Marine veteran and author Craig Grossi introduces StC to Fred the dog as part of our Journeys to Manhood series.
What can a stray dog teach us about strength, openness and resilience? Last week, StC and the Center for the Study of Boys welcomed Marine veteran and author Craig Grossi and his dog to campus as part of our Journeys to Manhood speaker series. 

Grossi’s “Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other” tells the story of the author’s wartime experiences in Afghanistan and how he met Fred, a stray dog he befriended while on patrol. Fred quickly captured Grossi’s heart, and with a little creativity and bending of military regulations, he eventually found a new home in the United States.

To Grossi, Fred is more than just a pet. The friendly, loving dog the author met in a warzone changed Grossi’s post-service life. “He connected me with not just with the world around me, but myself,” he said. “I turned my back on my own ambition and attempts to be happy, and he showed me a way to rediscover what I had to offer as a person.”

For two days, Grossi and Fred met with our Upper, Middle and Lower School boys to talk about happiness, vulnerability and being optimistic in the face of hardship. Inspired by Fred’s persistent and tail-wagging happiness in war-torn Afghanistan, “stubborn positivity” is a phrase Grossi uses to describe his approach to tackling difficult situations, and something he encouraged the boys to consider. “It’s a way to start with what you have to wag your tail about, what you have to be grateful for,” he said. 

After returning home from his military service, Grossi struggled with his mental health. If I had had the tools to be open, talk about how I didn’t feel good and … the loss of my friends, I would have saved myself a lot of grief and made better decisions.” For Grossi, learning to be open and vulnerable takes strength and courage, and something he encourages our boys to embrace. “The earlier these young guys realize it, the better off they’ll be and the more equipped they will be when they face these challenges.”

Grossi and Fred now live in Maine and frequently travel to share their experiences with schools and other groups. “Fred gave me a place to start,” said Grossi. “I’m so glad that he can also help do that for others.”