Hero Dog Sage 2011
Whether it is a missing child, a major disaster or war, K-9 Sage has served community and country bravely her entire life.
Sage was one of the nominees at the recent Hero Dog Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The honor was much deserved because at the age of 12 she has more than proved to be a multi-faceted canine hero.
Sage’s owner Diane Whetsel started questioning their relationship following the award experience.
“I drive her around, I prepare her meals, I speak for her,” Diane said. “I always thought I was her partner, but after coming back from Hollywood I feel like I’m her personal assistant.”
Diane likes to joke and her sense of humor is important, especially when she is sending her beloved Border Collie into dangerous situations.
Sage’s career hit the ground running. At age 2, after passing the FEMA Canine Readiness Evaluation at just 18 months old, she was called to the Pentagon in recovery efforts immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sage’s acute search abilities resulted in the detection of one of the terrorists’ remains.
Along with numerous local missing person searches, Sage’s missions have included Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and searching for missing teenager Natalee Holloway.
In 2007-2008 Sage was deployed to Iraq to search for missing U.S. soldiers. In 2009, she was diagnosed with two types of lung cancer, both uncommon in dogs and believed to be the result of searching several highly toxic sites in service to our country.
Sage has lost two lung lobes and has undergone chemotherapy. No cancer is detected at present, but she will have x-rays every three months for the rest of her life.
Sage’s latest mission is inspiring cancer patients and survivors with her resilience, enthusiasm and passion for life. She has been a hero at Camp Enchantment, a children’s cancer camp, by helping them see that their illness doesn’t have to dampen their spirits. She also happily walks alongside human cancer survivors at “Relay for Life” events.
Diane Whetsel’s dog training career evolved from AKC competitions and obedience, to AKC tracking, and finally search and rescue. She is forever amazed by the canine senses and the capacity for the human-canine connection.
“Sage and I have a terrific bond,” Diane said. “When you go through experiences like we have, that bond becomes stronger.”
The beautiful Sage has been the inspiration for the formation of “The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve.”
“Our mission is to promote the welfare of all hero dogs serving in harm’s way,” Diane said.
Sage and Diane live in Roswell, N.M. For more information, visit sagefoundationfordogs.org
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