Sign In

Labradoodle Service Dog

June 8, 2020

I spoke this week with Hadley Jo Lange’s mother, Heather, about the special bond her daughter has with her faithful labradoodle, Ariel, who has assisted Hadley, who has epilepsy, for the past four years.

Ariel is always on guard to alert Heather and the Lange family when Hadley experiences a seizure.

Heather says she is “beyond grateful” for the presence of Ariel in their family. “She really does save my daughter’s life,” aptly describing her as “my daughter’s lifeline.”

Stress is often a trigger for Hadley’s seizures. That’s when Ariel responds and “alerts,” Heather explained, which exhibits itself in behaviors such as Ariel moving around, showing anxiety and barking. This is how Ariel conveys a message of “Help me” in order to help Hadley, who sometimes has several seizures a day; other times, her seizures may be spaced out by weeks at a time.

Ariel is always happily by Hadley’s side, including amid medical ordeals.

“How do I ever thank this dog?” Heather told me. “Ariel has a unique bond with Hadley Jo that she doesn’t have with anyone else.”

Ariel, who is the only service dog at a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Louisville, provides ample support for Hadley by watching over her, giving her parents peace of mind.

Heather worked with a service-dog training organization, Ultimate Canine, to make sure that the dog was well trained to be in the classroom to assist Hadley, with the blessing of the school principal and assistance of school staff.

“This dog is so highly trained, with special areas in the classroom. No one knows she’s there,” Heather said, adding that it means so much that people will listen and accommodate a need like this. “The more people understand, the more willing they are to help you.”

Heather is committed to educating others, especially families, about the vital need specially trained service dogs provide and showing them that if it has worked well for their family, it can work for others, too.

The need for a service dog for Hadley became apparent when a stranger’s service dog alerted the Lange family to a seizure when Hadley was just 2 years old.

Afterward, Heather, a nurse practitioner, looked into the possibility of a service dog for Hadley. “I was a desperate mother desperate for answers,” she explained of her quest that involved much research. Labradoodles like Ariel are known to gravitate toward children; they are also known for being friendly and approachable. In addition, they are non-shedding and hypoallergenic.

Heather attributes her family’s story to the workings of the Holy Spirit and feels blessed to share their story.

“I really do believe this was God’s plan: that he gave us this disease to do something good with it.”

Now, Hadley Jo and Ariel are ambassadors of goodness, so to speak, highlighting a message of inclusiveness.

“I love the message of inclusiveness. Not everyone looks the same, learns the same,” Heather explained. “Our school has chosen to allow my daughter to bring her dog to school — to be part of the class, the school — made efforts to include her in St. Patrick’s family.”

Inclusiveness is a “big, powerful word. My message is: Look at this school — the inclusion, kindness and compassion — other schools can do this, too.”

“As a person of faith, the Catholic faith and values are important to my husband and me; we were raised in the faith and Catholic schools, and we want that for our children.”

She continued, “Faith has given me a sense of security and hope — when you do experience a crisis, you’re not alone. You may feel alone, but you’re not alone. God is there.”

Heather said the world has a need for good messages right now and recognizes that this story has been “so comforting to so many people,” adding that it’s a “time for good news.” She is grateful it is striking a chord globally on so many levels, “not just ‘How cute?’— it’s a message that needs to be shared.”

She emphasized, “The yearbook photo is a sign of God’s love, compassion and inclusion: a simple act of kindness — how beautiful is that?”

For Hadley Jo, her “youthful heart” is apparent, too, according to her mom. Once, when seeing their story featured on TV, Hadley looked at Ariel and said, “Look at this: You’re famous.”

Ever a constant companion, Ariel continues to be by Hadley’s side. Since home schooling amid the pandemic, Ariel has been “right there with her,” Heather related. Like always. Most of all, despite her medical concerns, Hadley Jo is “the happiest kid,” her mom says, “who brings so much joy to us.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Firefighters battling California wildfires visited by Kerith the therapy dog

    Battling wildfires can take an emotional and physical toll on firefighters, but a two-year-old golden retriever has come to rescue, relieving stress and providing comfort to firefighters on the front lines. Kerith is a certified crisis response therapy animal through a nonprofit organization, Pet Partners. Kerith and her handler, Heidi Carman, started volunteering at MarinHealth […]

    Read more

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcome New Canine

    After the unexpected passing of longtime Police Service Dog Zeus earlier this week, Kingston Police are welcoming a new member to the Canine Unit. Police Service Dog Bask, also known as K9-8, is a Dutch Shepherd and Belgium Malinois mix, and will be patrolling the streets of Kingston with his handler Constable Jeff Dickson. Bask […]

    Read more