Linda, a 4-year-old yellow lab and service dog for 11-year-old Rachel Watton, became everyone's favorite classmate at Orange City Elementary School in Florida. So when it was time for yearbook photos, Linda got her own head shots.
Watton has spina bifida and Linda helps her get around in a wheelchair. Linda helps open doors and picks things up. Watton's mom, Heidi Race, told TODAY that her daughter and the dog are like two peas in a pod.
Race says Linda didn't just helped Watton, but other classmates in the classroom as well.
“Linda would be there to help with tests when the kids started to get anxious or nervous," Race said, "She’s very intuitive, and she’d go over and the kid would pet her, give her some love. She gave them a break to calm down."
Ashley Desmond, Watton's teacher, says Linda helped so much she became an unofficial mascot for the elementary school. Linda's dedication was recognized with photos in the school's yearbook, and a special award at the school's graduation ceremony. Linda received a plaque honoring her "for 3 years of dedicated service at Orange City Elementary."
Now Rachel and Linda are headed to middle school, but Race says Linda will be back to visit the elementary school.
“Linda is as much of a figure in that school as any student,” said Race. “She’s therapy for everyone.”