Sunday, November 24, 2013

From A to Z

We have always been dog people. There have been very few years that we've been married that we didn't have a dog. Over the years we've had several sad episodes when we've had to say good-bye to a couple of wonderful family pets, but despite the pain that brings, we've always felt that our family isn't complete without a dog.

A while ago, before we realized just how sick Bruiser was, we'd talked about getting another dog. We'd had large dogs for quite some time, and we thought having a smaller dog might be fun. We were certain Abby would love it, and convinced that Bruiser would enjoy the company as well. Jason did his homework and found a wonderful breeder of Australian Terriers. These seemed to be the perfect fit for us, and once we contacted Theresa we knew we were on the right track, so we officially added our names to their waiting list.

Before we knew it, Theresa contacted us to let us know that two litters were to be born, and we would be getting one of those puppies. We were thrilled - to say the least. Abby kept a close eye on the puppy cam and made sure to tell anyone that would listen about her new puppy - her "little" puppy.

Sadly, Bruiser was not to meet our newest addition. We have missed him greatly in the nearly two months that he has been gone. The house seemed emptier and we were sadder, but by the time he was gone we knew which one of those little puppies would be a part of our family, and this helped ease the pain. Zeke had been chosen for us.

We'd decided that when the time came to go get Zeke, Abby needed to be a part of that. So, not only would Abby be getting a puppy, but she would be taking her first flight on an airplane....and that brings us to this weekend. We had no idea how she would do on a plane. It isn't easy for Abby to sit still and be quiet, especially when she is surrounded by so many people that she hasn't met yet. I had visions of her trying to visit with everyone on the plane. She also has some trouble with loud noises and the unknown. We couldn't do anything about her outgoing personality, but we could prepare her as best as possible. So, we set about practicing. We talked though what would happen and even walked through pretend metal detectors in order to get to our pretend plane. Abby was ready, but I was still nervous.

Abby is fairly bursting with excitement.
I shouldn't have been. Abby was a pro, and so incredibly excited about getting her puppy. I cannot tell you how proud we were of that little girl. Soon enough we were pulling up to Theresa's house, moments away from meeting Zeke for the first time. I wasn't prepared for the tears that clogged my throat as I watched Abby and Zeke meet face to face. Abby was in heaven, in the midst of all of those wonderfully happy dogs, and incredibly nice people. I cannot say enough good about Theresa and her family. Not only do they responsibly breed excellent dogs, but they do it with grace, style, and hospitality that is matched by few. They welcomed us into their home and treated us like honored guests.

Abby continued to do wonderfully, but before long the travel and schedule changes got the best of her. She was tired and needed rest. After an early bedtime she was up and ready to go for round two today. Knowing that Abby was now a pro, we were curious to see how Zeke would handle the airplane.

By the time we landed it was clear, we had a couple of pretty awesome kiddos. Abby was once again  stellar when it came to airplane etiquette, and Zeke....well, it wasn't until a surprised yip came from the dog carrier by our feet upon landing that anyone around us even knew that we had a dog with us. Yes, they both did wonderfully.

We got home from our whirlwind trip and had fun getting back to normal, and playing with the newest member of the gang. Tonight, as Zeke lay cuddled on my lap I couldn't help but think he will fit in here just fine, and that once again our family feels complete. As one person commented on Facebook, Abby and Zeke have us covered, from A to Z.

Abby dreaming of future flights.

These two were fast friends.

All smiles and ready to head home!

Sneaking in a quick nibble.

So much excitement wears a poor pup out.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It's been a while between posts, and although I've been quiet here, things have not been quiet around the Valente household. Life has a way of chugging right along, and quite frankly lately I feel like I'm running to keep up. I hadn't planned on writing a post tonight, but something happened today that I just needed to share.

To begin I need to back up - about 8 and a half years. Within hours of Abby's birth she was flown to the University of Michigan hospital. Everyone there was pretty fantastic, but there are a few lovely people that stand out. One of these angels was Nurse Joanie. Joanie was the one that got Abby chugging her bottle like a pro, she was the one that stayed well past her shift one night in order to make sure Abby's IV got put in right, and she was the one that told us the night before Abby came home, "You need to go out and have a nice dinner, just the two of you. After all, you have the world's most expensive babysitter." In short, we loved Nurse Joanie.

This afternoon, while my students were working quietly at their desks, my phone made an interesting "chirp". I looked down to see that I had a message from Nurse Joanie. After school I took a peek at it and saw that she was referring me to the blog of a lovely family who is currently at the U of M. In fact she was directing me to one particular post.

As soon as I could I popped over to the post and got to reading. I could feel the lump in my throat getting bigger as I realized what was to come. See, a few years ago Abby was chosen to be part of a special project for the new children's hospital U of M was building. The project was called "The Walls of Hope". Photographs of children who had been in the NICU were taken by a wonderful photographer and were paired with photos of them when they were at the hospital. These beautiful pictures now line the walls of the NICU and are there in order to offer hope to those parents who are currently spending many agonizing hours there. I sat at my desk reading about this young family, who had gone through a difficult birth which resulted in one of their twins needing to stay in the NICU. After receiving the news that, along with numerous health concerns, their daughter also had Down syndrome, the mother talked about walking the halls of the hospital. I could so clearly remember being there, having the feeling that all of my "plans" for Abby had changed and I was faced with a future that was uncertain and not what I had expected.

Just as this frightened mother was wondering what her daughter's future might look like, she spied Abby's picture. She saw her gentle smile and the sunlight shinning through her hair as she played in a field of flowers. She talked about how Abby's picture gave her hope. And that's when I cried.

Seeing Abby, along with the obvious fact that this young mother's faith is strong, had helped her come to the realization that her daughter's future was destined to be different, but it could be so much more than she'd ever expected.

Once again today I was reminded how very precious Abby is. I was once again amazed, and humbled, by my own child. I will never know how far reaching an impact that little girl has had. I will never know the number of lives that she has made better, by simply being who she is. Tonight I sit in amazement at the Great God who's wisdom is far beyond any I could ever have, and I am thankful - very thankful indeed.