Hadley Jo Lange got a big surprise when she opened her yearbook a few weeks ago. Right next to her photo was an unexpected picture of her best friend.
The 7-year-old newly-minted kindergarten graduate attends St. Patrick Catholic School in Louisville, Kentucky along with her service dog, a Labradoodle named Ariel.
Lange suffers from epilepsy and the dog can sense seizures and warn her ahead of time so she can stay safe.
Ariel alerts teachers that the girl is about to have a seizure by barking.
She’s also trained to move her fluffy body underneath the girl to cushion any potential fall as well as lay down next to her during an episode to calm her.
“It’s important for us to do all we can to foster our relationship with families and do what we can to support students,” principal Nathan Sturtzel told CNN.
Without Ariel, the little girl might not even be alive.
“This dog has really saved my daughter’s life,” her mom, Heather Lange, told 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.”
So it was only fair that the pup that allowed Hadley Jo to get through kindergarten be included in the school’s yearbook.
Attending class every day with her and being there for every lesson meant Ariel was part of the kindergarten class of 2020 too, in her own way.
And now the 4-year-old pup has been memorialized along with her “classmates” as a sign of appreciation.
Of course, everyone at the school loves Ariel.
“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,” said Sturtzel.
But it’s not a given that the dog would be accepted in a classroom. In fact, Ariel is the only service dog in the archdiocese of Louisville schools.
It takes a patient, accepting, and inclusive campus, faculty, and students to include a dog among their ranks.
That’s why Hadley Jo was so touched at the gesture of including Ariel in the yearbook.
And it meant a lot to her family as well.
“When I got the yearbook and saw that they included our service dog, that was one of the most touching moments of my life. The inclusiveness meant so much,” her mom said. “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.”
The Langes feel lucky to even have Ariel since service dogs can cost in the mid-five-figures thanks to all the training they require.
The Lange family had to raise money for the service animal – and they have never forgotten how fortunate they are to be able to have her as a safety net when so many children go without.
The school actually went one step further for Ariel and the Lange family when it came time to end this school year. According to the Courier-Journal, when they received their yearbook May 15, the Labradoodle was featured not only on the kindergarten class page but also on the school’s faculty page.
Be sure to scroll down below for more on the touching story.
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