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A Deaf Hero's Inspirational Quest for Love and Acceptance
By Connie Bombaci
iUniverseCopyright © 2017 Connie Bombaci
All rights reserved.
Comings and Goings
Winter had persisted for so long and had been dreadfully cold, and the warmth of spring seemed as if it might never arrive. But it was now April 10, and the air rustled the new leaves on the trees that surrounded the fenced cages that held the dogs. The grass was turning green while the daffodils and tulips were appearing in the gardens around the house that was perched atop the hill. Springtime brought new life and Vicki's puppies would soon be arriving. Vicki lay quietly in her cold, steel pen and sniffed the air. Instinctively, she was aware that something was changing. The temperature dropped and stray snowflakes announced a coming storm. Vicki knew she had to find shelter. She was alone and she was very cold.
Anna was the breeder's little girl who loved Vicki. But Anna wasn't home, so no one was coming to make sure that Vicki and her new puppies would be safely sheltered inside. Desperate to find cover, Vicki was relieved to discover that a hearty shove with her nose opened the little entrance to her outdoor run and allowed her to escape the wintry blast. Once inside, she pawed some rags into a soft cushion and settled down to await the birth of her puppies.
While the wind whistled and sleet pinged on the tin roof of the dog pen, the puppies were born. One by one nine wet and skinny puppies emerged. The tenth and final pup took much longer. It seemed he was reluctant to leave the safety of his mama's womb to enter an icy, strange, new world. While his brothers and sisters frantically searched for their mother's nipples, the tenth pup was content to snuggle close to the security of her body. She nuzzled him tenderly, and then licked him clean. Finally, Vicki rested while all of her babies blissfully suckled.
During the next few weeks Anna watched the puppies transform from wiggling, wrinkled newborns into soft, playful balls of white fur. Each day presented a new revelation. First, their eyes opened, and then as if by magic, the black markings that identified them as Dalmatians, began to appear. Anna must have delighted in their antics as they wrestled for position to nurse and chased one another's tails.
Anna loved all ten puppies. However, there was something about the tenth pup that put a smile on her face or a frown on her brow. He was smaller than the others, yet it was more than his size. Her watchful eyes detected that something was different about him, but she couldn't determine exactly what it was. She suspected that Vicki also sensed a difference because she watched over him more closely than she did the others. With maternal nudges of her nose, Vicki often encouraged him to join the other pups at play, yet he preferred to remain in the safety of her warmth. But his difference was apparent to Vicki and Anna.
Anna loved cuddling and fussing over the puppies. They made wonderful playmates and were more fun than her lifeless dolls. After they were weaned, she took pleasure in delivering food to them. All of the other puppies went scampering around her when Anna came out of the house with their bowls clanging together. They knew the exact moment she came out the backdoor, except for Number 10. There was no mistaking the loud bang as the old screen door slammed behind her. Nevertheless, when they started to run off, Number 10 immediately took notice and joined in the chase. He seemed hesitant about events around him, and his littermates always responded before he did. As soon as he got any visual cues as to what was occurring, he joined in the romp. It just took him a moment or two. Anna and Vicki were more protective of him, and his favorite spots were being nestled with Vicki or cradled by Anna.
Gradually the days became warmer. The days turned into weeks, and the puppies grew not only in size but in the numbers of their spots. Number 10 played with his littermates totally unaware of a looming event. It would not be long before Anna's father put the puppies up for sale, and they would go to new homes. During dinner one evening, Anna's father, Franklin Brown, made the announcement she had dreaded hearing.
"The puppies are almost eight weeks old," Father said in his stern voice. "I think it's time for me to sell them." He was a hard man who didn't take much interest in their upkeep. Puppies were only important to him if he could make a profit from their sale. Anna wanted to keep all her playmates but knew there was no way that would ever happen. She kept silent and secretly prayed that no one would buy her favorite pup, Number 10. The bond between the two had become strong, and there existed a closeness that was undeniable.
The days that followed were busy getting ready for the sale. Franklin placed an advertisement in the local newspaper and cut the grass while Anna and her mother cleaned up the yard from all the winter debris. Anna also accompanied her parents when the puppies were taken to the veterinarian for their initial shots and examinations.
During his exam of Number 10, the vet grimaced and asked, "Does this little guy hear you?" The question didn't come as a complete surprise to Anna. She and Vicki had been protective of him because he was different from the others, but she was horrified to hear the doctor say to her father, "You have to think about what you are going to do with this pup. You won't be able to sell him and, as you must already know, many breeders recommend that deaf puppies be destroyed." Anna's heart sank in her chest, and she was terrified to think that this was a possibility.
During the drive home, Anna fretfully clung to the young pup. Obviously, he didn't understand the reason, but he must have loved being cozied up against her body. He licked her like he wanted to make it all better, kissing her chin and face with his tiny, puppy tongue. What he didn't know was that Anna just wanted to keep him from being destroyed.
