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By Patricia M. Murret for The Gazette

Michelle Brown was apprehensive when her parents talked to her about getting a canine assistant to help her in school. But Sylvia, a golden retriever-yellow Lab mix, has changed her life, 13-year-old Michelle said.

“She has changed my life because it makes it easier for me to go to school — and know that everybody likes me a lot more, and they don’t pay attention to my disability as much,” said Michelle, who has seizures from cerebral palsy. “She’ll never judge me. She’ll always want to help me, and she will do whatever she can to make me happy.”

Sylvia is known among teachers and students at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, where Michelle is an eighth-grader, although she has not attended this school year because of a hip injury.

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