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Our four-legged friends have much to teach us in the ways of compassion There's always too much on my mind to try to get into one 600-word column, something a now-waning bronchial malaise has made a little more daunting. But "malaises" do remind us how much words of concern and empathy help, and how professional healers should also give out a few along with the pills. At least, say: "Gee, sorry you're having this problem." Patients' families and friends may also need reminding. Anyone know a doctor who does that? Social scientists know caring communication is a natural Rx for good health and good relationships, but somehow caring communication skills are not hot topics, so they rarely get taught. But their absence likely relates to some of those big news stories, which are getting scarier and the people-caused disasters getting more tragic and ugly. But to the rescue, a very big story is a new pope who millions hope will have some real solutions. And naturally I pray that under Pope Francis, communication skill learning will become a primary one. Quite related is his choosing the name of the patron saint of animals. May he look to the animals, our dogs and our cats, for some answers, including those found in the following little ditty I dashed off after a blessing for the animal's service honoring St. Francis of Assisi held in St. Stephen of Hungary's Church garden. Why can't a people (sic) be more like a dog or a cat? Our animal pals don't care how old we are, Or, if we're pretty, witty or slim, They're always there for us. Why can't a people (sic) be more like that? Why don't we try? While that seems in keeping with faith groups' "love one another" creeds, I'm not accepting of hurtful or indifferent behavior like our animal friends mostly are. That needs to be overcome. And that's biblical too. And most commendably, dogs and cats sometimes prefer old people to young ones! Likely because we're not usually hyperactive, impulsive or loud. And we have more time for them. (Unfortunately, many old people can't manage to have an animal friend, although enabling this support would cut down on health care costs.) And dogs, and maybe cats too, wisely steer clear of heavy drinking people, knowing they're not in their right minds at all anymore. If only policy makers did, and acted accordingly. Attention really must be paid - on so many, ever more, often socially-acceptable, highly questionable fronts. And above all, by faith groups! And because it's the Passover and Easter season, I feel right comfortable saying, "And things do go better with God."

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