Hailey Ashmore relies on her dog Flynn to do more than the average dog. He has become her lifeline. He can alert her to oncoming seizures, and fetch help when she needs it.
Training as a medical alert dog takes lots of hard work and diligence, and the Australian Shepherd has come a long way since he began learning his important role.
However, when he was just 7-months-old, he was distracted by a person who stopped to pet Flynn but accidentally caused harm to Hailey as a result.
Her experience is a reminder that service dogs should not be petted or played with while they work, unless their human gives permission.
Hailey and her service dog, Flynn are inseparable. “We are a team. Where I go, he goes,” she says. That’s because Hailey depends on Flynn to alert her and others if she’s in trouble.
Hailey, who is 16, has several conditions that can endanger her life including: epilepsy, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, reactive hypoglycemia, severe allergies, gastroparesis, and asthma.
According to Fetching Apparel, who spoke with Hailey, Hailey once was active dancing on the varsity drill team, on student council and a violinist in the orchestra.
But because of her health conditions, she now takes classes online and is dependent on caregivers. That’s where Flynn comes in.
Hailey got Flynn as a puppy and began training him as a medical alert dog.
He is being trained to sense when Hailey is going to have a seizure before it happens. This gives Hailey time to react and get help and find a safe place where she won’t hurt herself.
But that didn’t happen on one particular day, because someone stopped to pet Flynn. Hailey was visiting her father at work, and a well-meaning person stopped to say “hi” to Flynn.
They began to pet him, ignoring the vest he wears that has a giant “STOP” patch.
“I immediately told him to stop [petting Flyyn],” Hailey told the Dodo. “I thought I had 10 minutes to get safe, take medication and call somebody for help. Unfortunately, I didn’t and ended up getting a nasty rug burn.”
Hailey passed out and she woke up to find her face covered in scrapes from where she fell on the carpet.
Flynn was still too young at the time and still learning to ignore people petting him. It’s hard not to want to say hello to such a friendly face, such as Flynn’s but when you look at Hailey’s scrapes, it’s a good reminder to stop.
“My service dog is my lifeline. I don’t say that to be cute. He helps keep me alive just like life support. If he gets distracted this happens. If he gets distracted I can die. Do not pet service dogs. Do not call to service dogs. Do not taunt service dogs. Do not talk to service dogs. Do not do anything to service dogs. Thank you,” Hailey writes on Instagram.
“The only time somebody should ever approach Flynn and I is if I am unconscious and/or having a seizure. Besides that, nobody should try to pet or get near him,” explains Hailey.
“I wish people could understand that’s what the giant stop sign patch means,” she says. “If somebody distracts him I can get seriously hurt.”
“If you see a service dog in public please educate your children, your friends, your family, anybody else that they are doing a really important job.”
Of course, for Hailey Flynn is much more than a service dog. “This dog is my hero. Need a pillow? He’s there. Need something to protect your head during a seizure? He’s there. Need a friend? He’s there.”
Share Hailey’s story with your friends and share Hailey’s message about service dogs too!