With the academic year coming to an end, one school in Kentucky decided to save a spot in its yearbook for a different kind of student – Ariel, a service dog.
St. Patrick Catholic School in Louisville surprised the pet’s owner, 7-year-old Hadley Jo Lange, by including a photo of the Labradoodle among its kindergarten class. The girl suffers from epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that causes seizures.
“This dog has really saved my daughter’s life,” her mom, Heather Lange, told CNN. “I don’t know how I could ever thank Ariel as a mother. She goes with her everywhere, to school, rides the bus with her, goes to her dance classes and soccer practice. She always has her eyes on my little girl. It’s a huge sense of security.”
The 4-year-old pooch can recognize when the child is having an episode. When the seizures happen at school, Ariel alerts teachers by barking. During the episodes, she also lies down next to Hadley Jo and moves her body underneath the child in order to cushion her fall.
“It’s important for us to do all we can to foster our relationship with families and do what we can to support students,” says Nathan Sturtzel, principal of St. Patrick Catholic School. “We love Ariel. She’s part of Hadley Jo’s family so she’s a part of our family too. Finding a place for her in our yearbook was an easy decision and it was a lot of fun to include her. We loved it.”
The Labradoodle is the only service dog within the archdiocese of Louisville, according to Heather Lange.
“When I got the yearbook and saw that they included our service dog, that was one of the most touching moments of my life. The inclusiveness meant so much,” she adds. “It proved that we may not all look the same, we may not all learn the same, we have differences but it’s OK. We can still be kind and inclusive and accept each other. This yearbook is a huge reflection of that.”
She went on to say, “It’s very comforting knowing my daughter has a home at her school where she is loved and accepted, even though she may not look like everyone else. St. Patrick made a choice to accept my child and her service dog. The acceptance and inclusion is a true sign of kindness and compassion.”