I currently have seven partially complete blog posts written. So, instead of finishing one of them, of course I start another. I started this blog, Preston’s Perch, in 2011, as a way to collect my thoughts throughout the production process for my documentary film, Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, about breed discrimination. By this time, I was 3-4 years into it and started to comprehend the issue more clearly, which allowed me to discuss them with some credibility behind it. Even still, looking back, I can see my philosophies get slightly altered along the way with every post whenever new information was presented, that continued my development as a researcher and documentarian. My most successful writing was about my personal failures in advocacy titled “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.” I’ve also written an expose’ about my life and the things I’m not very proud of, but all were part of what allowed me to be the man I am today, called “La Mia Vita (My Life).” Among several others, I also wrote about a dog I found in a Los Angeles shelter in July 2013 while there screening my film, called “We Have Determined Your Whole System Sucks,” which discussed the current state of the shelter system in many places around the country (and world). The common denominator to these were all inspired by my dog, Preston.
Anybody who knows me, even remotely, knows I am madly in love with this dog. He’s been included in nearly all the blog posts I’ve written, even if just casually mentioned. Of all the experts I’ve been able to meet and interview, he’s been the single most influential being in my life who taught me the most about this topic for which I decided on for the film. In this post, I won’t be discussing the times before I met him, mostly because I don’t know his entire story, and don’t want to speculate – that wouldn’t be fair to do either. For those who do want the known back-story, you can find those in “Against All Odds“, “…And I’m Just Like You“, or on a page on the film’s website, “The Dog.”
I adopted Preston on October 4, 2008, from For The Love Of Pits – a Cleveland, Ohio based Pit Bull rescue. He was estimated to be about three years old when I was finally able to bring him home due to breed specific legislation being proposed and passed in the city I, at the time, lived in. I’ll never forget that day I met him, I felt an indescribable closeness for which no words could begin to do the justice for. When the time came to start a blog, I had no choice but to name it after him. The meaning behind it is twofold:
Not only did he often climb on top of the couch cushions so that he could look out of the window, but in general, a perch is an elevated area intended to give the best vantage point. This is something I pride myself on when writing these editorial-style posts, with the hope others can relate to what I experience.
I’ve also mentioned in previous blog posts, about the time I found Preston I was shutting down any attempt of finding true love with a woman. Prior to that, I’ve received my fair share of the short end of the stick, and didn’t want to subject myself to being vulnerable if I could at all help it. I still had a lot of love to offer, and it only made sense to shower it upon a dog. Before Preston came to me, it was one of only a couple times in my life I did not share a home with a dog since I’ve been born. I was in my mid-late 20’s, and still very active with friends, and didn’t want the added responsibility of a dog to tend to. I thought I’d like this way of living, but I never was truly able to adjust without one.
I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d become as deeply ingrained in my film and other dog advocacy work, to the point I’d become a recluse withdrawing myself from all social gatherings or functions. Along the way I lost some lifelong friends because of this behavior too. I had my reasons, and I still believe I was finally doing what I was put on this planet to do, even if it was poisoning my personal relationships with my strict absence in their life. So, instead of changing, it appears I became even more obsessed in stretching the limits and doing more. Since Preston, I’ve added two more shelter dogs to our home, Era and Fergie, about a year apart from each other (June 2011 and August 2012, respectively). Both were intended to be fosters, but because of one reason or another, it became easier to just keep them in the home they felt safe and comfortable in. I don’t regret these decisions because they are wonderful dogs, but as a single guy now in my mid 30’s, it has added to the overall weight residing on my shoulders.
