Young woman with epilepsy reminds us: don't pet her dog, he's working!

Everyone knows the kind of advantages that come from having a dog. Dogs accept you for who you are, they're a friend for life, and they help relieve anxiety and stress. That's partly because hanging out with them is very zen: dogs just live in the present — and that can help us live in the present with them.

Getting a dog can be one of the best decisions you make. But some dogs are so special — and so necessary — that their owners would be in danger without them.

Hailey Ashmore's dog Flynn is that kind of canine: he's a medical alert dog and she has him to alert her of epileptic seizures. 

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If someone comes along and distracts Flynn by petting him, he could miss a warning signal, fail to give Hailey the heads up she needs to take a medication, and Hailey will have a dangerous seizure that can result in injury or worse. In the first year of Flynn's training, this was a particular problem because he hadn't yet learned to resist every distraction and stay focused on Hailey. 

Hailey, now 19, has had Flynn since he was a little puppy. 

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Flynn is just as smart as he his cute, and he's a huge help to Hailey with her medical struggle.

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Hailey suffers from epilepsy, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, asthma, and an array of allergies. Life isn't easy. 

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As you can imagine, Flynn is also a great emotional support. So much more than just a pet, he's her service dog.

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How amazing is that, that a dog can be trained to sniff out an epileptic seizure way before it happens? When Flynn gives Hailey the warning, she's able to prepare herself in time. If someone gets in the way of this process, it can be a real disaster.

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When Hailey visited her father at work a couple of years ago and Flynn was still in training, one of her dad's co-workers couldn't resist bending down to snuggle with Flynn, despite Hailey's request not to. 

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There's even a huge STOP sign on Flynn's vest, for heaven's sake. But unfortunately sometimes people's habits are stronger than their attention, and they don't even notice. 

In fact, it was terrible timing: while being pet that time, Flynn missed a key signal, didn't warn Hailey, she had a seizure, and she wasn't prepared. She got badly injured as a result. Petting a service dog when he's on duty is no joking matter.

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After that incident, Hailey made her own personal 'public service announcement' to try to spread the word.

"The only time somebody should ever approach Flynn and me 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.”

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She recalled the incident at her dad's office: “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. On the whole left side of my face there was a terrible sting that made me tear up.”

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"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."

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"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.

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It's important for us to be aware of what service dogs actually do. It's an extraordinary gift they offer those in need, so we need to let them give it! And that means, hands off: let's appreciate and respect them from a distance. And spread the word next time you see a canine hero like Flynn — it could save a life.

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