WOODSTOCK – Sarah Pagel soon will have a new best friend.
The shy 17-year-old girl will receive a service dog through a donation from Canine Assistants, Milk-Bone and Jewel-Osco.
Pagel was born with congenital hydrocephalus, a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which causes her to suffer seizures about once a month.
Her father, Art Zeratsky, described her as “gentle” and “sweet,” and an animal lover who enjoys watching the “Lord Of The Rings” movies.
“She has a strong connection with animals because she doesn’t have the strong ability to connect with people,” Zeratsky said. “She has a hard time connecting with the average teenage girl. [The service dog] will give her a huge notch up in the hierarchical status at school.”
Pagel will go through a two-week training and initiation next year to connect with her new service dog before bringing it to the family farm in Albany, Wis., about two hours northwest of Woodstock.
Pagel said she was excited to one day get her new dog “because it’s cool to have a dog.”
But her service dog will be more than just a new companion; the dog will be specially trained to assist Pagel in the event she has a seizure and act as an “early warning system.”
Pagel and Zeratsky were at the Woodstock Jewel-Osco to learn more about service dogs from Mitch Peterson, a representative from Canine Assistants who brought his own service dog, London, to show Pagel its benefits.
Peterson has epilepsy, which also is a seizure disorder. With London, Peterson said he has found freedom he never thought he could enjoy. He holds a steady job and is married.
Pagel’s family applied for a dog about four years ago. Dogs can cost about $20,000, Peterson said.
“We knew it would come,” Zeratsky said. “Good things come to those who wait.”