It recently occurred to me that my passion not only excluded those who were once close to me, but the emphasis solely put on work has strained the life enjoyment of me and my own dogs as well. There was a time before the girls came, Preston and I went on daily walks in the metroparks. No matter sun, rain, sleet or snow, we took an hour out of our day to be outdoors and appreciate nature around us. This was key to Preston’s growth as well, as he used to be highly reactive to squirrels, rabbits or other small wild animals. It also allowed my brain to shut down and just live in the moment. But finding time to take out of the day became increasingly difficult and occurred less and less until it was nearly obsolete. I didn’t consider the lack of attention given to them, because I felt the work I was doing was just as important, so that in the future others don’t have to suffer the same fate many have before – judged by their appearance, instead of their behavior. I don’t want this to come across as I didn’t care for my dogs, because quite the opposite would be more appropriate. I feed them only the best foods. I have racked up thousands spent on their vet care, especially Era, due to her allergies. I have even paid tribute to Preston and Era with a tattoo across my upper back with “Til Death Do Us Part” inbetween them (Ferg was still a foster when this was done, otherwise she would have undoubtedly been included). I take my commitment to them serious, and wanted to express our love in the most permanent form possible.
A couple weekends ago, I was enjoying some late night couch cuddling time with the dogs. The girls were already sound asleep, and Preston was sitting on the floor about to attempt to jump and find a place to curl up on the crowded couch along with the rest of us, and then…, he missed and fell down to the ground. When he got back up, we both looked at each other and I noticed then more than any time previously, how much he’s aged in his face and his physical ability. It’s a hard lesson to learn when it felt only yesterday we had our whole lives ahead of us, but in a blink, it goes so fast. We’re both now a little older, a little grayer, and hopefully a little wiser, too. But wisdom doesn’t always factor in reality. I began to think of ways to be more conscious to this fact, and started compiling a bucket list of sorts. I’ve seen others do it in the past with their terminally ill dogs, and even though Preston is healthy, I didn’t want to wait until the day he’s not, and regret that I didn’t stop to appreciate more of these valuable moments that seem so insignificant in the broader picture.
So, the following morning we ventured off to sight-see some famous Cleveland landmarks I’ve always wanted to go to, but never did because they were all on the east side. I’m a westsider, and although Cleveland is very diverse, it is divided mostly into two, where both sides rarely visit the other. Additionally, the neighborhoods we were venturing in were lower class, predominantly black, areas where white people don’t go. I’m not racist, but I imagine it’s the same uncomfortable reaction a person of another culture would feel when the tables are turned. Poor excuse, I know, and I am ashamed to even admit it, but it’s the truth. These cultural roadblocks have previously prohibited me from going to places in the city where I’ve lived my entire life. Our first item to check off our bucket list was visiting Hough neighborhood, where old League Park stands (currently being modernized). This was the former home of the Cleveland Spiders, where Cy Young once pitched, and later where the Cleveland Indians played and Babe Ruth hit his 500th career home run. Afterwards, we continued on our journey to the house where Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster in the Glenville district. We met and talked with some of the residents on that block, and dogs helped carry that conversation. An interesting thing to note here is, the variables that have normally continued to keep us segregated, were brought together by one common interest – dogs. Another learning lesson facilitated by Preston.
We have completed 16 screenings of Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent around the country, including being official selections to two film festivals, St. Louis International Film Festival and KC FilmFest. Next Saturday, we are holding our second screening in Cleveland, and the plan is for Preston to be a present for the post film social…the first he will attend. I feel it is only right to include the driving force behind the film’s purpose in one of these gatherings, which will allow others to meet the boy who inspired it all. The bucket list will never be finalized until the day we say our goodbye, but this will be the second item we mark off. The importance of this initiative became even more apparent today after scrolling through my personal Facebook newsfeed and finding a post shared by a friend whose dog recently passed away. This man was clearly grieving without a care of judgment, declaring his dog to be his soulmate. I love all my dogs, past and present. I provide the same care and protection to my girls as I do Preston, but it’s different still. No other dog has impacted me the way Preston has, or made me want to be a better person for the world. Preston is my soulmate, maybe more appropriately, my souldog.
So in closing, if you have found that special being you can’t stand to live without – whether two legs, or four, be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to share life with them. Those other things can and will be there when you’re done. Even if it’s just a walk in the park.