“It’s not a person, it’s just a dog.” I remember thinking those words when I had to put my beloved Robby Dog to sleep several years ago. It didn’t seem right to have such intense grief, and yet there it was.

Anyone who has lost a pet understands in an instant the immense loneliness that comes when you walk into the room expecting a warm, furry greeting and all you get is silence.

When Kelli Slominski recently lost her companion, it was kindness that saw her through.

“I am a high school social studies teacher at Midway School in Inkster, N.D., just north of Grand Forks. I am a single mom with grown children, and about six months ago I helped my youngest son out when he was no longer able to care for his cat. Teddy and I become fast friends as my house was quiet and I needed an extra buddy around. Teddy spent the summer climbing trees and watching me garden.

Once school started and the weather turned cold, Teddy became more of an indoor cat and was always ready to cuddle on my chest and greet me at the door when I returned home from work.

Just after Christmas break, I noticed Teddy becoming more lethargic. When he stopped eating, I knew something was wrong. I took him to Agassiz Animal Hospital in Park River, N.D., where I left him for further testing.

After three days of antibiotics, I received a call. With much sympathy in this voice, the veterinarian explained that Teddy had not progressed as we had all hoped. We had to put him down.

I was teaching class when I received the call, and I simply could not hold back the tears for most of the day. The students were supportive and gave me hugs of sympathy which I greatly appreciated.

The next day a snowstorm hit, and school was called off. My house seemed so quiet without my little buddy getting underfoot. I was glad to return to school the next day just to keep my mind occupied.

To my surprise the senior class had taken a collection and presented me with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers to help ease my sadness. Their kindness and thoughtfulness was overwhelming. It was a Friday, so I took the flowers home, along with a lovely note sent from the veterinarian’s office, knowing that every time I looked at them over the weekend I would be reminded of the caring nature of my students and community.

When people say kids just aren’t very empathetic anymore, I know differently. Students and teachers spend much time together, and we often know each other’s good days and bad. They felt my pain. And knowing that they thought so much of me to help lift my spirits – well it certainly did the trick. I am reminded just how lucky I am to spend my days with such wonderful students.”

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.