Colin Campbell came home one day from a business trip to find out that his wife was leaving him: no discussion, no second chances. Blindsided by the sudden end of his marriage, the Toronto marketing executive fell into a depression.
Concerned friends suggested he get a dog. He was hesitant at first, but then he found George, a 136-pound Landseer Newfoundland who needed a home.
"I had a big house, I was by myself," Campbell says of the decision to take in the two-year-old dog. "At first, I thought I was doing him a favor."
Eight years later, the pair are buddies on a book tour, and Campbell readily admits he's the one who got rescued. His book, Free Days With George, chronicles their journey from cold abandonment in Canada to sunnier days surfing at beaches in California, where they now live.
Newfoundlands as a breed are naturals in the water, something Campbell found out when George hit the beach for the first time in his life after they moved to Los Angeles.
"He tried to rescue a surfer, actually," Campbell says. "He just instinctively knew" how to swim. It wasn't long before George was joining Campbell (not exactly invited) on his surfboard. That was the beginning of "free days" with George. Among the highlights: George ended up winning "crowd favorite" in a doggie surf competition for charity, his first time competing.
What are "free days"? The phrase comes from Campbell's beloved grandfather, with whom he would build sand castles, fly kites, and have picnics. The rest, from Campbell:
As I got older, life became more complicated, responsibilities increased and the ability to enjoy free days has become more difficult. There is a lot of stress in our society today and we all deal with it the best we can.
Free days can be different things to different people, but it is important to recognize when they happen. Life is busy and challenging for all of us and free days are not always easy to find. Cherish and celebrate them when you do find them with your family, friends or... with a very large dog.
See an interview with Campbell and George: