There is literally only one kind of story that will compel me to write sentimentally, and that’s when a service dog named Taxi earns a spot–wearing a leash and harness–in a middle school yearbook next to his best friend who suffers from debilitating epilepsy. This story doesn’t just pull on my heart strings; it rips them out of my chest.
Rachel Benke, 14, and Taxi are buds, best buds, and they have been ever since they were introduced to each other four years ago. Rachel was born with an abnormality to the right side of her brain, which has caused her to suffer from epileptic seizures since birth. Her seizures became worse and more frequent as she aged. She sometimes had as many as 200 a day.
Things started looking up for her at the age of six, however, after she underwent two surgeries that dramatically reduced her seizures.
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.”
The seizures were reduced drastically, but she still suffers from them occasionally, and that’s where Taxi comes in. He attends class every day with Rachel in San Antonio, Texas, and is connected to her via a buddy leash. “They’re so cute together,” Teresa said. “They’re such a great team.”
Taxi is an amazing service dog for Rachel–so amazing, in fact, that he can actually predict when she is close to seizing. He reacts by alerting others.
Taxi can alert family and teachers when Rachel is about to experience a seizure. “He predicts she’s going to have a seizure up to an hour and half before it happens,” Teresa explains. “It seems to be a smell that the body emits, but until dogs can talk we can never know for sure.”
Once, when Rachel was swimming in the family’s pool, Taxi suddenly bolted up and began slapping at the water. Rachel’s parents took her out of the water, and 10 minutes later she had a seizure. On another day, when Rachel was going to play on the trampoline in the backyard, Taxi put his paws on her shoulders to stop her because he felt a seizure coming. Sure enough, one occurred a few minutes later. And as always, he was right by her side.
If you don’t love this story, you’re a soulless scumbag and, frankly, I don’t like you.
Note: You know, little Hayden Berry (pictured in the top photo, bottom right) showed up for photos that day thinking he was going to own the yearbook and put on a show for the middle school babes. Look at that cocky smile and slight head tilt. He got totally upstaged by Taxi, though. Just decimated. Love that. This is Taxi’s page, Hayden.
Images via Teresa Benke