Six miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, past farm fields and pecan groves, on a piece of land dotted with fruit trees and swarming with dogs, cats, and chickens, lives a happy family. Allysa Stailey (11) and her dog, Rhailey; Teylor Stailey (9) and her dog, Jasper; Jedekiah (Jeddy) Stailey (16) and his dog, Hazel; and their dad, Daryl, belong to that family.
Brother Stailey operates a construction business, but the family also raises and sells Labrador retriever and basset hound puppies. The mothers of the puppies—Rebecca, Gus, and Casey—are everybody’s dogs. One of Teylor and Alyssa’s many responsibilities is playing with the puppies so that they will grow up friendly and confident. The girls always fall in love with the pups, and there are tears when it’s time to say good-bye. But they still have their own dogs to love and play with. Four dogs sleep in the house each night, so no one gets lonely.
Allysa and Teylor are assigned to water the dogs and clean up after them. Also, each feeds her own dog. Inside the house, they take their turns cooking and washing dishes. Outside, they mow the grass, prune trees, weed the yard, and help take care of the car, the truck, and the tractor. “They’ve always done really well at helping out,” their dad says. “I never have to tell them anything—except to remind them to clean their rooms.”
Their service does not end at the property line. “I’ve never seen them turn away from helping anybody,” Dad adds. He explains that they’ve helped their older sister, Amber, move several times. They’ve helped people in the neighborhood do chores such as cleaning up their yards. They helped build an elegant all-wood playground in Las Cruces, each of them donating about twenty hours of labor.
According to their father, Teylor is a “happy-go-lucky” girl, while Allysa is a bit more serious. Both are excellent students. Jedekiah is a talented musician who plays the tuba and the French horn in the high school band. He also plays the piano. Allysa plans to play the oboe in the band next year, and Teylor is looking forward to studying the violin. To relax, both girls like to play basketball and jump on the trampoline.
Brother Stailey is a plainspoken but loving father.
“I know I’m a little hard to live with sometimes. I’m pretty demanding. I require them to be responsible and respectful. Jeddy is a respectful and responsible son, and his sisters are following in his footsteps.
“People tell me all the time that I’ve raised a nice family. I get compliments on how well behaved they are, how well they do in school, how helpful and courteous they are. They’re outstanding kids who teach me more than I teach them. I learn something new from them every day. We’ve struggled through some pretty rough times and survived. We take care of each other.”
They know that Heavenly Father takes care of them, too. They stay close to Him through family and personal prayers morning and night as well as family home evening and daily scripture study.
All three children have great faith, which they have shared in testimony meeting. “I’m thankful that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for us,” Allysa says. “I’m thankful for the gospel and the scriptures and my family.”
“I have a testimony from the Holy Ghost,” Teylor says. “I know that President Hinckley is a prophet and a good, happy man. I know the Church is true.”
They are very active in Church activities. Teylor was an angel in the Christmas program, and Allysa had the role of Mary. Teylor likes Primary, especially singing time. Her favorite songs are “Book of Mormon Stories” and “Follow the Prophet.”
Allysa enjoys Primary Activity Days, where she has made ornaments and memorized articles of faith.
That’s how things are now. But for a long time, the family didn’t go to church very often. The children attended only when they visited Brother Stailey’s mother in another town. They enjoyed those visits and started reading the Book of Mormon on their own. They read almost the whole book over a two-year period and started asking their dad to take them back to church. When the family went through some difficult times, Brother Stailey realized that they needed the gospel in their lives. They started attending meetings again, and they’re glad they did.
“I enjoy going to church,” Allysa explains. “Everyone is nice to us. Even on our first day back, they helped us find our way around and were friendly.”
“The members of the Church really care about you,” Teylor adds.
The Staileys were already good people before they went back to church. But now they are much happier good people. “A lot of wonderful things have happened to us,” Brother Stailey reports. “We pay our tithing faithfully, and blessings have come from that. A couple of months ago, I was ordained an elder and I got to ordain Jeddy a priest that same day.”
There were many things that helped the family become active, but Brother Stailey has no doubt about the most important one. “You can’t believe the strength that comes from these kids. They are the reason for my change of heart. They and my mother are the reason this family turned around.”
The Staileys have come through hard times stronger than ever. They love Heavenly Father and their neighbors. They are close to each other and kind to their animal friends. They are quick to point out that they are far from perfect. But they know who is perfect, and they are doing their best to follow Him.