Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: Q is for Quasi, Kurt Weston's Dog

The AIDS Alphabet: Q is for Quasi (for Quasimodo), Kurt Weston's Dog

Ambrose, Kurt's guide dog taking a well-deserved nap
We need friends, especially to see us through tough times. Tough times defined by AIDS. Friends defined by man's best friend. I'd like to share here the story of one man's best friend. The man is AIDS warrior and award-winning photographer Kurt Weston. His best friend is Quasi, his dog. And now Ambrose, his guide dog.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter Seven of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Hope you enjoy the read.

I'll be at the Rainbow Book Fair, in NYC, 3/24. Stop by!
As always, thanks for stopping by.
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness

Like his master, Kurt’s now aging dog is also a survivor. After Va’s death, Kurt continued to stay in touch with Va’s family. So, when they had a litter of puppies from their Springer Spaniel, Kurt set his heart on one of the puppies and decided it was going to be his, no matter what. Kurt even named his future pet Quasi, for Quasimodo, the protagonist’s name in the 1831 Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame that tells the story of a man born with extreme deformities, who was found abandoned on the steps of Notre Dame on Quasimodo Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter)—hence his name.
    Despite Kurt’s dreams for his furry friend, Va’s family had other plans for the litter and already had a potential buyer for Quasi. They were just waiting for the puppy to get old enough to be sold.

    But Kurt never gave up. He started visiting the dog on a regular basis, bringing toys and treats, and trying to get to know Quasi better. When Va’s brother, who also had chosen a puppy for himself, started stealing Quasi’s toys and treats and giving them to his pup, Kurt started bringing even more goodies, so that there would be some left for his dog, too.
    One day when Kurt stopped by to see Quasi, he found out that the pup had fallen into a bucket of ice-cold water and that it had been trapped there the entire night. The only way to stay alive was by holding on with its front paws to the edge of the bucket to keep its nose over the water level. 
    Va’s family had found Quasi in the morning, paddling in the bucket, barely alive. They pulled it out of the bucket but later on it became clear that the nightlong ordeal had damaged the dog somehow because it started having seizures—would walk and fall, and then start shaking, while foam started coming out of its mouth.
    Quasi’s seizures went on for weeks and when it became obvious that it wasn’t going to get any better, the family decided that the puppy was “damaged goods.” They could never sell it anymore, so they offered it to Kurt. “If you still want it, we’ll let you have it,” they said.
    Of course, Kurt wanted his dog. He started to prepare healthy meals for Quasi and feed it vitamins. He took his dog to the vet to get all the necessary shots and exams. And, in time, Quasi started to get better and grew more beautiful, stronger and taller than all the other dogs from the litter. “It was so amazing,” Kurt says, “’cause I knew when I first set my eyes on him that he was gonna be my dog. And he ended up being my dog.”
    After he met Terry, Kurt invited him over to his place and offered to cook dinner for their first date. And when Terry walked in, he saw Quasi. “Ah, you have a dog,” he said and then he walked right over to the couch and sat down and petted the dog.
    In response, Quasi started wagging its tail, getting more and more excited. From the other side of the room, Kurt watched the scene amazed by his dog’s behavior, because he had dated other people before meeting Terry, but Quasi had never responded to any of them as affectionately, if at all. The dog was usually pleasant with Kurt’s previous dates, but had never shown any excitement around either of them.
    But in Terry’s case, Quasi stretched right over Terry’s lap, almost pinning him to the couch, as if to say “You’re not going anywhere!”
    So Kurt interpreted his dog’s behavior as a sign that they should “keep” Terry for good. Soon after they started forming a relationship, Quasi started connecting to Kurt’s new partner. These days, the aging dog is more Terry’s than it is Kurt’s.


Ambrose by Alina Oswald
In 2010 Terry and Kurt had to take Quasi to the vet for one last time. Quasi lived a long and good life.

Ambrose is a huge English yellow lab and Kurt’s guide dog. He came into Kurt’s life in the summer of 2007.

Kurt & Ambrose by Alina Oswald
Kurt graduated and now is teaching photography. A compilation of works from his Blind Vision series and Hearts of a Silent Age series is featured in Sight Unseen, an international art show (2009-2015).

In December 2011, Kurt and Terry (and Ambrose) visited New York City. Kurt was one of the top ten winners of Fight HIV Your Way photography contest and received a trip to Manhattan, to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performance. I got a chance to see Kurt and Terry again, and meet Ambrose.

Kurt and Terry continue to make a difference in many people’s lives.


  1. Yay! Puppies!! I'm thrilled Kurt wound up with Quasi. The best part about animals, is they give UNCONDITIONAL love, no matter what. Think about that - NO MATTER WHAT. Heart-warming.

  2. Hi Sean! As always, you are fantastic and your comments always come at the right time. Many thanks!

    I did not get a chance to meet Quasi, but did meet Ambrose, Kurt's guide dog. I'm an animal lover, myself. Love dogs, in particular. There's a reason they are called "man's best friend."

    Thanks again for your ongoing support and for your inspiring, thought-provoking blog!