Dogs can touch people’s lives in profound ways and “Hogan’s Hope” is a story that illustrates this fact beautifully. Hogan was a deaf dog that forever changed the life of the people who loved him. Inspired by his life, his owners decided to write a book about love, acceptance, and hope to carry on the legacy of the beloved pet which they had adopted in the early 1990s.
Hogan was a Dalmatian who proved that animals with disabilities can still make wonderful companions. One of his owners, Connie Bombaci, eventually trained two deaf dogs—Hogan and his companion, Georgia—to respond to American Sign Language. This astounded Tufts University Foster Small Animal Hospital audiologists and renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman.
Connie Bombaci is a retired educator turned author who is a compassionate optimist who credits her Christian faith in giving her the strength to find good in the world and protect God’s creatures. An animal lover since childhood, Connie’s rescue of Hogan from severe abuse made her even more dedicated to helping abandoned, orphaned, or otherwise needy animals from harm’s way. Connie values life and hopes that her book will inspire other rescuers, children, and adults alike.
Connie Bombaci recently granted an exclusive interview where she discussed “Hogan’s Hope” and more.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you first discover your love for animals and how much did your childhood influence your interest in other species?
Connie Bombaci (CB): I had loved and cherished animals as far back as I can remember. And, being a senior, that’s a good, long time. Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I was blessed to have been able to watch and experience the smaller creatures like squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and birds. My amazing mother taught me to care for all God’s creatures and be responsible for their protection and provision. My father often helped me rescue any injured or orphaned animal or bird that I brought home. While his big hands dwarfed the critter, his gentleness offered calm.
Story: I remember the orphaned bunny that became entrapped in the basement that my father was building for our new home. After several days of not being able to capture the little guy, we made a nest of grass next to the food and water that we had been leaving. Early the next morning, the scared, tiny bunny was fast asleep but allowed us to pick him up. Having him nestle into my shirt gave me great joy and provided me the opportunity to experience another species acceptance of help – trust at its best. I promised never to break that trust. The day that he was old enough and ready to return to nature’s environment, we all wept happy tears.
Story: I found an injured, baby squirrel and took him home to give him warm care and recovery time. His name quickly became Quarrel, a name of a squirrel from a childhood, animal movie.
MM: How did you come to meet Hogan and get involved in animal rescue?
CB: I met Hogan at the Connecticut Humane Society in October 1993. My husband, Jim, and I had adopted/rescued a black Labrador named India, who I believed needed a playmate. While she went with me everywhere, she was playful, vivacious, and loving of all other dogs. Jim was not quite sure about getting a second dog but finally gave in to my constant pleas. However, he did put some stipulations on the adoption. The pup had to be the same age: 18-months, same size: 55 lbs., male, neutered, and short haired. He was sure that I wouldn’t locate another dog meeting those qualifications. After calling as many rescue organizations that I could find across the state, I decided to call the CT Humane Society again. Last, on its long list of available adoptees, was “18-month-old, male, neutered, Dalmatian…. Deaf.” I didn’t even hear the word “deaf!” Being deaf didn’t matter, and this glorious pup fit all the things that we could have hoped for in our new family member.
We named him Hogan – native American for “shelter” – because we vowed that he would never be without a sheltering home again. Hogan was severely neglected and had never been inside a home. Dalmatians are not “all weather” dogs, so the difficult, bitterly cold winters were excruciating for him. The loneliness was unbearable.
MM: Hogan was deaf, so what challenges do special needs animals face that you wish the public knew more about?
CB: My dream is for no animal to be discarded, unloved, unaccepted, abused, misunderstood, or neglected in any way whatsoever. If animals with special needs are accepted and understood, they will be given the love, proper care, and attention that they are so worthy to receive and realize in their lives. Animals can learn. They love with their whole hearts. They want to give love in real relationships that they were born to be part. The entire public needs to comprehend and ensure that the needs of our animals must be provided. As it says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.” I believe that we are given the responsibility to make sure that their needs and well-being are taken care of in the way that we, as humans, would want to be cherished. Additionally, it’s not up to the other guy – it’s up to us to make it happen.
MM: What prompted you to write “Hogan’s Hope” and how did you find a publisher for the book?
CB: My motivation to write “Hogan’s Hope” originated in Hogan’s inspiration to persevere and triumph over adversity. I thought that if a deaf pup can teach me to choose hope when the odds are stacked against me, then I must have been given the mission to share that message. My mother, who was filled with great faith, also encouraged me with her gentle words, “Connie, you need to write his story.”
