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School surprises girl by including her service dog in yearbook: 'It means the world'

Seven-year-old Hadley Jo Lange doesn't go anywhere without her service dog Ariel. Her school went the extra mile to make her feel included.

School surprises girl by including her service dog in yearbook: 'It means the world'
Image Source: Heather DeVore Lange / Facebook

St. Patrick Catholic School, an elementary school in Louisville, Kentucky, reserved a very special spot for a very special girl: a service dog named Ariel. She belongs to 7-year-old Hadley Jo Lange, whose mom says Ariel "saved her life." The child suffers from epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that causes seizures and several other symptoms. Ariel, therefore, is a necessary and vital part of her treatment. Among photos of all the students in her kindergarten class, Hadley Jo's family spotted the service dog in her yearbook. Without Ariel, she may not be alive, so her family was immensely happy to see the photo included in the yearbook, CNN reports.

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"This dog has really saved my daughter's life," the kindergartener's mother Heather Lange said in an interview with 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." While she's at school, Hadley Jo is constantly accompanied by her trusty service dog. Ariel watches over her like a hawk, making sure she is always okay. Now four years old, the Labradoodle first bonded with the child when she was just a puppy. Ever since then, they have been absolutely inseparable.

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Ariel is able to accurately identify when Hadley Jo is about to have an episode. When she is aware that her buddy may have a seizure, she alerts the seven-year-old's teachers by barking. When she does have a seizure, Ariel lies down right beside the child and moves her body underneath her just in case she needs something to cushion her fall. Beyond all the love and support Ariel provides Hadley Jo, she's also special because she is the only service dog in the archdiocese of Louisville, Heather explained. For her school, there were no second thoughts about including the adorable pup in their yearbook.

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Nathan Sturtzel, the principal at St. Patrick Catholic School, stated, "It's important for us to do all we can to foster our relationship with families and do what we can to support students. 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." While this may seem like just a cute little story for most of us, it's actually a huge victory for Hadley Jo and her family. "When I got the yearbook and saw that they included our service dog, that was one of the most touching moments of my life," Heather shared. "The inclusiveness meant so much. 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."

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The young girl had her first seizure when she was only 17 months old. Her mother recalled, "She was on my lap while I was eating, and out of nowhere my baby fell into my arms and her eyes rolled back into her head and she was jerking. She was having a seizure right before my eyes, it was terrifying. She stopped breathing, and there I was, a mother who thought she was about to lose her child." Ever since her first one, seizures have unfortunately become a regular part of Hadley Jo's daily life. Nonetheless, knowing that Ariel will always be by her side has eased the process for her parents. "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," Heather stated. "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."

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