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Sage Gave Sarah Her Life Back

  • Sep 5, 2013
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Sarah & Service Dog Sage

When our daughter, Sarah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, generalized anxiety and panic disorder, we began our search for ways to maintain her independence as a college student. In addition to getting her medical care and counseling, we learned the benefits of service dogs. As I pursued acquiring service dog for her, little did I know how daunting the task would be. I was told there would be at least a 6 month to 2 year wait and the cost could be upwards to $20,000.00. I was even told that only certain breeds could be utilized and that our existing dogs couldn’t remain in our household. In my heart, I knew that we couldn’t part with our 3 dog family members and my experience with training our own dogs told me that it couldn’t possibly take a full 2 years to train a low level service dog in spite of the responses I was getting. We didn’t need a dog to open doors or walk our daughter through traffic; some of the tasks we needed for service dogs for PTSD, depression and anxiety were to help reorient the person to reality, provide a calming presence and to apply pressure to the abdomen to help relieve anxiety. I knew that in addition, the dog had to be well trained in basic obedience, but knew this didn’t take 2 years. Some of the local service dog organizations wouldn’t even discuss this option with me and were downright rude. Enter Marj Satterfield of Glad Wags.

Sage & Sarah at work

 I found Marj through a chance encounter online and quickly emailed her with our story and our needs. She emailed me back within hours and I called her the next day. My tears of joy couldn’t be contained when I heard those magic words “I can help you and we can have a dog for Sarah within a few weeks.” By this point, we were desperate to find help to keep her in school and I knew a service dog was vital. We met with Marj and Sarah visited with 2 or 3 dogs to try to find the right fit but there just wasn’t a good emotional connection. While talking with her about options, such as going to the kill shelters to pick out a dog, which she often does, she asked what breed we would prefer. We already had an Australian Shepherd and knowing their intelligence, ease of training and their nickname as the Velcro dog, that was our suggestion. After a pause, Marj offered us one of her personal dogs who she had purchased as a puppy to show that had not grown large enough to meet the breed standard. Our shock was replaced with joy when Sage met Sarah and the love affair began. Sage moved into Sarah’s dorm room within a couple of weeks. As parents, my husband and I truly believe that but for Sage, Sarah might have taken her life.

Sage and Sarah are a real team now; we have only had Sage in our life for 7 months now but with continued training, Sage has learned new skills as needed. Sarah has recently been diagnosed with Narcolepsy and Cataplexy and Sage loves her newest task of waking Sarah up every morning. She has also, on her own without promoting or training by Sarah or Marj, began “herding” Sarah to the bed to take a nap when she is becoming irritable or appears excessively sleepy.

Sarah and Sage overlooking the Grand Canyon

Sage accompanied Sarah and I to Las Vegas this summer where I attended a professional conference. Sage went through the TSA security checkpoint off leash and without even as much as a collar like a champ. She flew Southwest Airlines like it was an everyday event and even conquered the moving sidewalk in the Las Vegas Airport. The casinos were of no issue and even went to the Grand Canyon.

When we received Sage from Marj, she told us the cost of Sage but gave her to us without expecting a penny that day, with the statement of “pay me what you can, when you can, as you can.” This is not just a business but truly the calling of her heart to help those with disabilities. Last spring, our family organized a motorcycle poker run to raise money for Glad Wags and was able to pay off the balance we owed on Sage. Not everyone is that fortunate. Sarah has continued to work to find other organizations that will raise funds for Glad Wags to help fund other service dogs. Recently, a service organization she was part of while at school had a fund raiser and brought in $111.00. That’s a lot from poor college students!

Sarah & Service Dog Sage

Marj and Glad Wags continue to provide assistance to those with disabilities, often at Marj’s own personal expense. As a healthcare provider, I know professionally and personally the benefits a service dog can provide and have referred several people to Glad Wags. In October, Sarah, Sage and I will travel to Atlanta to attend a national conference on Narcolepsy. Hopefully, we will be able to share how vital Sage’s assistance is to Sarah’s health and well-being, thus helping others with narcolepsy.

Marj and Glad Wags have been a blessing to so many, including our family. Even after a few short months, we cannot imagine our lives without Sage in it. Sarah will tell you that Sage is better than any medicine and is a vital part of her healthcare. We have hope for Sarah’s future and Sage, Marj Satterfield and Glad Wags played a huge role that!!

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