The right pet can make all the difference for kids with disabilities! Not long ago I covered the beautiful story of Iris Grace, the 6-year-old autistic painter whose therapy cat Thula is constantly by her side. In a similar vein, this week people all over the world are celebrating Quaden, a 5-year-old Aussie with dwarfism, and his therapy dog Buddy, a Shih Tzu who also has dwarfism.
Before Buddy came along, Quaden was depressed about his looks and his disability, says his mom, Yarraka Bayles. Adults and children alike were cruel to him, often calling him names and asking rude questions about his appearance in public places. But all that changed when Quaden and his family adopted Buddy.
"Quaden now proudly accepts that he's got dwarfism, because Buddy's given him that reason to think that it's cool," says Bayles. "So he tells everyone, 'My dog has dwarfism like me,' and it's the first time we've ever, in Quaden's five years of life, heard him say the word, because we are not allowed to say dwarfism or achondroplasia."
Quaden and Buddy are adorable, and I love to see them running, playing, and enjoying each other—just like any kid and his furry best friend should be able to do. That said, it hurts my heart to hear that a child as young as Quaden would be so mocked and bullied by strangers that he didn't even want his family to mention dwarfism.
So, while we celebrate this new friendship, let's also take a moment to remind ourselves to be kind to others who look, think, or act differently than we do. And let's teach our kids to do that as well. It is my dearest hope that Quaden, my autistic son Liam, and the millions of other kids like them can feel pride—not shame—in who they are, exactly as they are, now and as they get older.