Fern Creek family finds inspiration from their toddler and his puppy

Kim Quintela
Kim Quintela
Chip and Cole Quintela
Chip and Cole Quintela

FERN CREEK, KY (WAVE) - If you asked Kim Quintela four years ago where she'd be, playing in her Fern Creek backyard with a toddler was not on the list.

"He was not planned. He was a surprise all the way around," said Kim while laughing about her youngest of five kids, Cole Santiago Quintela.

Cole's arrival was the first of many times he'd teach Kim and her husband Mark how to embrace the unexpected.

"The most scary events in my entire life have turned out to take us on a journey I wouldn't trade for anything," Kim said.

Kim will never forget the minute doctors came into the delivery room to say they needed to test her newborn for Down syndrome.

"I remember doing that night a bargaining prayer with God," recalled Kim. "I will never be bad again. I will do anything. Please let the genetics come back that he doesn't have that."

But before she could even get confirmation from those doctors, "I was so madly in love with that child at that point it broke my heart that he had that. That I was just crazy about him. I was ferocious over him."

At that point Kim and Mark knew they would do anything to give Cole a happy life, even if a simple one. "He will be able to function in society. Maybe he'll even drive. Maybe he'll get married."

It's why adding a one year-old black lab puppy to the already hectic Quintela world made complete sense.

"We got an email from our oldest Alexandra and she'd seen a clip about 4 Paws for Ability and helping different people with disabilities."

Kim applied immediately and was accepted not knowing the cost, which Kim says is $22,000.

"He should be making dinner right now," she joked.

The family had to come up with $13,000 of it, which they didn't have so once again Kim called on a higher power.

"I said, 'okay God, I'm turning this over to you. I've got too much on my plate I can barely breathe right now. If he's meant to have this dog, then bring it.'"

The bake sales, yard sales and silent auctions started and in two months the Quintelas had their money and a picture of the newest family member, Chip.

"All these good people start climbing out of the woodwork," said Kim. "You just can't even believe how many good hearts there are out there."

Training with Chip in Ohio was set for June, but when another family dropped out, the Quintelas got to meet Cole's new best friend six months early, weeks after Kim's busy world took yet another turn.

"In December I found out I had two lumps that are cancerous. Breast cancer," said Kim.

Kim needed a double mastectomy and after surgery won't be able to lift up her son for three weeks. While family and friends will be helping, Chip will be the only part of Cole's strict routine that stays the same.

"It means that Cole has a companion when I'm laying in the bed knocked out with pain medication," Kim said.

Chip is a companion who Kim has already learned to trust because she's seen what he's brought out in her little boy in less than month of living with the family. Before they even got Chip home from training Kim saw her son run for the first time.

"He has a little, funny run," said Kim, "but it's so adorable to just to see him do it because he didn't do it before."

In a simple game of catch, Cole is repeating words like ball, throw and sit. Up to three words at a time. Kim said those are all words Cole hadn't said before until Chip arrived.

So while most mothers would have never dreamed of adding a puppy and all the training that comes with him to the chaos of daily life. Kim knows Chip will be just another turn in her path that can only mean good things. "People are like you've been through so much and I'm like it's been amazing. It's all good."

The ultimate goal with Chip is to teach him to stop Cole's disruptive behaviors like moaning or getting nervous in public places. The training for that is still ongoing.

Since interviewing Kim for this story, she's had her surgery and doctors say they got all the cancer which was Stage 1, but she will still have to undergo chemotherapy because she had a separate cancer in each breast.

Click the highlighted link for more information about 4 Paws for Ability, where the Quintela's adopted Chip.

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