Service dog gets time to shine in school yearbook

At Orange City Elementary School, summer goodbyes are tough, especially when it comes to one grad.

Linda is a service dog who is actually pictured in the school yearbook. She's the companion to 11-year-old Rachel, who has spina bifida.

"I'm clumsy. I can drop stuff - a lot of stuff. So she picks stuff up," Rachel said about Linda. "Basically she's my best friend when basically it's just me, her and family."

This year, when Linda would go to class with Rachel once or twice a week, she started helping other kids too.

"She will be there to help with tests when the kids start to get a little anxious or nervous. She picks up on it - and she'll go over and the kid will pet her, give her some love. It gives them a break to calm down," said Rachel's mom, Heidi Race.

Rachel's 5th grade teacher, Ashley Desmond, says Linda has become like another student.

"If we could all have a service dog in our classrooms! I mean - it's amazing the changes that I have seen in my students and how it's brought us all together as a family," Desmond said.

Linda's work hasn't gone unnoticed. Not only did she get a yearbook photo, she has a faculty badge and was presented a plaque this week. We asked Rachel how she thinks Linda is handling all the attention. The fifth grader says her dog is a "ham."

Even though Rachel is heading to middle school next year, the family says Orange City Elementary doesn't really have to say "goodbye."

"She definitely is the honorary mascot," Race said.

Race says she plans to take Linda to the school for visits next year.

Photographs are courtesy of Dean Stewart Photography, of Melbourne, Florida.