Service dog, trainer to graduate at Melba High School

BOISE, Idaho - The Melba High School class of 2018 will graduate on Friday. As they say their goodbyes, students and faculty are preparing to see one less friendly, furry face in the hallways next year. 

Chey Volker's senior project stemmed from a family tragedy. 

"I lost my cousin to suicide, and he was in the Air Force stationed in Alaska," Chey said. 

Motivated by the effort to stop more suicides from happening, Chey looked for ways to help. 

"I tried speaking about bullying and suicide, and it didn't really work for me," she said. 

That's when she found Genesis, an organization committed to raising and training service dogs. 

Chey was matched with golden retriever Sage. 

"The group does diabetic alert dogs and PTSD dogs," Chey's mom, Megan Voklers, said. "Sage came to us and chose her path, and it was like it was meant to be."

Sage is trained to recognize subtle signs of anxiety a human could miss, such as a someone clicking a pen, shaking a leg or the wringing their hands. 

Sage's training involves acclimating to working life in all environments. That includes attending Melba High School with Chey. 

"She's just become one of the students," Chey said. "She's got her own picture in the yearbook, she's on the graduation slide... She's one of the classmates."

Sage can be spotted at Chey's track meets, inside the Melba Elementary School teaching students about service animals, and, of course, comforting others and bringing smiles to the community. 

"The whole community, I feel, is giving this dog up," Megan said. 

Both Chey and Sage are donning cap and gown to walk at the high school's graduation ceremony. 

"It'll just be extra special because my class gets to graduate with a dog," Chey said. 

 

For the Volkers family, it's an emotional time. They're getting ready to send Chey off to college; she'll attend College of Idaho in the fall. 

The Volkers are also preparing to say goodbye to Sage as she's placed in the care of someone who needs her help. 

"Sage will go on and change someone's life," Megan said. "That's how we live with letting her go. We know she's going to go on and change somebody's life and my kid did that, and that make's me proud." 

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