How One Man Entered The Unfamiliar World Of Dog Adoption—And How It Saved His Life

Free Days With George
How One Man Entered The Unfamiliar World Of Dog Adoption—And How It Saved His Life
Free Days With George is a must read!

6

Entering middle age, I was fortunate and happy that my life, by most people’s account, seemed “normal.” I was healthy, worked hard to build a good career, had a nice circle of friends and, most of all, was in love with my “best friend” who was also my wife. I really couldn’t ask for more. So when I came home from a business trip to find out my wife had left, I was shocked and devastated. I felt hopeless and abandoned and had no idea that my way back to happiness was going to be shared and accelerated by another living soul in the same predicament. In my case, this being was a homeless 140 pound Newfoundland who named himself George.

After a few difficult months struggling to adjust to living alone in my house, I quietly slipped into an emotional fog of depression. One day at work I had lunch with my friend, Matt, who recently graduated from college and had started his first job with us. He had noticed how sad and withdrawn I had become and kindly offered some lighthearted, unsolicited advice. 

“I have an idea for you,” nodding his head towards me as I sat quietly eating my lunch across the table. 

“I’m not interested, thanks,” as I kept my focus on my plate in front of me.

“You know what you should do?” Matt said, ignoring me and waiting a beat for effect. “You should get a dog.” He was grinning as though he’d just solved global hunger.

“Excuse me, that’s it? That’s your big idea?”

“That’s it,” he answered with total sincerity. He took a huge bite of his sandwich. “Think about it: dogs are loyal; they aren’t going to pack their stuff up and leave for no reason. I always had dogs as a kid. They’re great! You’ll get out and walk around a lot, meet people…maybe meet a nice girl. It’ll be amazing. It will change your life.”

“It will change my life,” I said, imitating him. 

“It will. And you have a big empty house right across from a park.”

We finished eating and walked back to work without any more dog talk, but over the next few weeks, once a day or so when we passed in the office, he’d ask me, “So, you get that dog yet?”

“Still thinking about it.”

And a few hours later, he’d poke his head into my office. “So, you know who man’s best friend is?” 

“Not Matt.” I replied.

It went on and on like this, day after day. I pretended I wasn’t listening, but in truth, I gave the idea of getting a dog some thought. 

Then one day, I got an email from Matt. It went something like this:

 


Matt 3:25pm

To: Colin Campbell

Subject: Get that dog yet? 

Hey Colin,

No pressure, but I thought I’d send you this link for a great rescue website, Petfinder.com. It’s like a dating site, but instead of pretty girls who will probably see your picture and never write you back (haha), this one is full of dogs that don’t care what you look like but want to live in your house and go to the park across the street. Beats a cage any day.

Take a look. You can give a dog a good home and get some company in return. And I might stop nagging you. And you would be saving a life. 

Let me know if you need any help.

—Matt


 

Matt wasn’t too far off on his dating site comparison. Petfinder aggregates information about rescue animals available for adoption all over North America. There were thousands of lonely dogs looking for their “forever homes.” But as I scrolled down the pages, one of the pictures stopped me in my tracks.

This dog was a Landseer Newfoundland, unlike any dog I’d seen before. Striking, with the pitch-black head of a typical Newfoundland perched on top of a vast, white body. He had a long shaggy coat, floppy ears, and a soft muzzle with a dusting of white above his nose, but what leapt out at me most were his eyes. They were a dark brown that seemed light against the black sea of his face. Sparkling with intelligence, they also looked weighed down by experience, with lower lids that drooped to expose a pair of pink half moons. They were the eyes of an old soul. He was listed as being just over a year old.

Then reality set in. What in the world was I doing? The last thing I needed in my state was to adopt a dog that no doubt had his own problems. Did I not have enough of those myself? And yet looking into those eyes, I was compelled to do something. How could anyone abandon such an incredibly beautiful dog? Could I really handle a dog this big?

Over the next few days, I did some research into the Newfoundland breed. Despite being amongst the largest dogs, with some males tipping the scales at over 200 pounds, Newfoundlands are considered amongst the gentlest of all breeds and are revered for their nurturing and gentle nature with children. The dog Nana in Peter Pan was a Newfoundland. They have webbed paws and are expert swimmers. They were specifically bred in Eastern Canada to haul nets and to save fisherman from drowning by towing them to safety. They are noted for both their bravery and loyalty. I needed some loyalty, I thought to myself. 

I then researched shelter dogs and learned that in the United States alone, over 2.7 million abandoned dogs are put to death every year. That’s 6,267 a day. I also learned that younger, smaller dogs tend to get adopted sooner; older dogs and big dogs are not so lucky. Finally, I learned what a big, red “Urgent” banner means when it appears beside a dog’s profile. It means that animal is nearing its expiry date. At overcrowded municipal shelters, a dog is usually only kept for 72 hours, after which point, if the dog isn’t claimed or adopted, he or she will be euthanized. Then the dog’s profile is quietly removed from the website. 

I looked at the big dog’s picture over and over. He had been abandoned. I felt I had to do something, for him as much as for myself. While I thought I was doing him a favour, little did I know he would change my life, and in fact, save it.

The next day, I reached out to the rescue group who were fostering him and within days he was home living with me, both of us a bit scared and unsure of each other. Within a year, we were inseparable—as George came out of shell, his loving and gentle personality emerged and he made everyone he met smile, even me, and I had not smiled in over a year. I started to realize that he had rescued me even more than had I rescued him.

When I was at my worse, George was there to comfort me. He taught me to how to walk and how to wait, how to sit and be patient, and how to accept and embrace change. He taught me the power of hugs, to whisper instead of yell, to listen more deeply to others around me, and to be sensitive to those in need. He taught me to ride the waves of life instead of letting them wash over and drown me. He taught me you can swim out to sea too far, and he towed me back to the safety of shore more times than I can remember. Most of all, George gave me the knowledge and reassurance that even though you can be abandoned, you can still eventually find love and happiness again—dogs and people alike.


If you’re looking for a wonderful, uplifting book to read this summer, this is it! This article was adapted from Free Days With George: Learning Life's Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog by Colin Campbell, published by Doubleday Canada. We’re pretty sure you’ll devour this heartwarming true story about how one very large rescue dog helped a man pick up the pieces of his life and rediscover happiness. Highly recommended!

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