From: Julia Hassett

Sent: Monday, Nov. 09, 2015
To: Animal Shelter
Subject: A Story About a Family
I want to share a story about an adoption. A lifelong
family member, Opal, known as Fiona to you.
We came to you a few months ago asking for a
family pet that was not small and not big. Calm but
playful. Not old and not young. Good with children.
And a whole list of other things.
As we were reciting, you were saying, Fiona, Fiona,
Fiona...
We went to see Fiona in the back. I remember so
clearly the other dogs barking and jumping up on the
doors while Fiona sat there. She calmly stood up on
the gate when we called her. We really made our
decision right then. Gut instinct. But we took her up
front to meet her more.
There was a cage with kittens near the two chairs. I
sat on the floor, my husband on the chair.
She would look at the kittens very excited then curl
up in my lap, then very excited with kittens, then curl
up in my husband’s lap. Round and round she went.
She had our hearts.
We left there and went to the pet store. She was an
angel in the truck, an angel in the store. She loved
the other dogs, the other people, riding.

We left with a kennel, dog food, treats, chew toys, a
harness, training leash, regular leash...
The next day, she came back to you for shots. She
trotted in with no fear. She had no doubt she wasn't
staying. But she sure was happy to see us later!
At some point, her name came to me. Fiona was
one of my favorite characters but I felt her name was
something else. She was Opal. I didn't know why.
My husband did. It was my birthstone.
She was my dog.
She was my companion.
I have a rare genetic neurological disease that does
not allow me to leave the house.
She was the only person I was with during the day.
She was with me when I didn't sleep at night. When I
did sleep, my husband said all 55 pounds of her was
in a tight circle next to me or stretched out along me.
God had brought us to Opal.
Two weeks later she was at Webb Animal Clinic. My
daughter picked her up that afternoon. I was lying on
the floor on a pillow. She walked in and put her head
next to mine and lay down.
Then something amazing happened. Something we
never expected. She started nudging my foot. I
laughed at her. Told her to stop. She wouldn't. Then I
had my aura and a seizure. I have a very few
seconds between them. But she had sensed the
seizure minutes before my aura came. I came to

with her nibbling on my fingers. I was, I can't explain
it, more aware faster than I usually am.
The next time we had something happen, I had a
seizure and fell off the couch. My family was on the
deck outside. Opal apparently started barking to get
their attention. They said once they came in, they
shooed her away because she kept running up to
me and lying down next to me and she was insistent
on nibbling on my fingers. That just isn't what they
are used to doing. But there was no turning her
away so they let her. My husband said I came
around faster than normal.
The next one was in my bedroom. She had alerted
me by nudging my leg and I listened. My family was
outside and I couldn't tell them. I just lay down. I felt
my aura, then the seizure. Again, my family said
they heard Opal inside barking, which she doesn't
do, so someone went to look. This time they didn't
shoo her away. They just let her do her thing. My
husband readjusted my head. Opal licked and
nibbled my fingers and they said I came around
faster.
I do not have epilepsy. I have non-epileptic seizures
caused by my disease. They cause partial complex
seizures everywhere from focal to grand mal.
Opal will do little tiny barks when I have focal
seizures. She gets a little freaked out when I have a
seizure that we call “drum playing” where I bang my

hand on the table, but she never leaves me, she just
watches me.
She tells me a grand mal seizure is coming and she
gets me safe and brings me back. Those are the
ones that scare us because I have broken teeth,
bled, bruised myself.
It would be wonderful to train her and certify her so
that when I went to the doctor or the store, she was
with me since she knows what to do, but I know you
know how much that training costs!
But with tears in my eyes as I have this entire story, I
wanted you to know that by you all saying, "Fiona,
Fiona, Fiona... " you have given me so much more
than a dog.
You have given me a chance to not get hurt.
You have given me a warning system.
You have given my 8-year-old son a reason to go to
school in the morning and not worry all day. (And
someone he loves to hug and play with.)
You have given me someone to talk to.
And I will never ever have the words to say what she
means to me.
Thank you,
Julia Hassett

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