I am considered an independent author, but I have the help of a hybrid publishing company that formats and prepares the manuscript for publication. The first company – I found quite by accident. They actually “found” me. I must have been exploring on the internet how to publish and clicked on a button that notified them that I was interested in writing Hogan’s book. That also provided an excellent incentive for me to set the goal and move forward.
MM: What percentage of the book proceeds go to charity, and how did you select the charities to give to?
CB: My husband, Jim, and I decided from the beginning that any profits made would be given to help others. We consider ourselves to be exceptionally blessed, and it’s our mission to share our gifts and Hogan’s message of hope and his rewards with others. The charities range but focus on our military service members, especially those deployed, and our precious animals who need rescuing. Sometimes, when we are part of a community event signing our books, a need is identified. For instance, a local town holds a dog fair every year and raises money for Homeward Bound – a non-profit organization that transports dogs from the “red list” to their forever homes. It just makes sense to help them! The Bombaci family also has decided to continue awarding a scholarship to a graduating senior at the local high school for outstanding service to others, especially animals. The sales of Hogan’s Hope help make this possible.
MM: What inspired you to publish a Christian version of “Hogan’s Hope”?
CB: My original manuscript had the Bible Scripture included. However, on the advice of my editors, I removed them for the book to be appealing to a broader audience and possibly included in schools. The book kept “calling” me, and I decided to go back into the manuscript and include the scripture verses that support Hogan’s journey and, hopefully, touch the hearts of the readers. I am delighted that things happened as they did. The Lord had a plan, and it’s working. The book cover and subtitle are different, and the manuscript is punctuated with hope-filled verses.
A few people scoffed at me for wanting two of the same book and putting both on the market. They told me that the Christian edition wouldn’t sell. However, both are selling at about the same rate and provide our wonderful readers the choice. In fact, some buy our book because it has Scripture.
MM: How did you go about getting the book publicized, and what sort I feedback have you gotten about it?
CB: Marketing is hard work, and I knew nothing when I began. Facebook offered me a large audience. Book signings at bookstores, animal events, town markets/events, and craft fairs are often scheduled. I have had a few radio interviews, a podcast, and several television appearances on our major local network as well as a community channel.
MM: Might you write other books in the future and, since Hogan, what other animals have you rescued?
CB: I am currently working on a children’s version of Hogan’s Hope that will show children that we can all choose hope and offer love and acceptance to everyone.
Since Hogan, we have rescued a yellow Lab, Clarence, (named after the angel in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”). He was going to be destroyed at the age of four-months because the family wanted to go on vacation! We scooped him up, and, again, the Lord knew what He was doing. Clarence proved to be a real angel by becoming my devoted, dedicated, and loving service dog.
We rescued a deaf Dalmatian puppy who was only eight-weeks old. She was thrown away before this age because she is deaf. Her name is Judea, after the province where Jesus was born. She helps “serve” me by picking things up for me, wearing a walking harness to help stabilize me on my not-so-good days, and providing me with great love and acceptance.
We also rescued a small, extremely sweet Beagle who my dear mother named Heidi. My parents had come to live with us during their final days, and my mother expressed that she always wanted a dog of her “very own” – one who she could spoil, let up on the furniture. We had my Clarence, but the pressure of his size and weight against her arms and legs was too heavy for her frail body! I was surprised because our family had dogs and other pets throughout my childhoods. What I learned was that my dear father set the boundaries, and these included pets not being in bed, on the furniture, or giving treats. So…enter Heidi! Heidi went running to my mother as soon as she entered our home, and they became tighter than Velcro. My mother’s little girl stayed by her side every second of every day.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about adopting a pet with a disability?
CB: To love, accept, understand their needs, and adapt! Every one of us has a need. Each one of us is different – being different makes us very special! I heard a quote recently – “Don’t get frustrated. Stay focused.” This is a significant principal to keep clearly in our minds and actions, no matter what the challenge or difference that’s being cared for or addressed.
MM: What was your experience at the recent Long Island Pet Expo like?
CB: Meeting the many different and interesting people and sharing the message of hope with them is uplifting. We encounter so many people who have warm and encouraging hearts, many of whom need to talk and share parts of their journeys in life. Amazing folks like you! Moreover, the owners of this Family Pet Expo are genuine, caring, and kind people who desire to offer great information about our precious animals.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
CB: Admittedly, we ardently want to sell our book abundantly. The more we sell, the more help we can offer to our deployed service members and animals in need. Our readers make this possible, and they give a gift of themselves while buying the book either for themselves or as a gift. I would like to emphasize that being different is what makes us special! May we all love and accept one another, and, as Christopher Reeve said, “Once [we] choose hope, anything is possible.”
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