Dogs are commonly used as therapy animals for a good reason: There’s nothing quite like hugging or petting a good-natured pup to lift the spirits.
Raelynn Nast, a 6-year-old girl in Fort Smith, Arkansas, knew that recently when she and her family were going through a difficult time.
Raelynn’s father, Davey, had passed away of colon cancer at just 41, and it had broken her heart.
“She was very proud of her dad,” the girl’s mother, Lacey, told CBS News. “She always wanted to introduce her dad to just about anybody.”
Lacey said that her daughter’s grief had been gut-wrenching: “It was a cry that was pure heartbreak.”
So on the day of the visitation, as Raelynn sat on the steps at the funeral home, she saw a dog passing with its owner and called out.
Emily Beineman, the woman who was out jogging with her dog, Blue, was more than happy to pause a moment.
“Today while on our daily run a little girl was outside the funeral home & yelled ‘may I pet your puppy?'” Beineman wrote on Facebook. “I smiled & said ‘of course! As long as your parents don’t mind!!’ & the little girl did a shy little smile & said ‘oh my parents aren’t out here- my mom’s inside & my daddy died… we are at his funeral.’
“Before I could say a word — Blue walked up to this little girl & ever so gently sat down in front of her & the girl wrapped her arms around Blue’s neck & wouldn’t let go. This little girl’s friends & family were all surrounding us and as I looked around there wasn’t a dry eye to be found (except this little girl).”
When Raelynn explained that her dad was lying inside the funeral home, Beineman realized just how important this run-in had been. She also knew how important it was to accept the request that Raelynn made next.
“I asked if she wanted to come in and see my dad,” Raelynn explained.
“Everyone was kind of looking around like, ‘Where did she come from?'” Lacey said. “And she came in right next to Rae like they’d known each other for so long. There was that connection there.”
“This little girl’s Aunt & Uncle looked at me with tears running down their face & her aunt whispered ‘I think God led you & Blue over here today for a reason… Blue’s love & gentleness that she has showed her has touched our hearts,'” Beineman’s post continued.
“I’m especially thankful for God allowing us to meet this special little girl on one of the hardest days of her life. This little girl will probably never realize how special today was for me- but it was exactly what I needed. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. & I truly believe we were meant to meet this little girl… she is the perfect reminder of God’s goodness & faithfulness through every storm.”
Raelynn’s takeaway was straightforward: “She helped me feel better by her kindness.”
But the kindness hasn’t stopped there: Beineman, Blue and Raelynn got together again later in the week and are friends.
Because of the story being shared, many people have reached out to the grieving family to offer support in different ways — a fact that Lacey has acknowledged online.
“You all are absolutely flooring me with all overwhelming support and love for my family,” she shared on Monday. “I feel like this is the easiest way to reach everyone that has been sending messages, texts, calls, emails, gifts, food, ect….
“There are so many of you that have remained anonymous and I just want to make sure you have a chance to see this ‘THANK YOU’ as well. The amount of love that my girls have received the last couple weeks is amazing. You all have managed to help bring a smile to their face during such a tragic and heartbreaking time in their lives.”
She also mentioned that someone suggested she set up an Amazon wishlist for her two daughters so that people could send them some items. She shared that she has had to update the list three times because so many people have been sending her girls gifts.
Lacey also wrote that “[w]aking up to hundreds of tags, thousands of likes and numerous messages sure has melted this mommas heart,” despite the obvious hardship and heartbreak their family has experienced.
It’s not every day that strangers turn out so lovely or the internet becomes a generous and kindhearted place — but in this case, they were, and it has made a world of difference.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.