Monday, May 23, 2011
We never know from where or when a friend will come. And sometimes that friend has four legs and needs a friend of his own. Seven years ago, Ara Gureghian lost his 26 year old son, his only child, to cancer. And that crossroad is where a grieving father and a broken down dog named Spirit found each other. Spirit was as much in need of a friend as Ara was. Together, they began a journey of healing and discovery.
When life throws challenges at us, we deal with them in our own ways. For many of us, our pets play a role in helping us get through an emotional or tough period in our lives. Their unconditional love is always constant, and we know our pets won't judge us unfairly. In our time of need, a pet can be the most stable thing in our lives. Ara didn't have a pet until a year after his son's death. He was down to his last $1,000 after spending his life savings trying to heal his son, Lance. We know we have to move on after a devastating loss, but it's not always easy. For Ara, dealing with his loss set him on a path to try to make sense of things and rediscover what was important to him.
Ara's chosen profession is as a Gourmet Chef, and after graduating from a culinary school in Switzerland, he immigrated to America to follow his passion for food, cooking and adventure. Life was good until his son died. To heal his broken heart, Ara knew the best way for him to make sense of what had happened was on the open road, so he began to prepare to hit the road with his best friend, Spirit, at his side.
Spirit's story is one of an abused dog who found himself in an animal shelter. According to Ara, “He was beat up pretty badly...very, very badly. He was skin and bones – almost lost his soul. I mean there was nothing left of him.” As soon as Ara saw him curled up in a corner and they made eye contact, he knew this dog needed him as badly as he needed Spirit. It was Ara who named him Spirit.
Ara's motorcycle, Old Faithful, is equipped with a sidecar. After helping Spirit learn how to trust a human again and develop a bond with Ara, he took Spirit on a test drive with him. It's almost as if the sidecar and Spirit were made for each other. He has his own helmet that says “Bite Me” on it, red goggles and necessary and responsible safety precautions to make sure Spirit stays safely in the sidecar.
Because Spirit is a Pit Bull, Ara sought advice from other owners of the breed about his decision to take Spirit with him on a cross country motorcycle journey. Everyone said he was crazy to take a Pit Bull with him. And as we all do when it comes to advice – we have to make the ultimate decision ourselves. So Ara and Spirit climbed on Old Faithful and hit the road, discovering the beauty of this great nation in the land and the people they met along the way.
Even though he had asked for other Pit Bull owner's advice, Ara knew in his heart that Spirit would be his traveling companion. He isn't shy in admitting that Spirit is his therapy. This abused shelter dog no one wanted – until Ara came along – is now certified as a therapy dog.
Ara and Spirit's journey is still ongoing. You can follow their adventures on Ara's website that continues to grow more popular every day. In fact, his journey is being followed by so many people, a movie is in the works. Through his eyes, you can see this beautiful country in a way most of us never get the chance to see. His website is a journal of his life on the road with his best friend. You can watch YouTube videos, track them with SPOT (a GPS tracking system used by backpackers, sailors, pilots and others who spend time in remote locations), and learn more about Chef Ara.
It's been almost five years since Ara and Spirit began their adventure. Like any soul searching and healing quest, it's not the destination – it's the journey and discoveries along the way that are the most important. Only they will know when and if they've arrived at the end of the trail.
Read more articles by Linda Cole