Finally, she dared to ask the question, "Father, what is going to happen to my puppy?" Anna hugged him even closer and whispered, "I think you're worth more than any other puppy ever! I love you and I want to keep you. I can help you and I promise that I'll always take care of you." Although the pup couldn't hear her words, he felt her loving touch.
Anna's mother swallowed hard before she could whisper into her daughter's ear, "We'll have to pray and hope real hard, Sweetheart." Elizabeth Brown was already planning some way to convince her husband to allow Anna to keep her puppy.
Everything was in readiness for the puppy sale. Bathed and wearing colored collars, the puppies entertained visitors who came for inspection. Anna's pup sat a distance away and carefully watched. Although no one had mentioned the problem of his deafness since the visit to the veterinarian, Anna was certain that her parents had discussed the matter when she was not present. She longed to question her mother about it, but she decided it might be best to avoid the issue for the time being.
As the days passed, Vicki anxiously sniffed each person who entered the yard. Anna's heart must have hurt as she watched sure that Vicki was sad to see her puppies go. Unnoticed by everyone but Anna, however, Vicki tucked Number 10 close to her whenever strangers were present. Eventually, buyers took each of the nine brothers and sisters away to their new homes. Because her father bred the pups for profit, Anna found it extremely difficult to believe that she would be allowed to keep and protect her puppy. But for the time being, Number 10 was still at home and he was glad to be there with his mother and loving human.
After all the other puppies were sold, Anna feared the moment of truth had arrived. In an attempt to win her father's favor, she spent extra time helping him with chores and errands. One evening while he read the newspaper, she brought him a cup of coffee and took a seat on his footstool.
Finally, she took a deep breath and with all the courage she could muster, she asked the important question, "Father, will you let me keep my little puppy?" Without pause she continued her pleas, "I'll take care of him and do anything you want me to! He won't be a bother, honest! You won't even know that he is around and ..."
Father slammed down his newspaper. "We can't afford another dog! What with all the food and veterinary bills, it doesn't make sense to spend money on a dog that can't hear and is worthless. My answer is 'No!' We aren't keeping the dog! It can't hear. It's worthless and I can't even breed him. It's better to just get rid of him now and have him put down."
Anna was devastated and desperately pleaded, "But I love him and he loves me. I don't want you to take him away. Anything! I'll do anything if you will let me keep him! Please, Father! Please!"
Franklin was an abrasive man who considered himself to be the head of his household and was not accustomed to having his authority challenged in any way. Faced with his wife's rare look of determination, he stopped his tirade and went back to his reading. The unbearable, deafening silence seemed eternal. Anna's mother placed a finger to her lips and motioned for Anna to stay silent. Elizabeth Brown knew her husband and believed that his love for his daughter might win out over Anna's assertive pleas.
Glancing to his wife and then to Anna, Franklin announced sharply, "All right, you may keep the puppy. But ... (another long pause) first, you must agree to ALL my rules and conditions. You better listen before you make promises that you can't keep, Anna, because there will be absolutely NO exceptions. And, if you break the rules just once, the dog goes! Is that understood, Anna?"
"Yes, Father! Anything! I promise, truly I do! I'll do anything," Anna fervently replied.
"First, the dog must live outdoors in his own pen. I will not tolerate dogs in the house at any time. NO exceptions. You will be fully responsible for his care. You will not neglect your schoolwork or your chores. Your grades must be good and you must do more chores besides your regular ones because of this dog. It takes a lot of work to take care of a dog. Otherwise, the dog goes. Is that understood?"
"Oh, yes, yes, yes," cried Anna happily. "I'll do anything you say. Thank you, Father!" She ran to her father and hugged him tightly. She kissed him on both cheeks, and then with a jubilant cry, squealed, "Thank you!" Instantly she disappeared out the kitchen door to see Vicki and her pup to tell them the good news. Uncomfortable with Anna's outburst of affection, Anna's father shook his head and went back to his reading and coffee, pretending not to notice his wife's sly smile of approval. Even Franklin had a momentary expression of satisfaction.
Anna knew that her father meant every word of what he said so she went right to work cleaning the cage and making sure there was plenty of water. Food, on the other hand, was getting low in the bin, and she worried that there would not be enough. But, Anna's pup was saved, and if he understood the events of that day, Number 10 would feel joy in having a home.
Number 10's hope was to stay with his loving Anna forever.CHAPTER 2
The First Year
The summer sun grew warmer, and Number 10 must have loved each new day with his anticipation of playing with Anna. She rushed home from school every afternoon eager to see her puppy. She rolled on the grass, and relished his gentle kisses lavished all over her face. Anna had never known such happiness and she prayed it would last forever. Of course, Anna made sure that her homework and chores were done before she even thought about playtime. Nothing could go unfinished if the two were to stay together. Father hadn't made an empty threat. She must fulfill the promises she made to him when he agreed to let her keep the puppy. He meant every word.
Every day the puppy grew bigger than the day before. He played more, jumped more, barked more and he ate more. The food bin emptied faster, and Franklin didn't fill it up as often as he used to. He also began to complain about the pup's barking. "That darn dog is too loud. Quiet him down, Anna. Quiet him down or else!"
