Inside the Story: Furry guardian angel alerts teacher of student's seizures


(KUTV) Melissa Lovell is a special education teacher at Sunset Junior High. Her class is full of students who need just a little more care than your average middle schoolers.

One of her students brings that care to school every day in a furry package.

Twelve-year-old Britton Voss has what's called Dravet syndrome, which means he has uncontrollable seizures that come without warning.

"He is a very, very special child," Lovell said.

Britton's seizures used to be a surprise, but now he has a special alarm system to warn those around him.

The 3-year-old alarm is named Dopey, a golden retriever with a unique skill.

He alerts Lovell before Britton has a seizure. She is amazed by the dog's ability.

"A dog that alerts on seizures, I mean, who does that?" she said. "He's never wrong."

Dopey is humble about what he does. You can usually find him just laying around.

But the moment he starts to get fidgety or anxious, that's when you know he's sounding the alarm.

Not only does Dopey alert Lovell, he also watches over Britton during the seizure, licking his face to calm him down.

"He has his job and he knows what to do, regardless of the environment, which to me is unbelievable -- to have a dog that tells you, and to watch the student go through it, and watch the student come out of it," Lovell said.

And that's why Dopey is known as the class' guardian angel.

Lovell said Dopey is "just an extension, he's a member of our team, he is like having another adult in the room for Britton."

Britton's mom has noticed a huge difference since getting Dopey three years ago.

"Britton's become happier, more alert, more energetic," Dawn Voss said. "He's an angel. He's an extra set of eyes so that my son can still have somewhat of a life and I can still attend to two other kids."

Lovell wasn't planning on becoming a special ed teacher.

Her dream was to one day be a Broadway star.

"I got my degree in musical theater," Lovell said. "I was trained to go on Broadway."

At just 14-years-old, Lovell sang a solo at Carnegie Hall. Her training continued on the stage and onto other major performances.

But something happened when she became a voice coach.

"I had my first autistic student, and all of a sudden, my world changed," she said.

Lovell is now in her first year as a special-ed teacher and is working towards a master's degree.

Her life on Broadway didn't happen, but she has no regrets.

"These are my kids and because these kids need me as much as I need them."