 2020

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    October 9, 2020

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    October 9, 2020

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcomes New Canine

    October 9, 2020

    Young Kingston Police service dog Bask may look small, but his handler says his training and energy are proving that he’s up to fill the shoes of his predecessor. “I think he’s going to be a great little dog,” Const. Jeff Dickson said, looking down at his new partner. A partner that, wearing the right […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    October 9, 2020

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Helps Firefighters

    October 9, 2020

    Firefighters battling the Archie Creek and Thielsen fires have had some long, exhausting days. But for some, their troubles seemed to melt away once they got back to camp. Why? Meet Ralph Colombo. He hauls oversize loads. And joining Ralph is his service dog, Cowboy – the morale boosting, firefighting puppy. “He just keeps my […]

    Read more

    Pet Therapy Program

    October 9, 2020

    Saturday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which this year has a new sense of urgency for many. Covid-19 has taken a mental and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the U.S but there is a program boosting the spirits of doctors and nurses on the frontlines. At UC Irvine Medical Center in Southern […]

    Read more

    A Service Dogs Place

    October 9, 2020

    A new Pineville nonprofit that helps people with disabilities obtain service dogs has made its first match. The Saber Life Foundation was started in March by Danea Key and her husband Joel. They provide people with trained service dogs, paying 51 percent of the cost, with the client paying the other 49 percent. Service dogs […]

    Read more

    Dog Beating Cancer

    October 9, 2020

    A little over a year after a local dog was given only a few months to live after being diagnosed with bone cancer, she is still in remission and will be celebrated her twelfth birthday this month. Cocoa has been with her owner, Bucyrus resident Christie Auck, since she was nine-weeks-old. “On Aug. 18, 2019, […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Month Ending

    October 8, 2020

    September was designated as National Service Dog Month, and one Berks County native is working hard to ensure that the public is informed about what that means. Susan Focht owns and operates Dogs In Service Project, a nonprofit that teaches individuals about the different types of Assistance Dogs, laws surrounding Assistance Dog ownership, and provides […]

    Read more

    More Recent News