Saving Gee Gee
In our culture, sex and violence sells. When we turn on the nightly news, we aren’t introduced to a world of love and peace, but all too often a world of hate and danger. We acclimate into this dark world until it becomes an addiction. We need it. We feel lonely when we aren’t being transported into a world of seemingly random violence and theft.
"Gee Gee of California (Design by @blanc_monsieur) #geegee #cockerspaniel #california #love"instagram.com
That’s why when you try and write a nice piece about a man and his love for his dog, it falls on deaf ears in the editorial world. Editors have got to fuel the cycle of drama and high excitement. But, let me tell you something. This story comes from a world of violence. The beauty and love from which this story sprouts was grown in a field of cow manure and hate. Sometimes, that’s how it works.
"The teacher and I. #cockerspaniel #bestfriends"instagram.com
In the heydey of American hardcore, San Diego and Orange County, California were among the most violent punk rock scenes in the nation. The Vandals had all of the gear stolen in San Diego, while in 1982 TSOL was stormed by the audience on stage as a brawl broke out. Henry Rollins had to endure his fair share of crowd-inflicted violence in “America’s finest city.”
“Violence was an explicit goal for participants in San Diego’s hardcore music shows of the early 1980s,” wrote Matthew Smith-Lahrman in a paper presented to the Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery (SISSI) in March, 2007.
Filmmaker Bill Perrine paints a portrait of that early violent punk scene in his documentary It’s Gonna Blow: San Diego Music Documentary 1986–1996. In the same documentary, he begins to describe the scene which evolved from that original violence: a nuanced, artistic scene. By the time I was going to shows a well-developed community comprised of individuals who helped each other out had long replaced the violence of old.
San Diego experiences this community regularly with the Che Cafe. When University of California, San Diego, moves to evict the on-campus all ages, drug free music venue, the community bands together to block the venue’s closure. Another example of the San Diego punk music community helping each other out centers around celebrated musician Justin Pearson. (Retox/The Locust)
"Dogs un-fuck the world. #unftw #cockerspaniel #dogs #love #bestfriends #postsurgery"instagram.com
Justin is like the nicest guy I know. This, for some, might be in stark contrast to how his music comes across in bands like Swing Kids, The Locust, Head Wound City, All Leather and Retox. In terms of sheer output, he is the Rob Crow of noise rock, punk and grindcore, freak punk or whatever you’d like to call it.
He was brought up on similar music to many punk rock San Diegans his age: Heroin, Drive Like Jehu, Crash Worship and others from the vaunted San Diego scene of the late 1980s and 1990s, and attended shows at the Che Cafe on the campus of UC San Diego.
Justin’s dog Gee Gee, bonafide member of the San Diego music community, has needed some recent surgeries. The 12-year-old cocker spaniel had a successful ear operation made possible by the support of the local community. She is now deaf, but, as Justin says, “she is living a much happier life.”
That is not where the health struggles ended for Gee Gee, whom Justin adopted during his years in The Locust, the internationally known San Diego band. Gee Gee was diagnosed with an apocrine gland tumor which threatened to spread to her lungs.
This was overwhelming news for Justin, whose touring life barely pays the bills let alone Gee Gee’s medical bills. Out of love he dedicated himself to the “well-being and longevity” of Gee Gee on this planet. Any pet owner can relate.
Gee Gee gets a bath.
“I got her as a puppy, and for the most part, she chose me,” Justin tells me. “I had been on tour for four-and-a-half months, and was losing it.” He wanted a dog to increase the stability in his life.
"The little lady. #bestfriend #cute #love #cockerspaniel"instagram.com
“Upon us meeting, she decided to untie my shoe and ran away as fast as she could,” he says. “I took something as simple as that as a sign.” Although Gee Gee has some touring experience with her human friend, Justin is pretty certain she is not a Retox fan.
“I’m fairly certain she does not like my music,” he admits. “Sometimes I would play Bastard Noise and more ambient things and some of the tones and notes would get her attention. It was pretty rad to observe what she would pay attention to.” She has gone on a couple tour jaunts here and there, Justin says, including recently. She’s been in some music videos, like the ones below:
She went up the California Coast when Retox was on tour with Melt Banana,” the artist says. “The best part of that aside from having her with me was that Melt Banana could not get over how rad she is.” Gee Gee has also attended many house parties and shows.
“One of her first shows was going to see Fast Forward at The Smell. Shortly after that she saw Moving Units in San Diego. It was then that I started to realize she was not into music. I think the drums startled her.” Today, Gee Gee is deaf due to the ear ablation done to both of her ears.
“Since then, I took her to this really lame music festival that Retox played,” Justin told me. “She has no idea there was music or bands playing. It was pretty rad considering it has now opened the possibility to bring her with me on longer tours.” Nonetheless, there remain hurdles when it comes to a musician bringing a pet on tour.
"Sleeping patterns. #cockerspaniel #snoremonster"instagram.com
“I think the main issue I face with bringing her is the fact that I don’t know the venues all the time. So, there may or may not be a backstage area for her or a place for her to chill,” Justin recognizes. “I’m sure she trips out when I leave her in a room and there are other random people.” In some ways, Gee Gee might believe she is one of the members of Justin’s bands.
“For the most part, she digs my band mates and I assume she considers them to be part of her pack, but when we are playing, she has to hang out elsewhere,” the musician explains. “So if there were no accommodating place for her, it would mean the van, and well, the weather is a concern at times like that. So it’s tricky.” All of Justin’s bandmates know Gee Gee and everyone gets along. There is just one thing.
“She is a bit stuck up to some, possibly to the ones that smoke, as her and I are both allergic to cigarettes,” Pearson says. “I’m sure their hands smell like cigarettes. So she is reluctant at times to connect with certain people, unless they figured out how to spoil her with snacks.” Some have.
“Mike [Crain] from Retox has done that, with all the burritos he eats. Nathan [Joyner] has been there for her over the years as well, taking care of her at times.” Along the way, Gee Gee has had some pretty cool experiences.
"Gee Gee and I need some help. She has to get a major surgery, again, tomorrow and I simply don't make enough money to…instagram.com
Traveling would be the most obvious,” Justin says. “People often give me gifts here and there for her.” She has also made an appearance in a couple videos as well.
“She is completely obsessed with the beach,” Justin informs me. “Of course she likes certain parks, chasing squirrels, and smelling everything. She pretty much goes everywhere with me. Literally everywhere.” There has been a tremendous amount of support for Gee Gee over these last months with her recent issues.
“Even artists have created art featuring her, which is a huge honor. And of course, the fundraisers have been life-saving for her, and even me as well,” he adds. For Justin, it was hard to ask for help.
“I have serious issues with asking for help on any level,” he told me. “The thing that pushed me to ask was that she has to get this emergency surgery and I had about 48 hours to get the funds together. My friend Sarah made a fundraiser page and within thirty or so hours I had the majority of the funds to go through with her surgery.” To fund the tumor removal, Justin started selling t-shirts with images of Gee Gee on it.
“I figured it would be a different level than just asking for donations. Plus, there is a deeper meaning with art and a message presented in the situation.” Currently Gee Gee is on a new, cleaner diet.
She is taking the following supplements:
Health Force Green Mush
Organic Medicinal Mushroom Formula
Apple Cider Vinegar
She is also eating a raw food diet.
“And I add Cell Food to her water that she drinks,” Pearson adds.