The last time I’ve written in this blog – “Preston’s Perch”, was in the summer of 2016 during the Republican National Convention in my hometown of Cleveland, to discuss the increasing tension and divide in the United States. Its name was initially chosen as a way to articulate my observations about the plight of dogs labeled “pit bull”, while finishing production on the documentary film “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent”, which was inspired by a dog named Preston. I got the idea one day as I watched Preston sit atop the backside of our couch to look out the window. It became a regular perching place he’d like to go to get a clearer view of the outside world.
The word perch is symbolic in the blog’s name, because we too often only view the world on the ground level where our vision is obstructed by preconceived assumptions based on what we think is on the other side. I’ve found there are layers in every debate that need peeled back, and oftentimes what’s on the surface, is not at all a fair representation of the issue. So, a perch is necessary to get an educated view of the entire picture.
I’ve been delaying writing this post since it happened a week ago last Monday evening – just under 165 hours ago at this very moment, because every time I feel I may be up to the task everything gets a bit blurry and become paralyzed by emotions…again.
How do you effectively describe the unique ‘once in a lifetime’ type connection you have with another being so deeply, that the emotion can be transferred to others to relate and experience with you? The answer is – you can’t, you just try your best to find the words and metaphors to come close to live up to the hype.
Dogs have shared my family’s home since the beginning – from my birth through adulthood. I was literally born into a home with a dog. And, I have had the unfortunate task to watch many of those faithful four-legged companions take their final breaths on more occasions than I’d ever like to experience, but you do it because they are more than just dogs, they are family, who oftentimes are the glue that holds it together because of the unadulterated joy they bring. So, this is not uncharted territory for me, but this time sure feels profoundly different.
I’ve always been a loner – shy and introverted, to some degree. I just never felt I belonged – a circular peg attempting to fit in the squared boxes of society. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have friends, but even the closest ones who shared many common interests I knew we were just as opposite as we were the same. Childhood through adolescence, I had friends who shared the same passion for sports. If you live in the Cleveland region, it’s a religion here. But, I never felt those friends understood my passion for the arts – the need to be creative, or my relationship with animals – both domesticated and wild. And, vice versa with my artsy friends with athletics. I just accepted feeling like an outcast.
After the breakup with my first serious girlfriend towards the end of my teens, I became a bit of a wild one through my 20’s, who indulged in excessive drinking and drug experimentation, to numb myself so I never felt the hurt and betrayal again. As a now 42 year old man looking back, I’m not saying those feelings weren’t real, but those ‘firsts’ can sometimes be superficial. We were just kids. My solution, though, was to suppress any and all emotion – to effectively turn the light switch of feelings off, because that’s what manly men are supposed to do…or so we’re told.
By the time we hit our 30’s, my closest group of friends began getting more serious with girlfriends, making babies…doing the things society tells us we should be doing at that age. To occupy my free time during this transition, I began researching for my first documentary, without any prior film experience…no knowledge about the industry and how things work, or knowledge about the broad subject matter I chose to focus on – animal cruelty.
In every creative outlet I’ve dabbled in – drawing, painting, poetry and other creative writings, I’ve self-taught myself by diving in head first and doing. While it’s not the easiest path for success, you learn the best lessons through failure.
I spent the next few months attempting to narrow down a focus within animal abuse, until one day the universe spoke and gave me the topic on a silver platter. “Here!”, the universe said. Towards the end of 2007, NFL star quarterback Michael Vick was all over SportCenter with allegations of funding a dog-fighting enterprise. I took that as the sign and ran with it; my new film would be about the inhumane act against man’s best friend, with an emphasis on the victims – the dogs. I then created my video production company, River Fire Films, LLC – named to pay homage to the Cuyahoga River catching ablaze numerous times in our Cleveland history due to the decades and decades of excessive pollution caused by industry. Two opposites colliding – fire on water.
