Hadley Jo and her seizure alert dog, Ariel.

As the mother of a 2-year old girl with epilepsy, Heather Lange, ’05, only wanted health and happiness for little Hadley Jo. She dove into investigating the risks and treatments of her daughter’s special needs.

It wasn’t until a stranger’s service dog responded to Hadley Jo’s seizures during a family outing that the idea of a service dog occurred to Lange. The process for obtaining a trained service animal is a lengthy and costly one. Lange recalls that only through the support of the community, family and friends were they able to afford the $20,000 price tag for their seizure support animal, Ariel.

“I have no regrets. I can’t put a price tag on this dog that saves my daughter’s life,” Lange said.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system, resulting in seizures. According to the UofL Epilepsy Center, there are 90,000 Kentucky and Southern Indiana residents living with epilepsy.

Lange wanted a way to give back to the epilepsy community after all the support she and her family have received. With this in mind, she created the Hope for Hadley Jo Project, a non-profit project affiliated with the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana that provides service dogs for children with epilepsy.

Lange fully understands that a service animal is not for everyone, but wants to assist anyone that could benefit from their care as Hadley Jo has.

Hadley Jo’s service dog, Ariel, is a labradoodle that was bred and trained by Julie Case, owner of Ultimate Canine LLC, to be a seizure alert animal. Not all animals are cut out for the rough work that comes with being a service animal, so each dog is heavily evaluated from birth. Out of Ariel’s litter, only one other dog met the qualifications for a service dog.

In Lange’s eyes, it was all worth it to see her daughter blossom under Ariel’s careful supervision. Ariel’s job is to alert Hadley Jo and her guardians to an oncoming seizure. With this notice, Lange is able to provide the necessary medicine in under 2 minutes to prevent the seizure before it can start.

Hadley Jo and Ariel’s preschool graduation photo.

Today, Hadley Jo is a typical independent 5-year-old girl. Ariel goes everywhere with Hadley Jo, including riding the bus to and from school each day.

Lange says the sense of relief that Ariel provides is invaluable.

“I know that as [Hadley Jo] ages, I’m going to be around less and less as a mom because I want her to be independent. This way, it’s a little bit comforting and therapeutic to know that when I’m not around, Ariel will be around,” she said.

She hopes that other families may benefit from such a wonderful companion.

“I don’t want to see any more lives lost because of epilepsy. If there’s something out there, like this that can help a child like it helped my child, you just can’t put that into words how much that means to you as a mother,” Lange said.

More information about the Hope for Hadley Jo Project is available online