Distracted Service Dog Unaware of Epileptic Seizure

A teenager with epilepsy suffers a seizure when her service dog is distracted because a stranger was petting him.

Dogs are cute. We all love them. When we see one out and about our first instinct may be to walk right up to him and his pet parent and give him a little pat. Of course, most of us wouldn’t do this without asking permission first. Usually it’s OK, but there are certain dogs who should not be distracted by a stranger’s desire to pet them. Those dogs are therapy dogs.

Service Dog

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Service dogs have a job to do. While the duties are varied, one of the most important jobs they do is alert their humans of upcoming seizures. One such human, Hailey Ashmore from Dallas, Texas, has, among other ailments, epilepsy. She is 16 years old and her conditions are so debilitating that she had to give up dance, violin and the student council; she can only take online classes, Fetching Apparel reports. She depends on her parents, her nurse, medication and Flynn the Aussie, her service dog.

Flynn is a very important part of Hailey’s life.

“To get a service dog you must be disabled to the point where you can no longer function at a normal quality of life without the assistance of service dogs,” Hailey told Fetching Apparel. “It takes around two years of intense training and thousands of dollars (if you owner train) to actually be able to call your dog a service dog. A service dog can go anywhere its handler goes, with the exception of a sterile environment such as an operating room or burn unit, a religious building — such as a church, or some federal buildings.”

Flynn wears his service dog vest while he’s working and alerts Hailey with ample time. “If he senses a seizure he will usually jump up or paw at me about ten minutes before one happens. This allows me to get somewhere safe, call for help, and take medication. If I fall he can retrieve my medication or phone. He can even bark if I am unconscious to alert somebody.”

One day, while helping out at her father’s workplace, Flynn was distracted by a person who was petting him. Because he was distracted, he did not alert Hailey to the seizure she was about to have in enough time.

“I am used to him giving me 10 minute warnings, so when he alerted that’s what I thought I had,” Hailey told Fetching Apparel. “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.”

She had rug burns on her cheek and forehead from skidding across the carpet during her epileptic seizure. The teenager said that it even hurt when air touched it.


Her experience stresses the importance of not distracting a service dog while he’s wearing his vest. Do not pet a service dog without his handler’s permission. Calling out to the dog, whistling or otherwise bringing his attention toward you instead of his handler could be detrimental. As Hailey said, “Next time, instead of a rug burn somebody could get seriously hurt or die.”

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