I met Preston for the first time a year later in April of 2008 while still in the infancy stages of pre-production, when I contacted the only rescue in Cleveland – For the Love of Pits, dedicated to helping dogs labeled “pit bull”. I scheduled a time and day with its founder, Shana Klein, where I would come over and meet some of the dogs she had in her organization. Prior to, through friends and acquaintances, I had only met a couple dogs who would be lumped into this subjective category of “pit bull”, so I felt it was necessary to get more exposure around “these” dogs if I was to do this film in a responsible and ethical way.
At the time (in 2008) Ohio had the only statewide law restricting the ownership of dogs labeled “pit bull” (enacted in 1987), which is odd, because I only discovered what breed specific legislation (BSL) was because I accidentally stumbled upon it while researching dog fighting. How could I be a lifelong dog-lover and not know this law existed? Not only existed, but existed in my home state!
When I arrived at Shana’s house, I was instantly greeted by several year old puppies leaping over a child gate intended on partitioning them off to the kitchen so I can make my way through the door. There were tails wagging, and tongue licking going on everywhere – it was absolutely GLORIOUS.
When things finally settled down a bit, we moved into the kitchen, where a curious little black dog sat down and greeted me at my feet, looking up at me with these big brown soulful eyes. I bent down and said – “Hello, buddy, what’s your name?” and just as I noticed scars slashed across his front legs, Shana chimed in – “That’s Preston. He’s our victim of dog fighting.” I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, he was so beautiful with this unexplainable personality brimming with innocence. There was an instant foreign connection that I literally felt inside.
We again moved the conversation, this time outdoors on the deck, and Preston, who they nicknamed Pig due to the cute snorting sounds he occasionally made, followed me to a chair and again sat down at my feet as if he wanted to jump into my lap. I obliged, accepting the request by continuously patting my legs encouraging him to make the leap. He spun a couple times around in my lap to find a cozy spot, plopped himself down and rested his head on my left shoulder. I looked towards Shana and asked – “Did you train him to do that to get adopted or somethin’?!”, and before allowing an answer, I blurted out – “I’m going to adopt this dog!”, which is funny because I didn’t go there for a dog.
When I left, I began searching rental properties in the Cleveland suburb, Lakewood, I lived that would allow me to have Preston. I quickly learned that was easier said than done. Because of the, at the time, the 21 year old statewide law restricting ownership, and the media attention on “pit bull” dog attacks both locally and nationally, as well as policies by insurance companies and fearful landlords that excluded the dogs from being able to be insured, it was difficult finding a rental property who would give us a chance. About two weeks after meeting Preston, Lakewood City Council upped the ante, proposing and eventually passing a ban on “pit bull” dogs. If I was to adopt Preston, I’d have to look elsewhere for us to live where we were welcomed.
I immediately shifted the focus of my year old film project from an anti-dog fighting documentary to one that examines breed discrimination, and titled it – “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent”. It all of a sudden became much more personal. My goal was to finally put to rest this decades old debate, to get to the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
It took me about six months to find a place where I could adopt and bring Preston home – Saturday, October 4, 2008, was the official day. I worked in retail with a leading national wireless company, but had most weekends off. I divided my free time between relationship building and bonding with my newfound shadow and diving head first into examining the issue of BSL.
Every single day – regardless whether I worked or not – through rain, sleet, snow or shine, I brought Preston to the nearby metroparks. He was estimated to be around three years old when he came to me, and still had a ton of energy to burn off, so we walked a lot. We. Walked. A. LOT. And it seemed our walks only became longer and longer in the subsequent weeks and months, realizing later how I was conditioning him to have an increase of physical stamina since that was the only type of stimulation he was receiving.
I am a firm believer in accountability and transparency. These were two of the traits I sought to base my ethics off of as a filmmaker for my River Fire Films produced documentaries. I was incredibly conscious to the fact if I was to be respected in the field and not have my film(s) passed off as propaganda fluff, I had to be vigilant in my research, allow all sides to state their cases for and against, and maintain an honest and accurate depiction of the issue, so the information relayed remains unbiased…even when as a dog-lover, I have some bias.
