One young woman is spreading awareness about the dangers of petting a medical alert dog, through her own heartbreaking story.
Flynn, an Australian shepherd dog, has been at Hailey Ashmore’s side since November 2014, alerting and her parents to oncoming seizures. When he was 7 months old, Flynn accompanied Hailey to visit her father at work. Suddenly, a stranger approached and began petting Flynn like he was a pet dog.
“I immediately told him to stop,” Hailey said. The distraction came at the worst possible moment, as he missed the chance to warn his human of an oncoming seizure. By the time he was able to warn her, it was too late.
“I thought I had 10 minutes to get safe, take medication and call somebody for help,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn't and ended up getting a nasty rug burn."
Hailey is now trying to make others aware of the dangers of petting medical alert dogs so that others don’t end up having a similar experience.
“Since Flynn was only about 7 months at the time of the accident, he was, and still is, learning to ignore people petting him,” she said. “We understand our dogs are super cute, but they are really important for our safety and health.”
Canine Companions for Independence representative Jessica Reiss said it’s easy to distract a service dog from its work, which can put the human in serious danger.
“The dog is part of a team,” she said. “It becomes almost an extension of that person, just like someone's wheelchair … besides the fact that the dog is part of who you are, that touching can distract the dog from what they need to do.”
“If you wouldn't do it to a wheelchair,” Hailey stressed, “please don't do it to our dogs.”
Photo Credit: Hailey Ashmore via IJReview