Hadley Jo Lange has epilepsy and relies on her beloved service dog, Ariel, to keep her safe wherever she goes. Last week, the 7-year-old's school surprised her and her family by including Ariel's photo next to Lange in the kindergarten yearbook.
Lange was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 2 years old and has had Ariel since the dog was a puppy, her mother Heather DeVore Lange told CBS News. The 4-year-old service dog accompanies Hadley Jo to her Kentucky school and on the bus, as well as to dance class and soccer practice – and everywhere else the girl ventures.
Ariel is a seizure alert service dog who can warn those around Hadley Jo before she has a seizure, be it at home or at her school, the St. Patrick Catholic School in Louisville, Kentucky. Heather told CBS News the majority of Hadley Jo's seizures occur in the classroom, as fine motor skills, critical thinking and math are triggers for her daughter.
"I believe Ariel has saved HJ [sic] life several times," Heather, referring to her daughter as "HJ," told CBS News. "Ariel alerts us prior to a seizure allowing us to administer rescue medication in less than two minutes, stopping the seizure. I don't know anyone else that can do that!"
The dog also provides Heather peace of mind, knowing her daughter is in good hands — or paws.
"Ariel is my eyes and ears for my daughter when I'm not around or when I'm sleeping," said Heather. "As a mother I want HJ to live a 'normal' independent life as much as possible and Ariel is allowing this to happen."
While Ariel is a mainstay in Hadley Jo's classroom — she even has her own designated spot — the family wasn't expecting her photo to appear in the yearbook. Hadley Jo recently completed her second year of kindergarten, and her family picked up the yearbook last week to find the wonderful surprise.
"We were all overwhelmed with emotions when we saw the yearbook. The inclusiveness and compassion was truly heartwarming," said Heather, who posted a photo of the side-by-side images on Facebook shortly after the surprise.
Heather added that her daughter loved seeing her service dog in the yearbook, "She thinks it's pretty cool Ariel is 'a student too'!"
While the family was thrilled by the photo and wishes to see Ariel in yearbooks for years to come, Heather said she hopes the gesture will have an impact far beyond Hadley Jo's school. "Not everyone looks the same, not everyone learns the same, and it's OKAY!" Heather said. "Our hope is that other schools see that they can do this too!"