Bringing Preston home did not come without challenges. The obstacles didn’t end when I found a place for us to stay. The dog who I met lived in a foster home for two years where he felt comfortable and trusted that his caretakers would keep him safe from harm’s way. And, he lived with other dogs, so clearly he wasn’t the monster the media and some politicians like to paint alleged former “fighting dogs” as – like they were accomplices to the crime. But, a new environment coupled with someone who hadn’t gained his trust yet, quickly presented itself as a potential issue.
I’ll admit, there were a few times I wondered what I got myself into, especially in those first few months when he would quickly react to any nearby animal – dog, stray cat, squirrel or rabbit, passing by us on our daily walks. I, naively, never felt the need to with any of our previous family dogs…although in hindsight we most definitely should have been more conscious because we’ve had dogs in the past who weren’t always on their best behavior with other animals. But, it’s somehow different when it’s a dog branded with this “pit bull” label. They don’t get the same leniency as other dogs do. Instead its proof of their alleged inherent behavior.
What that did, though, is made me super aware watching his body language to identify when, what and why it would quickly change. I didn’t know this at the time, during these daily walks I slowly noticed a gradual shift in his acceptance of other animals in his space the more time that passed, to the point where he wouldn’t react at all when squirrels ran right in front of us. It was incremental, where you don’t get to see positive progress happen overnight – it happened once you reflected back on where you came 3 months ago…6 months ago…A year ago. That’s when you see it clearer – the difference between night and day.
Another challenge that instantly presented itself was, as a white suburban man who grew up in a severely segregated region, I was oblivious to what real discrimination felt like on a firsthand level. This is a dangerous thing for my fellow counterparts, because they never truly relate to what people of color experience, and oftentimes brush off any notion of unfair treatment because we’ve come so far from the days of the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 60’s. And, 2008 was the year Americans elected the country’s first African American man to lead the nation, lending proof – as artificial as it may have been, to our advancement on issues of equality.
The day I walked out of my home with Preston, literally feeling the looks burning a hole through my back by people going out of their way to avoid us, was the day I had some understanding what it meant to walk in the shoes of those oppressed. This is not to insult human beings who experience systemic racism, but rather the only way I could because the system is set up to give people like me a head-start, albeit no guarantees of finding success. But an advantage, nevertheless.
After Preston’s walks, I spent every waking free minute reading, archiving and organizing any and all news media and research papers I could find about breed specific legislation, to leave no stone unturned. I quickly felt the issue on the surface was not at all why the legislation existed, but instead it became increasingly clear it was a front founded on racism and classism beginning during the 80’s when these laws and other political racist wars spread like wildfire across the United States, giving law enforcement a tool to legally harass “suspected” people of color, especially in urban low-income redlined neighborhoods. So, it was never about the actual dogs in the birth of this legislation, but a calculated disguised attempt to go after protected class of people, since laws can’t violate those rights.
It was incredibly difficult to gain the courage to expose this atrocity on a wider scale. This was at a time when social media first started becoming popular, which allowed people worldwide to connect, but I didn’t know how I could speak about an issue concerning race relations when I wasn’t directly affected by them. Like many of my fellow caucasians, for too many years I chose being quiet most of my life on issues that don’t concern me – even at times blaming the victim for their excuses for why they haven’t dug themselves out, when slavery in the U.S. was abolished 150 years prior. It’s easy to be willfully ignorant.
I should state, this is not to say every misinformed person who holds a tired opinion about dogs labeled “pit bull” is a racist. Over time, beating that tale to death, it has infected a state of fear in the public – whether warranted by a direct negative experience or indirectly through channels like the mainstream media who play into their viewers irrational fears. For Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, I interviewed psychologists who specialize in phobias for this sake. While the fear felt is valid for the individual human being, it still doesn’t validate the legislation is factual.
I chose to make exposing the actual racism and the psychology of irrational fear the primary platform of this documentary, by going back to the beginning in history when the legislation first popped up on national radars, showing how it evolved into somehow becoming an issue about subjective looking dogs.
