He’s right next to Rachel Benke in Hector Garcia Middle School’s yearbook: a dog, a regal, dignified Labrador–Golden Retriever mix called Taxi Benke, posing like a champion, his posture straight and true, the look in his eyes, knowing. It’s picture day. He’s giving it all he’s got. Look:
The little girl on the left is his best friend, Rachel Benke. She has suffered from epileptic seizures since birth, according to TODAY.com. She’s the one he protects and serves. Sometimes she would have 200 seizures a day. For the first six years of her life, she was completely nonverbal. She ate only baby food.
But after two corrective brain surgeries, Rachel improved, and four years ago, Taxi came into her life. Rachel’s family didn’t go looking for a service dog, but one found her. A chance meeting between Cindy Buechner, who trains seizure alert dogs, and Rachel’s mom at a jewelry party led to the happy pairing.
“They found us,” Teresa, Rachel’s mom, told TODAY.com. “We hadn’t been looking into service dogs. We thought she might need one when she was older, but it was just a God thing that he found us.”
Taxi and Rachel go everywhere together, including school, where Rachel leads Taxi around on a leash.
“He predicts she’s going to have a seizure up to an hour and half before it happens,” Teresa said. “It seems to be a smell that the body emits, but until dogs can talk we can never know for sure.”
Taxi also makes sure Rachel is not in an unsafe place when a seizure occurs. So far, he’s warned her and the people around her of approaching seizures when Rachel was in the pool and on a trampoline. He also helps her through the ordeal.
“He always stays on her left side because she falls on her left,” Teresa explained. “He breaks her fall.”
As for how Taxi got in the yearbook this year, thank Mom for that. “Last year I joked, ‘Where’s Taxi’s picture?'” Teresa said. “He’s here every day, he deserves to be in the yearbook, too.”
So this year, Teresa, who attends picture day each year to help her daughter focus and smile, asked the photographer to snap a picture of Taxi, too. He did. Nobody thought much about it, but when the yearbook finally arrived, everybody was shocked to see Taxi. Teresa posted the picture to social media, and it took off.
“When I posted that picture, never in a million years would I have imagined that it would rise to this magnitude,” Teresa says. “It’s been fun, and it’s been even more fun watching [Rachel] get excited about it. Three years ago this wouldn’t have even registered for her.”
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