Julie Saatoff Is Military Strong

Written by: Brady Drake

It takes strength to overcome an obstacle, Julie Saatoff has overcome more than a few in her lifetime.

The proud Owner of Rocket Dogs K-9 Aquatics & Wellness Center, Fargo’s only indoor dog pool, faced financial hardship after opening a business several weeks before the onset of a pandemic. However, those challenges were small peanuts compared to the things she has already conquered post-military service.

Saatoff has and still does deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of experiences she had while serving in the Gulf War. Those PTSD symptoms prevented her from going out in public for years. A far cry from where she is today as an entrepreneur.

During her time in the Gulf War, Saatoff worked mainly supplying water purification to the front lines, putting her right in the heart of the action.

“It was one amazing experience,” said Saatoff. “It was scary. Every night the bombs went off. You’d have to have your gas mask on because you never knew what was coming out of the sky. Some of it was very fun. All in all, it was very rewarding. I can’t say that I’d want to do it again, but I wouldn’t give up the experience.” However, the experience left a toll. Saatoff was somewhat of a hermit for years.

“I’ve overcome so much,” said Saatoff. “I can go to grocery stores now. I can go out and talk to people. Before, I really had a difficult time looking people in the eyes because of things that happened.”

In order to help make that transition back into a normal life, Saatoff has put in a lot of work. Up until the pandemic hit, she utilized as many counseling groups at the local VA as possible. She also gets a helping hand from her service dog Cooper.

“My service dog helps me. He can bring me down from an episode. He watches my back,” said Saatoff. “I feel like I’m in such a great place, even with all the downs. When I feel down, I also like to watch the news to remind myself that a lot of people have it a lot worse.”

The Pandemic

Although Saatoff has made amazing strides that should be celebrated on their own, she, like many others, was kicked around by The Pandemic a bit. Things haven’t been easy as of late. When Rocket Dogs was forced to close several weeks after opening, they stayed closed for months.

“It was horrible,” said Saatoff. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Things were looking pretty grim. When they finally did reopen, Saatoff also had to contend with an unseasonably warm fall and winter which left a large percentage of her would-be clientele opting to wait for more frigid temperatures before purchasing a membership.

Saatoff was thousands of dollars behind on rent. Her landlord was very understanding, but she needed more help than that. In order to get by, she held a fundraiser and dock jumping competition at Rocket Dogs.

“People paid astronomical prices for stuff,” said Saatoff. “Way above what things were worth. The people that come here are amazingly supportive. In addition to the fundraiser,

I sold off everything I could in my house and I sold off my camper in order to bring in $10,000 of my own money. It’s a miracle to still be here!”

Saatoff was able to get caught up on everything she owed by January 1.

I really believe in this business and the good that it does for these dogs. Having been in the military, I’m very strong, very stubborn and never going to give up without a fight.

Julie Saatoff on fighting for her business in the midst of a pandemic.

A Passion For Dogs

A lot of people like dogs, a lot of people love dogs, but when it comes to Julie Saatoff, you can just tell there is an added appreciation for man’s best friend.

“Where else can you bring your dogs to work every day. The dogs here are so fun. It has been the best year of my life,” said Saatoff. “In some ways, it was the worst year of my life, but it has also been the best year of my life. If the business failed and never went any further, it still would have been the best year of my life. These dogs that I get to see every day are so amazing and fun!”

That passion for dogs was there from a young age, even if Saatoff wasn’t allowed to have them by her father, she found a way.

“Any stray that didn’t have a leash on came right home with me,” said Saatoff. “I lured them with treats and my dad got so frustrated with me. Most left, but one Golden Retriever eventually stuck around. He wasn’t allowed in the house, but I snuck him in when he wasn’t home. Eventually, he won my dad’s heart and became part of the family.”

“Once I got on my own, it was dog city,” said Saatoff who in the past bred golden retrievers and miniature collies. Now, that passion is a business.

Rocked Dogs is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with options for 30-minute private swimming lessons, 30-minute private swims, membership pricing, obedience training and more.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.