Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeEducationBESConnie Bombaci of Killingworth, Changing Hearts & Minds About Deaf Dogs

Connie Bombaci of Killingworth, Changing Hearts & Minds About Deaf Dogs

By Kathy Brown.

Connie and Judea at Burr

When I heard that a Killingworth woman and her deaf Dalmatian, Judea, would be visiting Burr Elementary School in late January, I was intrigued. Then I found out that she wrote three books. Then I found out that she was the same woman who had taught at Haddam Killingworth High School for 17 years, and had a Service Award named after her. Who is this talented and multifaceted woman? Connie Bombaci, teacher extraordinaire.

Connie, who retired from teaching in 2006, brings Judea with her to visit libraries, civic organizations, schools, and nursing homes, with the goal of “offering an invaluable learning experience and the story of courage, love, acceptance, and hope.” According to Connie, January through March are the slow months where there are “only” a couple presentations/signings a month. During the other months, “We are BUSY! We often have both Saturdays and Sundays in our calendars!” said Connie. Judea is Connie’s third deaf dog.

Connie at Burr

When Connie goes on one of her visits, she wants to “teach young children always to hope and to love and accept one another, despite any differences,” explained Connie. “Through demonstration, video, storytelling, and reading, our presentation’s purpose is to spread the message that hope prevails for everyone, no matter what the hurdle. 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 hope is indeed possible.” 

Connie’s love of animals goes back to childhood. “I found an injured, baby squirrel and took him home to give him warm care and recovery time,” said Connie. “His name quickly became Quarrel, a name of a squirrel from a childhood, animal movie. After his release, he never left our yard and lived years sitting within reach as my father built our new house.” She explained that her parents were good role models. “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.”

When they first adopted Hogan, Connie and Jim couldn’t find any resources about deaf dogs. They decided to use American Sign Language with him, because that way they wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Hogan learned two signs within the first 24 hours. Connie wanted to share her knowledge with others. Word spread quickly. In the mid- ’90s, Hogan (as well as Connie) appeared  on the Oprah Winfrey Show, WFSB, Walt Disney’s World’s Largest Dog PartyDateline NBC, Good Morning America, and Hogan’s story was written about in many newspapers and magazines.  Connie thought about writing Hogan’s story in 1996, however, it wasn’t until 2016 that she began writing. She didn’t have confidence in her writing ability, but her mother said, “Connie, write his story. He has changed the lives of thousands around the world and you must share it. Just sit and write.” And so she did. “[I] desired to share Hogan’s miraculous and courageous journey with the world so that animals with any challenge can realize a life filled with unconditional love and unyielding acceptance. All God’s creatures, two- or four-legged, winged, or scaled, deserve to be treated with care and kindness no matter what the particular circumstance, challenge, or handicap. Hogan’s Hope is different from other pet or animal books because it is more than a story. It’s a message, an inspiration, that not only shows the depth of an animal’s spirit, feelings, and purpose, but encourages readers to personalize the significance for their own lives.” iUniverse contacted Connie and helped her publish the book. All the proceeds are donated to charity: animal groups and rescues, deployed military personnel, and non-profits.

Connie’s two books for adults, Hogan’s Hope: Finding a Forever Home of Love and Acceptance, Hogan’s Hope: A Deaf Dog, A Christian’s Faith, A Courageous Journey, as well as two children’s books, Hogan’s Hope: Finding a Forever Home of Love and Acceptance, along with a Christian Edition of the same title, have been met with acclaim, such as 2018 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal, 2018 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Medal, 2017 Best Book Award Finalist, 2019 Christian Independent Publishers Association, 2018 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medalist for Christian Non-Fiction.

