Page Knoebel and her husband, Michael, are co-founders and proprietors of Satchel’s Last Resort, a non-profit Sarasota, Fla., animal sanctuary. Named for her beloved Irish Setter, Satchel’s houses both “guest” dogs that will be adopted and “residents” that won’t ever leave and that other shelters refused.Running a shelter is not what Page expected would be the center of her life, and she tells GlassCeiling.com how it came to be her mission and her passion.
On your site you say Satchel changed your life, which seems like a good place to start. Who were you before the change and how did Satchel change you
My life changed with him in Chicago. I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade, and back then traders had a wonderful life. They don’t anymore. But then it was great. We started early but at 2 p.m. you were done. I was young so we’d go to the health club and then we’d all meet up and you could do whatever you wanted.
When I got Satchel all that changed because once I was finished with work I had to rush home and get get out. I had to remember that if I went out at night I had to get home and take him out again. So I had to have my wits about me. So Satchel made me responsible for another living being that was totally dependent on me.
This was a time when there few women on the Board of Trade floor wasn’t it?
That’s true. I was really lucky to do what I did when I did it.
How did you find yourself there?
was in the in-house advertising agency at General Electric. They were a wonderful company for women to work for. When you started, they let you pick three places you’d want to work. If you got one of the ones you wanted, you were lucky, but they’d move you every year so that you got a taste for the whole company.
Why was it a good time for women there?
Because they wanted to promote women. They wanted women moving into management. One of the places I chose was Oak Brook, Ill., outside Chicago. But I lived downtown and when I’d go out at night you couldn’t help but meet traders. And I met someone who needed a clerk. He invited me to come down to the floor and the minute I stepped on the trading floor I knew I’d have to do whatever it took to be a trader.
What impressed you so much?
The energy. It was the potential. It was no limits. It was a crazy time and the opportunity seemed limitless.
Did you every feel that your gender kept you from realizing any of that potential?
No. You had to have a sense of humor, and you could make it as difficult for yourself as you wanted to, really. I just made certain rules and followed them and so I never had problems.
What kind of rules?
I never dated from there. I hung out with the women there and not the guys. The floor is much less discriminatory than other places. I left the BOT at one point and worked for a year at Morgan Stanley. I found New York City was much harder on women than Chicago was. And you think of the BOT as being a bunch of cowboys but it wasn’t. It was people who were putting their own money on the line.
And your getting ahead didn’t mean someone else had to fail. Often in offices, you’re competing with the person next to you. But on the trading floor you’re competing for money. There was so much opportunity that all you had to do was work hard. The market didn’t care if you were male or female, it cared whether you bought at the right price or not.
Why jump to Morgan Stanley then?
Because I was a clerk and I wanted to be a trader. The Mercantile Exchange and the Board of Trade had a lot of trading families and I didn’t know any of them. I probably eventually could have become a trader but I wanted to learn how then. I was lucky. It was a good time to go to New York and say I was a clerk on the floor. The financial firms were looking for people who had experience on the floor.
Every firm talked to me. That would never happen today.
So help me understand how you go from eager financial-management career woman to proprietor of a shelter for dogs and cats that no one else wants.
This was never meant to be. I had a whole superficial life planned out for myself. I truly did. I don’t know how my life became meaningful, but that’s what happened.
Do you really see it as that kind of dichotomy?
I really do. I never meant to do something like this. It just happened.
I was living in Chicago and I got Satchel who only made my life better. It was fun in a different way than my life had been before. I met a different crowd of people. I met dog people and I was outside doing things with Satchel.
I always loved animals but I wasn’t the type of person who rescued animals. But my husband to be, Michael, was a trader at the Mercantile Exchange and was a stray dog magnet. Every time I turned around he would find a dog and I would have to find something to do with it.
We started volunteering at a no-kill shelter, basically so I had a place to take the dogs that Michael found. We got really involved with the shelter but they can difficult places. They have a mission and they have egos, and everyone thinks they know how to run it better. But we were on the board and we were happy because they would take the dogs.
Well, we found the dog they wouldn’t take. We were on the way to the health club and we saw this dog. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He was the first dog that I was afraid of; that I thought would go for me if we tried to get it. Three hours later with the help of friends and a noose pole, we captured him. But no one would take him. While we waiting to find someone, the shelter we worked with agreed to house him. But we had to go walk him every day.
As we walked him, he changed. He was never a nice dog, but he became a manageable dog. And we realized that there must a lot of dogs like Groucho—we changed his name to Bouchie later because it was nicer—that no one will take.
There are so many good dogs that get put down all the time because there are too many of them. We take the more difficult dogs; the ones that we might have to work with. But everyone has their passions in life. Ours are the misfits.
So that’s the “Last Resort” of the shelter’s name?
Every dog we have would have been put down elsewhere. As the economy has gone south, there are so many dogs around now that need help. We have dogs now that would have made it in a normal shelter maybe two years ago. But now there are so many dogs being surrendered.
How difficult is it for you to accept that you can’t take all the animals in need?
It’s horrible. I probably get 10 calls a day and I have to say no because we’re packed. I have to be fair to the dogs and to the people who work here. We take the dogs out four times a day. And because most don’t get along with other dogs, they have to be taken out alone. Our shifts used to be six hours; now they’re 10.
You say your shelter is packed. How many is the max it can handle?
We would be maxed at 50 and we have 63 right now. We’re really full. Because many of the dogs won’t ever leave here, we take them for car rides and walks. You have to stimulate them because otherwise you get bored dogs.
How do you sustain Satchel’s?
I’m fortunate because we have a family business that helps, and then my husband and I are still futures traders. We get a few donations and would like more. We’ve hired an executive director to that end.
If someone else is like you were and contemplates swapping a traditional career to follow their passion, what would you say to them?
I would tell them to spend a week with me. We had no idea what we were getting into. I miss some parts of our former life, but I wouldn’t give this up.
It all has been worth it?
Well, I’m going to say something very corny, I know, but the best thing the shelter has done has been to show me the heart’s capacity to love. It astounds me that I can love these dogs—and we have 50 cats, too—so much. If they leave here, they never look back, but I’m sobbing.
So I keep in mind that when someone adopts a dog from us they save two: that dog and the next one we can take.