My first observation about the irrational fear came from my mother the day I adopted him and she came over to meet him in person. She stood no closer than 5 feet from him with a look on his face I will never forget. I told her, “Go say hi to him”, to which she replied, “I can’t, I’m scared.” She, like so many others back then, were influenced by the things they were told in the news. Hell, even I had worthless opinions – especially when I initially got involved in the debate…and even today I’m always learning to be a better advocate, especially about the science of dog and dog behavior.
The first lesson Preston taught me was to take the old adage of “never judge a book by its cover” quite literally and apply it to all walks of life. Because what you think you may know, you probably more likely don’t. There’s nuances left out in every discussion.
In the spring of 2009, my grandfather on my mother’s side was dying. His wish was for home hospice, so my family and I rotated staying overnight while the nurse was off duty, each taking one of our dogs with us for company. When it was my turn, I obviously brought Preston. On the first night it was my turn, I left work late, so my mom stayed to bridge the gap when the nurse left. I will never forget the concerned look on Preston’s face standing in the bedroom doorway watching my grandfather lay in distress in bed. We observed him from the living room down the hallway, and it was at that moment where I saw a sudden change in how my mom viewed him. He was no longer this unpredictable creature, he became a dog. Just another dog.
I relied on Preston a lot to give me the strength to get through those nights where my job was to add comfort in my grandfather’s last days where all he talked about was wanting to die and get it over with. My personal views have also evolved in respect to humane death with dignity through that period, where I see how cruel the system can be where it doesn’t legally allow assistance in crossing over. It wasn’t the only time I experienced loss or hurt and leaned on Preston for help, but it was the first time.
As the years passed, I unintentionally became even more content being introverted playing dangerously close to reclusiveness – outside of going to my job and the walks in the park. At this stage, it was easy to distance myself from those close friends I partied hard and, for lack of better words, chased women with, because they had their lives and obligations as fathers to their children, and I became obsessed by the work I was doing so close to finding the undeniable truth in this multi-layered complex controversy and the ability to eliminate with ease any argument that can be made in support of BSL. And, this bond with Preston, who inspired all this passion, strengthened with each passing day. I was getting virtually everything I needed and desired through the companionship I had with this dog. He never disappointed or betrayed my trust, and never callously attempted to crush my heart into pieces just because he could. The epitome of mutual adoration at its finest.
He went everywhere with me. My parents house for dinner visiting with their dogs or at local dining and bar establishments who promote dog friendly patios. Tailgating at the infamous Muni lot before Cleveland Browns games, where in hindsight the chaos of loud music and thousands of rowdy partygoers acting foolish, could give any less stable dog a reason to act out. But, in classic fashion, he was the life of the party wearing his Browns bowtie on his collar to go with his orange and brown leash and harness, charming his way into the hearts from of willing participant with offers food. Like the man’s man he was, we also realized he had an acquired taste for beer, taking advantage of careless drunken fans, who set their glasses down only to find he had stolen it.
In 2010, I made a professional move to the business to business channel working in an office environment with the same telecom company, which gave me more freedom. I acquired two more dogs, too – a six month old puppy I named Era in June 2011, and severely neglected shelter dog named Fergie in August 2012, who tested heartworm positive among a laundry list of less severe ailments. The one thing both girls had in common, was someone in a shelter labeled them as “pit bull”, and both would have been subject to being killed solely because of it.