Anna fearfully replied, "He is just so excited to play, Father. I'll get my chores done faster so he doesn't bark as much. Honest I will." True to her word, Anna did all her chores, certain that this was going to be the happiest summer of her life.
School ended for the year and Anna was free to remain at home with her puppy. Together, they played in the grass and took long walks along the country roads. While Anna knelt to pick a bouquet for her mother, the puppy chewed on her shoelaces and stalked shadows created by the branches waving in the warm breeze. The puppy liked to chase the movement, and it looked like he was smiling as he pounced on each shadow.
The arrival of nice weather inspired local townspeople to spruce up their homes, and Franklin's carpentry business improved. This required him to be away from home more than usual, so Anna took it upon herself to do more of the yard work. She weeded the garden and raked up leaves, sticks, and other debris left behind by the storms of winter. The puppy decided that the sticks she had gathered were for him to play with, and he scampered off with them. When Anna pursued him to retrieve the sticks, it became a game that they loved to play.
One sunny afternoon their lives were turned topsy-turvy when a gray van pulled into the yard directly across from the dog cages. Franklin walked over and talked with the scruffy man who drove the vehicle that was crammed with crates. Anna looked puzzled because she didn't know what they were talking about. What she didn't know was that the harmony of their lives was about to be shattered. What appeared at first to be a cordial conversation suddenly deteriorated into an exchange of arm waving and angry faces. Both men strode over to the pens. Watching carefully from the garden, Anna and Number 10 were horrified to see Franklin come out with two of the dogs. He leashed Vicki who struggled to get loose from his tight grip on her collar. He handed her over to this uniformed man, who led the reluctant dogs into the back of his van and drove off. Elizabeth was peering out the kitchen window and buried her face in her apron to hide her tears. Anna wanted to demand why Vicki was taken away. The angry look on her father's face suggested she keep quiet. Frightened, she gathered her pup in her arms and disappeared into the dilapidated tool shed at the back of the garden.
Despite knowing that Number 10 couldn't hear her words, she still whispered into his velvety soft ear, "Don't worry. Nobody is taking you away."
After a while, Elizabeth called out for Anna to come into the house. As Anna put her pup into his pen for the night, he jumped onto his hind legs with his front paws on the hard, metal wire of the cage. He did not want to be left alone. Number 10 loved being with Anna and wanted to go everywhere she went. But Anna's father had set down the law when he said, "No dogs in the house." The pup didn't understand being all alone in the steel pen. New England nights were cool and he didn't want to be separated from the warmth of Anna's embrace. Number 10 must have missed his mama, too. The young pup just wanted love, and he wanted to be with Anna.
Dinner for Anna and her parents was uncomfortable that evening. Her parents ate in stony silence and Anna was too upset to be hungry. She couldn't figure out why this terrible thing had happened, but she hated that the horrible man took Vicki away. Anna was angry with her father for allowing this to happen. She hoped that something would happen so her family could get Vicki back home again.
That night when her mother came to hear Anna's prayers and tuck her into bed, Anna dared to sob the question that had haunted her, "Mother, why were our dogs taken away?" For what seemed like hours, Anna's mother looked down in silence. She was always straightforward with Anna and could be trusted to be honest, even with answers that were hard to hear.
Slowly and quietly Elizabeth said with a lump in her throat, "Our pups were taken because we aren't able to take care of them anymore. People say that we aren't a good place for the dogs to live."
While Anna didn't like this reply, she could understand. She witnessed for herself how the cages were becoming rundown, and the food bin wasn't being filled as frequently. She had to scrape the bottom to get a meager amount to put in her pup's bowl. But this made her rage inside, and it also made her anger grow toward her father. She knew that he didn't spend time at the kennels anymore, and she knew he didn't care because the dogs weren't making him money. To make matters worse, he didn't make sure that there was enough food. Over time the dogs became dirtier, hungrier, lonelier, and sicker.
The honking of ducks flying south announced the end of summer. Their call along with the gold appearing on the maple leaves served as a reminder that school and autumn activities were about to begin. Number 10 desperately wanted Anna to remain at home with him, but one of the ultimatums her father had stated was that Anna must do well in school.
Excerpted from Hogan's Hope by Connie Bombaci. Copyright © 2017 Connie Bombaci. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part 1: Pain,
Comings and Goings, 3,
The First Year, 9,
Part 2: Hope,
The Rescue, 23,
A Dream Come True, 28,
A Growing Family, 39,
Part 3: Life,
"Lights, Camera Action", 45,
The Mission Emphasized, 48,
An Unforeseen Challenge, 54,
First Family Vacation, 63,
A Rising Star, 76,
Favorite Things, 85,
Therapy Work for Children and Seniors, 105,
Part 4: Peace,
My Final Days, 113,
Appendix 1: Hogan's Appearances, 119,
Appendix 2: Hogan's News Coverage and Publications, 123,
Appendix 3: Hogan's ASL Vocabulary, 125,
Appendix 4: Beginning Letter, 127,
Appendix 5: Tips for Living with a Deaf Dog, 129,