This dog is a jewel

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Erin Johnson
Abigayle Johnson with Milo.

Canal Winchester teenager Abigayle Johnson is not unlike her peers who work and save for a goal such as a car or college.

But, in her case the goal is a dog specifically trained to alert her to an oncoming epileptic seizure.

Johnson, a high school sophomore, first started having issues in 2020 with undiagnosed episodes. In January 2021, she experienced a tonic clonic seizure, which combines characteristics of tonic (stiffening) and clonic (rhythmical jerking). During tonic-clonic seizures, which can last one to three minutes, a person can lose consciousness and fall to the floor.

After multiple seizures, in April she was diagnosed with epilepsy and in September she was also diagnosed with a tic disorder.

“I’ve always known about service dogs,” said Johnson. “Since my first seizure, I’d always push and throw out ideas of having one, but we didn’t think I’d be where I am today to actually need one.”

A therapy dog is trained to alert and respond to a seizure, know deep pressure therapy, and how to find help when needed. The $15,000 to $20,000 cost to acquire a fully-trained dog is not covered by insurance.

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Abigayle Johnson arranges a display of her jewelry in Harris Lane & Co. The high school sophomore is selling her original designs in an effort to raise the funds she needs for a service dog.

Johnson is now paired with a German shepherd mix who is currently undergoing training at a facility in Obetz and will continue the process once he is placed with her.

“We started the process in November after my dad gave the final okay,” said Johnson. “It takes about two years to be a completely trained service dog. Milo will be training with the trainers for about three months before coming home to be with me permanently. After he comes home, I will continue his training with some tasks I’d like him to perform, which will be taught by me. These including crowd control, mobility, counterbalance, interruptions, and more.”

To help pay for the dog, Johnson is putting her skills as a jewelry artisan to work and selling her designs at Harris Lane & Co.—a family-owned business in downtown Canal Winchester—every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Johnson is already halfway to her goal and is also in the process of setting up a website where she can sell her earrings, necklaces, bracelets, keychains and rings online.

Eschewing Internet fundraising, Johnson’s mother Erin said, “We are adamant on teaching our kids that we need to work for things in life, that if you work hard, you can earn what you’d like to have. We aren’t asking for handouts, but rather provide a service or product to raise money. We think it’s a great lesson for all.”

Erin said her daughter has always been a creative girl who loves to try new mediums and crafts. Fifteen-year-old Abigayle often purchases her beads from the thrift store and repurposes them to give them a fresh look. The pair also created a shirt with a hand drawn image and lettering by Abigayle with a, “No Rain, No Flowers” imprint.

“I was thrilled when she wanted to create even more items,” said Erin. “Our greatest hope is that Milo provides a sense of independence for her. Her life was flipped upside down in the matter of a day. His arrival home depends on his training and how quickly he responds, hopefully by the end of January 2022. We’re so appreciative for the support we’ve received so far. The outpouring of love and compassion isn’t overlooked.”

For information about Abigayle’s jewelry or to place a special order in support of her fundraising effort, contact her through Instagram at @miloandme.aj, by phone at 614-619-9869 or at Harris Lane & Co.

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