Introducing Era into our home was easy, and it confirmed that Preston was an even better individual dog than I knew. From minute one those two became buddies. While editing GTPI, Preston would walk into my home office, where I’d often find Era latched (and no I don’t mean – locked) onto his jowls, with him looking at me as if to say – “get this thing off of me, please.” However, introducing Ferg presented a new challenge. Being that she was sick, and any unnecessary stimulation could negatively impact her health while she was getting treatment, I had to completely seclude her for two months from Preston and Era. She was visibly vulnerable and scared, which became crystal clear the following morning of her arrival, when Preston squeezed through the office door when I was going through it. He looked at her in the closed crate with his tail lazily wagging, she instantly popped up barking in defense. He jumped back in surprise, and I pointed out the door firmly stating – “Get out, Preston!”, and he quickly darted out the room. It was then, even more confirmation Preston was a good dog. I altered nights between sleeping in bed with Preston and Era, and on the hardwood floor of my home office with Ferg. It was probably a blessing looking back, because it gave them all time to slowly adjust, until one day after given her clean bill of health, Fergie made the literal jump (literally over the baby gate) and joined the other two. I have not had one single issue since. Not one.
After five years of intense production researching breed specific legislation, interviewing the experts in dog training and behavior, the fields of psychology, and law, as well as politicians, and professionals in animal welfare, the film finally premiered on April 28, 2013. It went on to screen twenty-some times around the country, including two film festivals (2013 St. Louis International Film Festival; 2014 Kansas City Film Fest), as well as at least three law school universities for their animal law curriculums. Preston’s face graced the cover of the DVD and movie poster, and was featured on any and all promotional materials because of his impact in its creation.
Through these screenings, I quickly began becoming more widely known, and my advocacy definitely evolved to be more inclusive, expanding to not only include all dogs, but also all human beings. Too often I saw “pit bull” specific advocacy as its own worst enemy. And, there was an odd aura of elitism in it, too. I had a tendency to not only ruffle some feathers with proponents of BSL, but also within “pit bull” advocacy. Early on, I kinda embraced it, because I thought it was evidence that showed I’m being impartial – someone who only cares about the facts, but it brought me many detractors for and against the cause I was fighting.
The opposition made a great point that always stuck with me; whenever there was a reported attack by an alleged “pit bull” dog, our side’s predictable go-to rebuttal was “How do you know? Did you get the dog DNA tested? It was probably a lab mix”, or something to that effect. The contradiction being that many rescues and other organizations had programs that specifically and solely benefitted only “pit bull” dogs, such as spay/neuter initiatives. When trying to change perceptions (and laws) which was the goal of the film, especially when dealing with politicians, that was a problem that needed addressed. Otherwise, it’s just this ongoing vicious cycle of repeating the same tired talking points since the 80’s (as proof by those archived news articles back then). This is an example of how we never completely resolve anything, both sides are guilty of slanging half-truths based on their unwavering opinions. It was lazy to me. I choose to arm my mind with weapons of knowledge to combat all forms of prejudice and intolerance.
Towards the conclusion of the public screenings in mid-2014, I began noticing a foreign feeling occurring inside me. The first time I consciously noticed, I got home from work on my birthday – July 28th, sat down on the couch and wept. That never happened to me before, where I felt like I was drowning. I’m sure the occasional death threats via social media and email I received at times didn’t help, but I mostly laughed those off, at least in the beginning.
Everywhere I looked I saw so much unnecessary suffering. To animals – domesticated, wild and those we use for food, as well as the looks on the sad faces of human beings passing by. I was already vegetarian for a few years, but the cries of sentient beings used in our food system intensified, exposing some of my own hypocrisies. I lost a lot of social media friends that year, as well, as people jumped ship in droves. I didn’t know at the time, but looking back on Facebook memories of years past, I saw a shift in the attitude of my posts, with a sense of steadily increasing irritability dating back closer to the beginning of that calendar year. Constant images of dogs being left in deplorable conditions, only to be saved by (maybe, hopefully) well intentioned rescues who they too got in over their heads, and the dogs found themselves right back in similar conditions needing saved again.
These emotions of hopelessness and helplessness manifested into my first bout with severe depression and anxiety, culminating into my first attempt at suicide on Sunday, November 2, 2014. In a cold sweat, I woke up in the middle of the night – as I often did that year around 4am and closed the door to my home office. I took my gun out and set it on my desk, then wrote what was to be my last blog post – Save Me And I’ll Save You. I wasn’t secure in expressing what ails me, I don’t even know if I knew at the time, but tried my best, so there was some record that I didn’t just depart for no reason at all. Suicide becomes an option when you’re no longer afraid of death, you become afraid to continue to suffer.
