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A Loving Paw: Man’s best friend is boy’s best friend too

Ironhide isn’t a typical name for a dog, but the responsibilities that this Black Lab upholds aren’t suited for your typical pup.
At just 2 years old, Ironhide is a seizure-response dog that looks after 9-year-old Justin Royston. Justin, a student at Sulphur Springs, was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 2 years old.
“Ironhide has been more than a watchful eye over Justin,” Justin’s mother Misty Royston said. “Justin has speech problems from his epilepsy and since we have gotten Ironhide, Justin has started reading more; he reads out loud. So I mean it has been a blessing all the way around.”
While the sweet relationship between the pooch and his 9-year old master is a bright spot for the Roystons, it’s seeing the dog going into action that is truly awe-inspiring. Justin has what is known as Tonic-Clonic Seizures or what many refer to as Grand Mal seizures. While the normal seizure can average two to five minutes, Justin’s seizures can last 10-15 minutes, which almost always result in a trip to the emergency room.
“You can’t describe it,” Misty said of seeing Ironhide’s response. “There are no amount of words to say what it is like… The dog is trained to alert us if Justin has a seizure and he will move Justin on his side.”
Knowing that Ironhide is there to protect her son takes a lot of weight off of Misty’s shoulders, but that relief didn’t come without a price tag. Ironhide’s cost was $25,000.
Like many people, that type of money wasn’t just laying around for the Roystons, so they have done every thing possible to raise the needed funds.
From bake sales to sugar scrubs, from dinners to business donations, the Roystons have done almost everything that they can to raise the money they need.
“We’ve reached out just about anyway that we could think of,” Misty said. “If someone pops a suggestion, I am all over it, trying to think of a way to make it happen.”
Even with all of that, the family still owes a little more than $4,600 dollars — with the deadline quickly approaching.
“Technically, Ironhide is suppose to be paid off by the end of February, so we are quickly approaching that,” Misty said. “There is the risk of (having to take) him back until we get him paid for. I hope that it doesn’t come down to that.”
The Roystons haven’t been pressed for the money; she even says that company has been fantastic to work with. But there is still a “50-50” chance that Ironhide could be taken.
That is an unthinkable tragedy to Royston and her family.
“Losing Ironhide would be absolutely devastating,” Misty more than a service dog. He’s truly a member of our family and we would all be heart broken.”
The Roystons are hosting a spaghetti dinner benefit on Saturday, April 9, from 5-7 p.m. at the Jonesborough Senior Center. A $10 plate includes spaghetti, salad, bread sticks and dessert and to-go plates will also be available.
However, anyone wanting to make a donation before that time can do so at and then search for the name Misty Royston. The company that provides the service dogs, Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization identified by Federal Tax ID # 27-3778997. Checks can be mailed to SDWR PO Box 647 Madison, VA 22727, with a receipt returned to the mailer.
You may also reach Misty on her email at [email protected] or her phone which is 423-268-7390.