JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - The Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has a new member. She doesn’t play an instrument, but she does assist on the field.
“In my 21 years of teaching in our state, this is the first service animal that I’ve had with a band student,” said Ben Burge, director of bands. “So, having Laurie here has been a really neat experience for me and our students.”
Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara Beth McKellar’s service dog. McKellar, a sophomore at Jones College, experienced her first major seizure in high school and was diagnosed with epilepsy. In April, after fundraising for a year, she adopted Laurie.
“Having Laurie on the field puts us at ease that there is like a safety net,” McKellar said. “Luckily, I haven’t had a seizure while I’ve had Laurie. So, Laurie’s more of like a precaution for me.”
“When she came to me with the dog, we welcomed it with open arms,” Burge said. “We knew that she would do what she was supposed to do and make sure that we knew what our limits were with the dog.”
Burge says Laurie may be one of his most well-behaved students.
“Laurie is definitely a talented band student,” Burge said. “She’s quiet at rehearsal, she does what she’s told, so yeah it’s been a real treat to have her.”
The golden retriever has already performed in her first football game.
“We joked about even getting her a little uniform to wear at times, you know, but she really is a part of our family and I’m grateful that we have her here,” Burge said. “With Sara Beth and her needs, I think it’s awesome that we have a way to ensure her safety on campus and look out for Sara’s health as well, so it all works well.”
For now, Laurie will continue watching over McKellar and rehearsing for her next halftime show.
“I think it’s really great that we get this opportunity to have a dog in a band,” McKellar said. “I think it’s kind of weird and there are challenges with it, but I think the accommodations I have are interesting, but they’re needed for a large population of people as service dogs become more popular.”
Laurie and McKellar’s next performance will be Oct. 29, when the Bobcats host the Wildcats of Pearl River Community College.