Man puts passion for pets into his own business

In this Aug. 16, 2017, photo, Gage Bowls plays with his dogs Bentley, right, and Buster at his home in Spanish Fork, Utah. At birth, Bowls suffered four hours of oxygen depravation which left him with mental and physical deficiencies, including cerebral palsy. (Isaac Hale/The Daily Herald via AP)

SPANISH FORKS, Utah — As the saying goes, either you’re a dog person or a cat person. Well, Gage Bowls loves all animals, but if he had to pick between the two animals, he’d probably prefer canines.

His affinity for man’s best friend is apparent in his home-grown business, “Gage Dogs Company.”

“Not many people in Utah pay for a regular dog-walker,” said Jodi Bowls, Gage’s mother. “Gage’s stuff is more of whoever needs it: if somebody’s gone for an extended period of time.”

Despite a lack of demand for dog walkers in Utah County, Gage wants to put his passion for pets to good use by walking and caring for dogs in the Spanish Fork-Springville area.

The self-proclaimed “dog whisperer” lives life under special circumstances. For Gage, his life was changed at birth.

In this Aug. 16, 2017, photo, Gage Bowls walks his aunt's dog, Andy, a Greyhound, in the Bowls' neighborhood in Spanish Fork, Utah. At birth, Bowls suffered four hours of oxygen depravation which left him with mental and physical deficiencies, including cerebral palsy. (Isaac Hale/The Daily Herald via AP)

“For the first four hours of life, he was lacking oxygen before someone noticed,” said Jodi. The oxygen deprivation left the newly-born Gage with a few deficiencies. Chief among them was cerebral palsy, which included some degradation of both physical and mental abilities.

Now a mother of four kids, Jodi was fully aware that the miracle of life can come with complications.

“God gave Gage just the way he was supposed to be,” she explained. Turning to her son, she said “What are you Gage, to this family? ‘A gift,'” replied Gage with a laugh and a smile.

Now a 20-year old living with his mother in Spanish Fork, Gage attends the Bridges Nebo Transition Center. According to Gage’s mother, the center offers a 4-year post-high school program for individuals with special needs, and aims to successfully integrate them into society and help them gain employment.

“Bridges is really amazing,” said Jodi. “They have what they call practice jobs where he’s going into different community businesses and they rate him on the type of job that he does. Gage is an extreme rule follower. He’s very vigilant on making sure everything is lined up. Trust me: he keeps us all in line here,” said his mother with a laugh.

Halfway through the program, Gage feels he’s learning a lot through Bridges. Though he loves attending the school, he yearns to be just like “regular” grown-ups.

When Gage attended Springville High School, he had a special needs class, but was also in mainstream classes with the rest of the student body.

“I just want to go places without aides,” said Gage. “But more like, go to classes.” His mother added, “like other adults?” ”Yeah,” replied Gage.

“Gage said to me, ‘I want to feel like a grown-up,'” explained Jodi. “‘I don’t want an allowance and I want to pay my own bills.’ He talks about moving out, and about personal independence and what that looks like. That’s when we all started talking about, ‘Well, what can you do?'” She further explained. “He said, ‘I’m good with animals.’ “I said, ‘what can you do with animals?’ and he said, ‘I can walk dogs.'”

So, Gage took the initiative.

“Then, I turned around and looked back, and all of a sudden he had designed all this stuff, and I went, ‘OK, here we go!'” explained his mother.

All of Gage’s business materials: his business cards, his brochures, his various social media accounts and even his own website were all created by Gage himself.