Sixteen-year old Hailey Ashmore has had Flynn since he was a little puppy. Since then, the two were inseparable. After all, Hailey’s life depends on Flynn, her service dog.
Almost on a daily basis, Hailey is attacked by epilepsy. To complicate matters, she also has other conditions including Ehler’s-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, reactive hypoglycemia, severe allergies, gastroparesis, and asthma.
That is why her life is tied up to her parents, nurses, medications, and most of all, her service dog, Flynn, who alerts her on oncoming seizures.
The teenager from Dallas, Texas, used to be a dancer on the varsity drill team, student council member, and a violinist in the orchestra. She was also at the top of her class. As her conditions progress, Hailey takes her classes online.
Of all her conditions, her epilepsy is the worst as it causes her serious seizures. Flynn has helped her through her epileptic ordeals. He has been 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.
The job of a service dog matters greatly to its human. That is why Hailey is pleading with strangers not to pet her dog without permission.
“To get a service dog, you must be disabled to the point where you can no longer function at a normal quality of life without the assistance of service dogs,” Hailey said.
“It takes around two years of intense training and thousands of dollars (if you owner train) to actually be able to call your dog a service dog. A service dog can go anywhere its handler goes, with the exception of a sterile environment such as an operating room or burn unit, a religious building such as a church, or some federal buildings,” she said.
On one occasion while she was visiting her dad at work, a staff member could not resist petting Flynn, ignoring the huge “STOP” sign he wore on his body. Hailey immediately requested her to stop.
The petting distracted Flynn from his duty, so in just a short while, Hailey was having seizures.
“I am used to him giving me ten-minute warnings, so when Flynn alerted, that’s what I thought I had,” explained Hailey. “Out of nowhere, I remember the world going black. I woke up with Flynn on top of my legs and my father cradling my head.”
She woke up with rug burns on her head.
“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. I wish people could understand that’s what the giant stop sign patch means. 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. Thank you.”
“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,” she wrote on Instagram.