I read Hogan’s Hope: Finding a Forever Home of Love and Acceptance, as well as Hogan’s Hope: Finding a Forever Home of Love and Acceptance, which chronicled the story of Connie’s first deaf dog, Hogan.  The story begins with Number Ten (as Hogan is originally named) in a home where he has the love of a young child, but feels the anger of an adult. Number Ten eventually gets placed with the Connecticut Humane Society, and Connie and her husband Jim adopted him in 1993, as a playmate for their other dog, India. What follows is the story of Connie and Jim bringing Hogan from a fearful, hopeless dog to a confident, engaged dog who learned more than 70 signs so that his humans could communicate with him. This was accomplished with a lot of patience and love, and a willingness to learn a whole new language.

Along with Hogan, Connie and Jim adopted Georgia in 1994. Georgia was supposed to be a foster pup, just staying with Connie and Jim until a proper home could be found, but Connie says, “I am a foster failure. One night when I had gone to bed before Jim with Georgia sleeping by my side, Jim came to say good night. I was sitting up in bed weeping. Jim knew immediately why I was crying, smiled, and said, ‘Yes, we can keep her.'” Judea was adopted in 2010. She said, “I will always adopt as long as I am able to offer them the very best care.” It is obvious that her heart is very willing.

Hogan doing a lure course

In 1998, Connie and Jim moved to Killingworth, after building a post-and-beam home on a lot that had room for Hogan’s “lure” course. A lure course is a course where a dog chases an artificial lure called a “bunny” across a field, and after Connie and Jim attended a summer camp for dogs, Hogan was all about the lure course. He also enjoyed agility courses.

Neal Perron, with his daughter at a book signing event

Connie wasn’t just an advocate for deaf dogs. She was a teacher at HKHS for 17 years. She taught Television Production, and was well liked by her students. “Mrs. Bombaci was my teacher for communications at HK for TV Production,” said Neal Perron, HKHS ’94. “She cared about and listened to her students. She treated us as equals.” He brought his daughter to one of Connie’s book signings as well. “It was amazing to see her with [her dog] first hand. Mrs. Bombaci is the most caring, compassionate person I have ever known  When you meet her the first time, you fall in love with her and her work with deaf Dalmatians.”

“After graduating HKHS and going to school with a specialty in TV production, I went on to work in multiple newsrooms before transitioning into higher education,” said Courtney Davis Hissong, HKHS ’94. “I couldn’t have done it as easily or as well had it not been for Mrs. B’s program.”

Connie introduced the HKTV Holiday Show, which is still in production today, that gives back to a deserving charity in our community. “I started the Holiday Show along with the TV Production students in an effort to bring the entire HKHS and its community together to help others who are experiencing a need,” explained Connie. “This spectacular show continues . . . and I am grateful for their willing hearts to continue this important fundraiser and activity. It teaches the students and the HK community that we need to focus on others rather than ourselves during the holidays.” To see information on the 2019 Holiday Show, click HERE.

Connie with Judea

Unfortunately, she was advised by her doctors to go on medical disability, and Connie retired in June 2006. “I never wanted to leave my job,” said Connie. “I loved the students and staff and continue to miss them all terribly. Many of my former students stay in touch with me, which is humbling and grand.” She was so well known for giving back to others that in 2006, then Superintendent Gary Mala and the Board of Education established a Service Award in her name. This annual award is presented to a member of the graduating class who has demonstrated significant and genuine dedication to volunteer service to HKHS and its community as selected by the Bombaci family and its committee.

One of the reasons that Connie does so many school and organization visits with her deaf dogs is to spread the message that all animals are deserving of love. “I just 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,” said Connie. “Like any human who has special needs, we need to make adaptations and adjustments.”

“Hogan was an incredible dog who was extremely inspiring to hope and always persevere, despite the myths, prejudices, and challenges of deafness,” said Connie. “He taught me how to hope and never give up.”

Photos provided by Connie Bombaci.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. My daughter gifted me with a signed copy of Hogan’s Hope. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Connie Bombaci is a wonderful writer and an outstanding human being. The world needs more people with the love and compassion that lives within Connie and her husband. God bless both of them and all their fur babies. 🙂

Comments are closed.

Must Read