BOSTON -- Monday is the Boston Marathon, a tradition that goes back to 1897. Five years ago, two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three people, and injuring more than 250, including the couple you're about to meet -- and their special friend
It's a special day for the students at John F. Kennedy elementary school in Somerville, Massachusetts. They get to meet a highly-trained service dog named Rescue, and ask questions about what it's like to need one.
But here's the question that has taken Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky five years to answer: What does it take to get over the worst day of your life? Countless surgeries. Years of rehabilitation. Courage. Pain. A supportive family. Devoted friends. And a very special dog, with a goofy sense of humor.
"He just makes us laugh all the time," Jessica said.
Jessica and Patrick were newlyweds when the Marathon bombing robbed them of their legs, robbed them of their first year of marriage, forced them to endure despair, hopelessness, and anger.
"It's been an exhausting, emotional investment for both of us," Patrick said. "We've had to work really hard in individual therapy, in couples therapy, to make sense of all this."
Rescue came into their lives six months after the bombing, and immediately give Jessica a sense of independence and comfort. Yet she continued to struggle with the idea of giving up her irreparable second leg.
Finally, after years of agony, Jessica agreed to have that leg amputated as well.
"I'm not in constant pain and I think that's a big piece of it," Jessica said. "Chronic constant pain changes your whole personality. Right? I'm nicer now?
Now, they have a new children's book about the bond between human and service dog, entitled "Rescue and Jessica, A Life-Changing Friendship," and are touring schools around the country, talking about their experiences.
They said they specifically wrote a children's book because it was "so fun" to write.
The book never mentions the Boston Marathon bombing, but neither does it shy away from the dark place Jessica, who takes the form of a young girl in the book, found herself in -- and how she was literally rescued by love.
"We're hoping kids are going to stare at these pictures," Jessica said. "We want them to ask questions of this book. I think we're trying to give parents a tool to navigate discussions with people who look different, who get around differently. Talk about inclusion and compassion and teamwork."
Jessica says their black Lab was aptly named. But he had a lot of help.
"He's just softened every rough edge and brightened every dark moment. I call him my best medicine," Jessica said.
"Rescue's unbounded, unconditional loyalty to Jessica is so beautiful," Patrick said. "He will do anything for her. To us, he's also the embodiment of all the people who have come into our lives the last five years and have done anything for us."
The lesson now for the kids of John F. Kennedy Elementary School? Even in your darkest times, there will always be someone there to help.
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