Just as I was finishing writing the last paragraph before I hit publish, I stopped, stared at the gun for a bit, and Preston nudged the door open. I took one look into those brown soulful eyes, like the day I met him, and lost it. I nearly did something I could never take back. I bought the gun for protection after I was assaulted, it never occurred to me that I would need protection from myself. Preston saved me from myself.
The road to recovery didn’t end in that profound moment. It was a grueling 2-3 subsequent years, where adversity after adversity presented itself. I’ve found invisible illnesses – like mental illness, aren’t solely cured by taking prescribed medications. In early 2015, I began seeing a doctor – initially for physical stabbing pains I was experiencing in my neck, shoulder and upper back, which felt like an ice pic chiseling away at my body. When the doctor declared they were spasms, I about laughed in her face, thinking assessed these to be like the involuntary eye twitches one may get from time to time. I constantly went back demanding help for months. On June 23rd while on my work commute in rush hour traffic during pouring rain, my car hydroplaned in a pool of sitting water just passed the I-480E/271 split, missing a semi in the next lane. I attempted to correct out of it, and crashed head first into the cement wall dividing the east and westbound highways, and the momentum spiraled my car hitting the rear end into the wall, and then headfirst again, somehow missing all oncoming traffic.
A couple months later, I was diagnosed with suffering from post concussion syndrome – the 3rd concussion in my lifetime, and the depression and suicidal fantasies seemed to intensify even more. Every day I woke up thinking about death. My quality of life consisted of going to work with several medications to numb the physical and mental pain. When I got home, I let out and fed the dogs, then promptly went to bed, most nights without dinner. I clenched Preston close to me with his head next to mine on the pillow, and repeatedly told him – “I love you so much. I love you so much”, until I finally drifted to sleep. I was miserable.
By now, most of the animal welfare community distanced themselves from me. I was so jaded by the betrayal I felt from so many who used to support my advocacy and its message when I was on top. It was silence and crickets when at the bottom. I thought – Fine, it’s Preston and I against the world then! I just mistakenly never planned too far in advance to think of a world where we’re not together, because the truth is I didn’t think I’d make it out alive. That type of fall does humble you a bit, though. Suicide, as an option, was still on the table. While I bought time, I tried making amends with anybody I may have hurt – even if unintentional, because I didn’t want to be remembered for something negative.
When those symptoms started to finally recede in 2017, I realized the importance of the human-canine bond, because if not for the purpose they served providing nonstop companionship and forcing me to get out of bed – even if it was only to let them outside, I don’t know if I would have survived. Preston was even more influential, since I continued to bring him on my excursions photographing Cleveland’s urban decay, and walking the streets of underserved neighborhoods some would brand dangerous due to their newsworthy high crime rates. He needed his walk, and there was the added bonus of him being a second set of eyes watching my back as I focused in on the shot. This was the foundation and birth of my advocacy organization, WOOFobia, which celebrates and secures the human-canine bond using the arts as the vehicle to deliver the message.
Even though I felt most of my detractors and haters were wrong in their evaluation, I still had to repair my good name and image, and Preston played a key role in that. The next two years I became active again in dog advocacy, applying my experience and knowledge, and playing a role in quite a few repeals of BSL in the northeast Ohio region. It helped that I now had this older and distinguished Preston, who captured the hearts with his docile and infectious personality. We did several news interviews, and a re-release of GTPI – completely re-edited, enhanced and updated to include the repeal of Lakewood’s ban in 2018 was being completed. He gave me a sense of hope again.
