This year, one of the photos in the yearbook at Hector Garcia Middle School is not like the other.
Pictured alongside the portraits of smiling students is one particularly friendly face — Taxi Benke, a service dog who looks out for 14-year-old Rachel Benke.
Rachel and Taxi have been inseparable for the last four years, ever since they were connected by Cindy Buechner, who trains seizure alert dogs. When Taxi first came into Buechner’s life, she immediately thought of Rachel’s mom Teresa who she’d met at a jewelry party, and knew the dog would be immensely helpful for the family.
“They found us,” Teresa 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.”
Rachel was born with an inexplicable abnormality to the right side of her brain, and has experienced epileptic seizures since birth. The older she got, the worse the seizures were, and there were times she’d have as many as 200 seizures in a day. She ate mostly baby food for the first six years of her life, and was completely non-verbal.
When she was 6 years old, Rachel had two corrective brain surgeries, and the results were unbelievable. “It was just miraculous,” Teresa said. “She starting eating, started talking, started learning. We were told she would probably never be able to read, and now she’s reading Dr. Seuss books by herself, and some chapter books.”