Sign In

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.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more