The year 2019 started with a bang. He and I made the Jan/Feb front cover of the locally distributed CLE Dog Magazine, but things quickly went south. On January 7, at an estimated 14 years old, Preston experienced his first seizure, convulsing while collapsing to the ground and peeing himself. He had another on January 11th, and with his age and no disposable income for the costly treatment needed to diagnose the cause, I devastated at thought it was over and had to start planning for my baby’s demise. Fortunately, due to my involvement in advocacy I was contacted by two long time friends in dog welfare – Chris Hughes of Mr. Mo Project and Sarah Lauch of Live Like Roo, who offered to use organization resources to get him the help he desperately needed.
It was discovered through bloodwork he was anemic, and he spent that entire weekend at the veterinary hospital being passed down to all departments to determine the cause, which made his bill several thousands of dollars. Without those two organizations, as well as the many who donated to online fundraisers, he wouldn’t have gotten out of January alive. I at times felt unworthy of the compassion given, because so many less fortunate than me need help they will never receive, but am forever indebt and grateful.
He was sent home to be monitored, and eventually did get cleared of his anemia. For the next year and two months, we rode an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows, at a time I was in a transition professionally after being one of 40-some thousand nationwide given severance packages from my employer after 14.5 years of service. So much uncertainty, but it afforded me the opportunity to say goodbye over an extended timeframe without the obligations of having to go to work. There were days last year I questioned whether he was happy, looked him in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to die, Preston?”, hoping he’d give me a sign to lead me to the answer, but I definitely don’t think he did. As the weeks and months went by, I rephrased the question, “But, do you want to live?”, and that’s where I became less confident.
In the past, I’ve made excuses, talked myself out of, and even sabotaged getting into exclusive intimate relationships with women because he was always my #1 priority. And while women have told me they adore that trait of a man who fiercely loves his dog, it’s only adored until they become second fiddle. This may be a harsh dose of honesty, but I don’t regret it. I used to call Preston my ‘souldog’ for many years, because the word ‘soulmate’ seems to be reserved to be synonymous with another human being, especially someone you’re intimate with. But, I believe that’s another indicator of society’s slow movement conforming towards absolute truth about the raw mutual connection two beings have for one another.
There’s no handbook to determine when the time is right. You have to go off a gut feeling, and try to ignore the blind faith optimism of your soul refusing to believe the circumstances, giving every reason to delay it. If love alone could save us, we’d live together forever. I believe love is the reason we got as far as we did. But, clearly no amount of love can make us immortal to time. I walked this world with my stomach continuously in a knot since the moment he first collapsed on that cold winter day. It wasn’t always due to Preston having bad moments, but the anticipation of bad things destined to come, which only escalated in severity in the beginning of March 2020.
Preston walked around noticeably more anxious and stressed than he was prior, leading to a last minute vet appointment on March 9th, where x-rays showed his arthritis had gotten much worse. He was prescribed additional medications to help alleviate some of the anxiety and discomfort, but time was running out. I initially scheduled his home euthanasia for that Friday evening, but quickly changed it for the following day after a slight rebound. Then, on the morning of Monday, March 16, 2020, I knew there was no longer hope for my baby, and he’d only needlessly suffer if I didn’t help him.
I had several panic attacks throughout day while waiting, breaking down in uncontrollable tears over the grim fact that I will never again wake up to see this beacon of eternal light sleeping peacefully next to me. At around 9:20pm, Preston took his final breath. He was finally at peace from pain, even though my heart was shattered into pieces. The knot loosened in the pit of my stomach, migrating northbound in the form of loss and grief. My go-to source for good, who passed out smiles and affection like halloween candy to all takers, was gone. The day before St. Patrick’s will now forever be known as St. Preston’s Day.
I wish there was a way I can tell him how proud I am to be his dad. How, even if I lose my mind, I will never forget him. Over six thousand words later, and it still doesn’t scratch the surface of his impact and importance in my survival. I want to look him in those big brown soulful eyes one last time, tell him how brave he was, that I love him, and thank you. Thank you for everything, my once in a lifetime soulmate.
I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I’m choking down tears but also so grateful to you for sharing yours and Preston’s journey with us.
I am so terribly sorry for your loss, Jeff. You gave him a wonderful life and I believe that he will always be with you watching over you. 💔💓