HADDAM — An award-winning author from Killingworth who has written two memoirs about her experiences with a deaf Dalmatian that she taught to understand American Sign Language has penned a new children’s book.
Connie Bombaci’s third book, “Hogan’s Hope: Finding a Forever Home of Love and Acceptance,” is what she hopes is the first in a series written specifically to help teach young children learn to love and accept one another, despite their differences, she said.
Bombaci, an award-winning author, also wrote “Hogan’s Hope: A Deaf Hero’s Inspirational Quest for Love and Acceptance“ and “Hogan’s Hope: A Deaf Dog, A Christian’s Faith, A Courageous Journey.”
Hogan is among the 12 percent of Dalmatians that are born with congenital deafness. Nearly twice that number are deaf in one ear, according to Bombaci.
But with a pocket-sized handbook on sign language, Bombaci said she taught Hogan two signs — “sit” and “cookie” — within the first 24 hours.
Over the course of 13 years, Hogan learned 75 different signs, including “stay,” “jump,” “papa,’ “I love you,” and even his name, signed with a letter “H,” Bombaci said.
Hogan died in 2008. But the idea for the stories about the dog came to her in 1996.
With the first two books under her belt, in 2018, Bombaci won gold and bronze medals in the readers favorite category, the Dan Poynter Legacy Award, and earned gold status for her book trailer video, as well as in the nonfiction animals/pets category.
Her first children’s book was written in response to readers’ requests, she said. All proceeds will go to charity.
Bombaci recently gave a presentation on the book to second-grade students at Burr District Elementary School in Higganum. The visit included a video, storytelling and reading. “Our presentation’s purpose is to spread the message that hope prevails for everyone, no matter what the hurdle,” Bombaci said.
Burr school literacy coach Judy Nacca said the program, which included a visit from Bombaci’s Dalmatian Judea, captivated the children.
“Our second graders were transfixed by Connie’s moving story of Hogan, and her accompanying videos showcasing his amazing journey. Her mantra of how essential it is to accept and love others was threaded throughout her presentation.
“When Judea came out to meet the students, it was as though we’d all won the love lottery. I can’t describe the joy in the room. This was one of the most meaningful experiences by a guest author I’ve had in my 17 years in elementary education,” Nacca added.
Bombaci introduced the idea that “everyone is worthy of love and acceptance, and that with hope, anything is possible.”
Her new book aligns with school curricula that encourages young people to set themselves on a path in order to reach their full potential.
“Our children deserve the encouragement to believe that, no matter what the challenge in life, everyone is worthy of acceptance and love and that the fulfillment of their hopes is indeed possible,” Bombaci said.
“Knowing that our schools’ mission is to ensure that our students are engaged in a positive and nurturing learning environment that helps them develop intellectually, emotionally and socially, the newly published book is a perfect fit,” Bombaci said.
Bombaci first met Hogan at the Connecticut Humane Society in October 1993 after realizing her black Labrador needed a playmate, she said.
Her husband was unconvinced they needed a second dog, but eventually gave in — with stipulations, Bombaci said. He wanted a male dog about the same age as their other one, who weighed about 55 pounds. He also insisted they adopt a neutered and short-haired canine.
“He was sure that I wouldn’t find another dog meeting those qualifications,” she said. Bombaci accepted the challenge, and set off to call every rescue center she could find, including the Connecticut Humane Society.
Many dogs were up for adoption, including a deaf Dalmatian, but Bombaci missed the canine’s full description, which said it was hearing-impaired, she said.
“I didn’t hear ‘deaf,’ and became extremely excited. I wish that the public realized that the myths about our special-needs animals are untrue, and that they are all worthy of love and acceptance. Like any human who has special needs, we need to make adaptations and adjustments,” Bombaci said.
She knew animals of all types — just like people — thrive on tender, loving care and attention.
“Our wonderful animals deserve good care, love, and acceptance no matter what the difference, just as we would do for any human with a difference or challenge,” Bombaci said.
For information, visit Hogan’s Hope Book on Facebook and conniebombaci.com.