When it comes to suicide, I know I am lucky to say that it hasn’t directly impacted myself or my family. I’ve seen the wake of sadness left behind, and my heart aches when I hear the stories from people who lost a loved one or relative to suicide. I can’t imagine living with so many unanswered questions.

So when my friend asked me to attend a suicide prevention awareness walk with her in honor of her mother, of course I said yes. We were already running late when she picked me up on a chilly Saturday morning to drive to the walk at the Texas Capitol. I jumped in the van ready to roll, and then I saw them — three of the cutest, tiniest puppies I think I have ever seen.

My friend and her sister got the puppies the day before and couldn’t leave them at home.

By the time we made the trip to Austin, the walk had been going on for about an hour.

If walking from the parking garage with three puppies and a 4-year-old wasn’t slowing us down enough, we soon realized these puppies were going to steal the show — and that we wouldn’t get much walking done.

About every 10 steps we had to stop so a passerby could pet the puppies. I imagine this is what it’s like for Beyonce and Jay Z to walk down any street in America.

One woman even asked if she could put the puppy on her baby in a stroller for a photo op.

Once we made it to the walk, it didn’t get much better. I knew people loved puppies but I had no idea it was like this.

Tourists at the Capitol asked to take video, and we said sure. As if we trained them, the puppies began rolling in the grass, chewing on each other, yipping and doing any number of other cute puppy things.

We hit our peak on the west side of the Capitol, when a swarm of sorority girls in matching oversized, pink T-shirts and leggings surrounded us. It was like a scene from a horror movie — at least 50 girls oohing and awing, dropping to their knees to roll in the grass with puppies. One girl lost her car key in the chaos.

Meanwhile, my friend’s son stood by helplessly.

He was happy to see people appreciating his new pets, but also terrified and upset about so much sharing.

Somehow we managed to make one lap around the building. It took what felt like hours, and I was worried my friend would feel like we didn’t do enough to honor her mom that day. That by distracting everyone, including us, from the purpose of the walk, we took away from this event.

I was wrong.

This is how my mom would have wanted it, she said. She wouldn’t want to see everyone sad. She would have loved how happy everyone was to see these puppies, and for them to smile during something so difficult.

She was exactly right. Stepping out in public to bring awareness to something so personal and emotional is hard. It’s painful and stressful and scary.

I’m glad we could make those who may be hurting and healing smile.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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