Happy days with Ge­orge

A bro­ken- hearted man and an aban­doned dog come through for each other. There’s now even a book about them.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PETS - By LEANNE ITALIE

IT’S a clas­sic love “tail”: Bro­ken man meets bro­ken dog and, to­gether, they make life good again.

Colin Camp­bell was a reg­u­lar guy liv­ing a reg­u­lar life in 2008. He had a nice job, a nice house and a beau­ti­ful wife un­til, as heartache often hap­pens, he re­turned from a busi­ness trip to learn his beau­ti­ful wife didn’t want to be mar­ried any­more.

“I re­ally strug­gled” is Camp­bell’s short de­scrip­tion of what went down. “I was shocked. There were no sec­ond chances. No dis­cus­sion about it.”

Liv­ing in Toronto, Canada, he was work­ing hard, as he al­ways had.

Camp­bell’s friends grew con­cerned, sug­gest­ing he do some­thing that he had never done be­fore: get a dog.

Ram­bling around his house alone and de­pressed, he went on­line to a pet res­cue site and found about as much dog as any hu­man might bar­gain for – the kind- faced Ge­orge, a 63.5kg Land­seer New­found­land, though he was a mere pup, just over a year old, at the time.

Ge­orge, too, was in need of sav­ing. He had been aban­doned. There was ev­i­dence of abuse and ne­glect. He was wary of men in par­tic­u­lar, in­clud­ing Camp­bell, and had trou­ble with trust.

To­gether the two healed, and a move a year later to Los An­ge­les worked some magic of its own.

New­found­lands are water dogs, though Ge­orge had never had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the ocean. When Camp­bell went surf­ing, Ge­orge swam right out and hopped on his board, earn­ing ac­co­lades over the next three years from the surf crowd at Her­mosa Beach and com­pet­ing a cou­ple of times in a dog­gie surf com­pe­ti­tion that raises money for pet res­cue.

“I don’t think he had ever swam be­fore, but he just in­stinc­tively knew how to do it,” Camp­bell said. “He had bal­ance and he had an affin­ity for it and he did re­ally well. So Ge­orge went from home­less in Canada to surf champ in Cal­i­for­nia.”

All of this, it turns out, made for a great book, Free Days With Ge­orge, pub­lished in May, by An­chor Canada, an im­print of Pen­guin Ran­dom House. The ti­tle, Camp­bell said in an in­ter­view – with the fluffy Ge­orge at his side – comes from some­thing Camp­bell’s grand­fa­ther used to say, hav­ing saved from drown­ing three Al­lied com­rades on D- Day as they stormed Juno Beach at Nor­mandy.

He, Sey­mour Wylde Howes III, con­sid­ered all good days spent do­ing some­thing you love, with peo­ple who love you, free days. “That’s a good day,” he’d say. “That’s a free day on Earth.”

That’s how it felt for Camp­bell, surf­ing with Ge­orge, lov­ing Ge­orge, sharing Ge­orge with all of his ad­mir­ers.

“He went out of his way to try and make things good,” Camp­bell said of his gen­tle gi­ant of a friend. “As he moved on and got bet­ter, he re­ally taught me how to do the same. We were both at a re­ally dark place. When we moved to Cal­i­for­nia and he swam in the ocean, it was like a bap­tism. Like he re­ally dis­cov­ered his pur­pose and all the DNA for New­found­lands who were bred to save peo­ple in the water, he fig­ured it out. He came out of the water and he goes, I know what I’m sup­posed to do. He had a con­fi­dence that he never had be­fore.”

Ge­orge con­tin­ues to be a feel­good am­bas­sador for all who meet him. Camp­bell and Ge­orge went on a six- week, cross- coun­try bus tour pro­mot­ing their book, stop­ping at an­i­mal shel­ters along the way to drop off do­nated bags of food and help raise aware­ness of the need to res­cue home­less pets.

In May and June, start­ing from New York, the two vis­ited 26 US ci­ties in their tricked- out lux­ury bus, with the book ti­tle and Ge­orge’s black face and mostly white fluff across each side.

After the tour, they re­turned to Cal­i­for­nia for a lit­tle surf­ing although ini­tially Camp­bell wasn’t sure whether Ge­orge would be quite as en­thu­si­as­tic about a surf­board. By New­found­land stan­dards, Ge­orge is up in years, at eight.

Looking back, the 54- year- old Camp­bell re­called how help­ing Ge­orge took some time. A me­an­der­ing bus trip seemed fit­ting. Ge­orge was just over a year old when the two found each other.

“It was a rocky start at first,” Camp­bell said. “I had to take him through obe­di­ence and grad­u­ally so­cialise him. It took about a year for him to trust and to recog­nise that I was some­body who was help­ing him.”

The take­away, for Camp­bell and Ge­orge, is an ob­vi­ous one.

“I re­ally credit him for sav­ing my life,” the hu­man said.

As for Ge­orge, he did what dogs do at the start of his media tour. He licked the face of one new fan, rolled over for a tummy rub by another. There was no surf­board on this visit, but as Camp­bell said:

“He’s a lit­tle older. I’m a lit­tle older. That’s OK.” – AP

Ge­orge, a once ne­glected and home­less New­found­land Land­seer, with his owner, Camp­bell. — AP/ Be­beto Matthews

Ge­orge the New­found­land, now eight years old, was a mere pup when he was adopted by Camp­bell. — www. free­dayswith­ge­orge. com

— AP

Their life to­gether is chron­i­cled in the book Free Days With Ge­orge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.