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Those Who Watch Over Us [publisher's letter]

Publisher Tracy Patterson with her dog sitting in the desert resting up from a hike

Tracy Patterson

Every day, I take Katie, my very old, three-legged dog, to our neighborhood park to spend time in the outdoors. Gone are the days of hiking and running on the beach, but she is still in great spirits and enjoys this daily time with her friends, both dog and human (particularly children).

She makes the trek in her wheels (kind of like a wheelchair for people, but she still has the use of her front legs) while I push her stroller for the ride home, since the walk to the park tires her out. At the park, she makes the rounds looking for a pet or stands in the middle of a group of kids kicking a ball around. They are amazingly kind and patient with her, stopping to say hi and pet her. Many of the kids know her story and will tell other kids when asked about what happened to her leg (a very popular question!).

This month’s Healthy Kids article, reminded me of a particularly heartwarming experience at the park the other day. There was a child saying hello to Katie, and for some reason started to force her to walk in her wheels. I was just thinking about going over to explain why she shouldn’t be pushed to do more than she can handle, when another child did the job for me. He wasn’t mean, but he stopped her from pushing Katie.

I was impressed by how the child looked out for my dog’s well-being; it was a very empathetic, responsible and respectful action on his part. I was also a little shocked, as I more often see the pack mentality of going along with the crowd, rather than taking a stand to do the right thing. And this is not just with children, which is more understandable, but also with adults.

I decided to watch and see what else transpired, since Katie was safe, and I could easily get to her at a moment’s notice. The child who had pushed Katie to begin with returned with a different child, looking like they might try to push her again, and the same boy held out his arms to hold them at bay as my dog took a little walk across the park. Then he sat down and kept my dog company for a bit.

While I watched this touching scene unfold, it made me wonder about nature versus nurture—is the boy just “naturally” kind and empathetic or had he been taught some really awesome life skills? I decided it was probably a little of both. But regardless of the reason(s), it was wonderful witnessing him teach some of the other kids a valuable lesson about respect.