In a family with seven special-needs children from five different countries and a mother from the United States who specializes in sign language, the family dog might feel out of place and ignored. That's not the case with Chloe, a black Labrador Retriever who started out as a service dog and evolved into the star of Christina Rogers' book "No Ordinary Dog, No Ordinary Family."
"I'm from Brazil, two sisters from China, one from Russia, one from Chile and one from Columbia and another from Brazil," said Christina, who is a junior at West Springfield. Christina and Jessica, 7, also from Brazil, are in wheelchairs while the other five sisters are deaf.
"It's basically a story of my life up to now," said Christina, describing the book she authored. "The main theme is that it's OK to be different."
Chloe started out helping Christina as a service dog when Christina had back surgery and now helps her with wheelchair difficulties. Chloe is being trained to help persons who are hearing impaired. The family trained her to respond to oven buzzers, doorbells and phones.
"She gets confused with the different sounds," Christina said.
Getting Chloe wasn't easy either, Christina said. After seeing service dogs with other children with disabilities while she was at a wheelchair race, Christina wanted a dog too as a companion. Service dogs are expensive though, so Christina applied for a grant and contacted the Make-A-Wish foundation. Both came through at the same time so Christina paid for the dog with the grant money and changed her wish to publishing the book.
"I wanted to do something that would be meaningful," she said.
IN APRIL, after Christina finished the book, her mother Phyllis Rogers called and told her to come right home from school. The next thing Christina knew, a police motorcade was escorting a UPS truck up the street.
"There were lots of balloons," said Kristen Brown, a friend from school who was at the delivery.
Following the delivery of the book, with extra copies, Christina had two book signings at school, at which she gave away several copies of her book. One signing was at lunch for the students and the other was after school for the teachers. Fellow West Springfield junior Emily Wrobel knew Christina from Keene Mill Elementary School, where they both attended.
"She's always been a caring person," Emily said.
The book is currently self-published through the Make-A-Wish foundation, but she's trying to get a publisher so that she can sell it through Amazon and book stores. A West Springfield government teacher, James Morris, who also had a book published, is helping Christina find a publisher.
"She's got a terrific little book," Morris said. "I sent it off to some people in New York. I think there's a good chance somebody out there might be interested in a book like this."
Christina started wheelchair racing at the age of 7 but put that aside over the past few months. She does like to swim though, and holds a world record for the breast stroke among wheelchair-users.
After graduating West Springfield High School, Christina said that she would like to go to college.