The children at Emporia Child Care have a special friend who comes to visit them regularly when walking in C of E Park.

Their friend is Buddy, a Yorkie Terrier-mix dog, who belongs to Carol and Gary Heiner.

“We have been walking him there for about a year and a half, two, three, five times a week sometimes depending on the weather,” Carol Heiner said. “During the summer when the weather is nice and the kids see us coming they start yelling, ‘puppy, puppy.’”

The children regularly gather at the fence waiting for their friend to come by. Now that they have learned his name, the screams of greeting have changed a bit.

“Now when they see us across the pond you can hear them right away,” Carol Heiner said. “‘Buddy alert,’ ‘Buddy’s coming,’ ‘Buddy is here.’ They get very excited and we are happy to see them.”

In the natural way of children, they all wanted to pet and touch buddy. Even though Buddy is friendly, the children aren’t allowed to touch him. Instead, Carol will brush his nose and then share “Buddy kisses” with the children. She places a Buddy kiss on each child’s hand.

“They love Buddy kisses,” Carol Heiner said. “So I swipe him and then touch each of their little hands through the fence. They pull their hand in and put the kisses on their cheek or tummy or wherever they like. Sometimes we blow Buddy kisses and they will run and catch them. It is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.”

The Heiners have children and grandchildren, though none live in Emporia. Carol Heiner said the children and their excitement has been a gift to them and brightens their walks each day.

“For us, it is really about the gift they give us with their smiles,” Carol Heiner said. “We have just fallen in love with them and it has become so much fun. They really deserve the thank you here, we have no family here and they remind us of our children and grandchildren. They have made us happy.”

Last year, the couple took Buddy cookies to the children for Christmas. But this year, they decided to take the children a Buddy of their own.

The couple found stuffed dogs which look similar to Buddy. They placed a ribbon around each dog that says, “My Buddy” on one side and “Merry Christmas” on the other side. The couple, along with Buddy, paid a visit to the child care center to deliver the puppies last week. The children were naturally excited, but once again the Heiner’s received the gift of their enthusiasm.

“Some days, if I’m having a bad day or my husband and I are missing our family, and those children come running out with their happy faces to catch Buddy kisses from us it really just makes my day,” Carol Heiner. “I tell people they are our gift. We gave them the puppies, but they give us a gift each time we visit.”

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