With the long, dark winter finally behind us, a brisk March windushered in spring--and on its heels, an angel in the night came tolive with us.

A sudden gust of wind caught the bottom of his coat as my husband,Forrest, carefully tucked Lauren, the youngest of our five children,into the baby's car seat. The wind was unusually bad, making our shortdrive to the airport difficult. From the passenger's seat, I watched asForrest's knuckles gripped the top of the steering wheel. He fought tokeep our minivan from drifting into the next lane. It seemed a fittingmetaphor to describe the past year--a real white-knuckle ride!

Our youngest twins, Lauren and Branden, were born eight weekspremature. Within minutes of her birth, Lauren, the smaller of the two,had stopped breathing. In the hospital, I watched in horror as her tinypink lips turned blue. She was quickly resuscitated, whisked off to theneonatal intensive care unit, and placed on a ventilator. Brandendidn't fare much better. A month later, Lauren and Branden, both onapnea monitors, came home to meet their brother and sisters. The oldertwins, Brianna and little Forrest, were three, and Taylor was two. Wequickly established a routine. Within weeks, we were ready to welcomeyet another new member of the family, Zeke. We didn't think that ourfamily would be complete without a dog! So we were on our way on thiswindy night to bring him home.

At the airport, I leaned over to Forrest and whispered, "What if itdoesn't work out? Zeke's two years old and probably set in his ways.What if he can't adjust?"

"The breeder was sure he would, Diana," Forrest reminded me.

I had searched long and hard for a responsible collie breeder before Ifound Susan. After I explained that we have five children--two withserious health problems--she wisely steered us away from a puppy.

"Diana," Susan said when I called her, "I have a two-year-old championcollie. Zeke will be perfect for your family. He's a beautiful tricolorand a true collie in every sense. He loves life, and he especiallyloves children."

Even though I had my heart set on having a puppy, with Susan'srecommendation, I agreed to give Zeke a try.

Now my thoughts were interrupted by a high-pitched squeal. "Zeke'shere!" announced Brianna. An attendant ushered us to a large crate,where I saw a long nose pushed up against the wire with a mass of ebonyand white fur behind it. After speaking a fewreassuring words to Zeke, I nodded to the attendant and said, "We'reready."

Zeke inched his way out, looking cautious yet curious. Within seconds,my animal lover Brianna threw her tiny arms around Zeke's neck, buriedher face in his long fur, and murmured, "I love you, Zeke." LittleForrest added, "We're your new family. Welcome home!"

Zeke quickly settled in to his new life with us. We arrangedhis bed in the master bedroom. But right from the start, Zeke made itclear that he preferred sleeping in the nursery between the babies'cribs. There was barely room to move with five oxygen canisters, asuction machine, and all of the other medical equipment in the room.But the nurse who helped us care for the twins didn't mind, so Idecided to let Zeke stay with her and the infants.

She'snot breathing!

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  • One night, about three weeks after his arrival, Zeke jumped up on myside of the bed and thwacked me with his paw. I glanced at the clock;it was 3:30 a.m. "Go back to sleep, Zeke," I murmured. Zeke refused totake no for an answer. Instead, he ran barking back and forth betweenmy side of the bed and the door.

    "Shhhhh...you'll wake the children," I chided as I got up, thinking heprobably had to go out. I headed to the back door, butZeke wouldn't follow. Barking, he turned and ran in the oppositedirection.

    "Zeke, come," I called. Annoyed, I shuffled down the hall after himinto the nursery. Why isn't he listening? I wondered. "Zeke, come," Icalled again. It's useless, I thought and resigned myself to the factthat I would just need to lead him out by his collar. I watched as Zekejumped up with his paws on Lauren's crib rail. I placed two fingersunder his collar and casually glanced down at Lauren. Oh my God! She'snot breathing!

    I yanked Lauren's lifeless body from the crib as I screamed,"Forrest, call 911!" The baby hung in my arms like a rag doll. Ifrantically blew the first rescue breath past her blue lips. Her salivatasted salty as it mingled with the tears streaming down my face.Suddenly, I heard a choking sound. I quickly turned Lauren over toclear her airway. When I turned her back toward me, she started to cry."She's breathing!" I exclaimed, relief flooding my body.

    "Why didn't the monitor go off?" Forrest asked the nurse. Afterexamining the monitor more closely, Forrest had his answer. He turnedto the nurse and said, "The wires are crossed." Furious, I punched thenursing agency number into the phone while we waited for the ambulanceto arrive. Within minutes, we were given a new nurse. When theparamedics arrived, they checked Lauren over. "She looks like she'sdoing fine now," one of them said. "You got to her just in time."At the hospital the next morning, Lauren was given a batteryof tests. There was no permanent damage. Thank God! It was a miracle.Exhausted and relieved, we took Lauren home. Zeke greeted us at thefront door.

    "Zeke, what would we have done without you?" I asked.

    I carried Lauren, who had fallen asleep in the car, into the nursery.Zeke followed closely behind and watched as I laid Lauren in her crib.Satisfied that she was fine, Zeke contentedly plopped onto the rug inhis usual spot next to Lauren's crib.

    Forrest turned to me and asked, "Do you think the baby will be allright?"

    I glanced at Zeke and replied, "She'll be fine."

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