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