Teen With Spinal Disorder Has Big Heart for Rescue “Turkey Dogs”


When Jackson Saville heard about a Golden Retriever named Archie who needed surgery to walk, he knew wanted to help.

Archie was hit by a car in Turkey, where he spent two days languishing in pain on the side of the road before someone rescued him. Working with an international partner, the nonprofit Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training (SEVA GRREAT) transported Archie to the United States this July with other needy “Turkey Dogs” and got him into a caring foster home.

Jackson Saville, pictured with a rescue dog named Lucy, has loved Golden Retrievers “for as long as I can remember,” he told The Dog People. Photo by Stacy Saville

An Unusual Connection

A neurologist determined Archie suffered a fracture to his spine and needed surgery to be more mobile, let alone comfortable. SEVA GRREAT shared his story and a call for help on social media, which struck a chord with Jackson.

The 13-year-old Virginia resident has already had three spinal surgeries due to spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

“SMA is a neuromuscular disorder that affects the muscles in my body—the muscles you use for walking, crawling, breathing, and even swallowing,” Jackson told The Dog People. “I have a cough machine and a nebulizer and a vent to use to help me breathe when I’m sick. And also I have a wheelchair that I can get around in.”

Jackson was so concerned about Archie’s future that he asked his own neurologist about Archie’s situation and was relieved to hear the dog would have a good prognosis with surgery. To pitch in, he started creating and selling custom dog bandanas through a business he started this summer called RockStar Life Designs—and donates $5 from every sale to SEVA GRREAT.

“I have made over 230 bandanas and donated over $1,200 to SEVA GRREAT,” he said.

Jackson Saville creates custom dog bandanas to support the rescued Golden Retrievers. Photo by Stacy Saville

The Road to Recovery

Archie’s surgery in August was a success, and Jackson followed his recovery closely through the dog’s Facebook page, Archie Arch A Roux.

“Since he had his first medical surgery, he’s got a scar just like I do,” he said.

That’s not all they have in common. They both recently celebrated birthdays—Jackson turned 13, and Archie turned 2—and now they share a home. 

Jackson and his family adopted Archie!

Archie Comes Home

The Saville family’s newest addition is settling in nicely: Archie loves being close to people, likes Jackson’s new electric wheelchair, and in less than a week, learned cues like “sit,” “stay,” and even “play dead.” The gorgeous Golden walks with a limp and shouldn’t climb steps or jump onto furniture, but the house is outfitted with ramps for Jackson, which is perfect for Archie.

“He’s fun. He’s happy. He’s smart,” Jackson said of his new pet. “He can be stubborn, and ferocious. Today I heard him doing a ferocious bark for the first time at our house. There was a big dump truck out there that I think he was barking at.”

The lovable dog already charmed the family’s senior dogs: Trixy, a Puggle, and Baby, a Beagle.

“They’re like great aunts to Archie,” he said. “They always jump on him and follow him around.”

Help, Hope, and Compassion to Spare

Jackson hopes other young people will follow their hearts and try to make a difference by giving back. He’s also made tie-dye shirts to benefit SMA Proud, a group that helps provide meals, rides, and other travel costs associated with SMA treatments to patients. He also fills “blessing bags” with shampoo, deodorant, socks, crackers, water bottles, and hand sanitizer to keep in the car to give to homeless people.

“If you want to help someone or a Golden Retriever in need of help, don’t be afraid to try,” he urged.

Archie is already a beloved member of the Saville family. Photo by Jane Krom

A Loving Family Completes the Circle

Jackson’s family—which includes his dad, Bill; older brothers, Zeke and Clayton; and mom, Stacy—are supportive and proud. His older sister, Morgan, died of bradycardia associated with SMA before he was born.

“It’s more than we are proud of Jackson. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh—this boy is unbelievable!’ Some days I just don’t know where he came from,” Stacy Saville told The Dog People.

She admires his deep empathy. For instance, Jackson felt sad for Archie not just because of his injury, but because the dog had to wait on the side of the road for so long before someone helped him.

“I think that is the part that really got to him: that it took two days for someone to show Archie some compassion,” she said.

She’s amazed by the way compassion has transformed Archie, who she said has adjusted to domestic life as though it was something he’s always wanted and is the “best dog.” Now he always wears a trademark smile.

More Dogs Need Help

Though Archie found a happy ending, there are still many other dogs in need, so now Jackson is starting to fashion holiday bandanas to continue supporting the work of SEVA GRREAT.

“Jackson says that he wants to make the pet bandanas forever,” mom Stacy said. “He is the person I want to be.”

To purchase a pet bandana, visit: www.rockstarlifedesigns.com or www.facebook.com/RockStarLifeDesigns

For more information about SEVA GRREAT, visit: www.adoptagolden.com

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