Together: A Story of Shared Vision

( 15 )


Sometimes you can't see what matters most until it's gone.

Brenden McCarthy feels like he's lost everything. His fiancee. His independence. And his passion for life. All due to one tragic misstep while mountain climbing that cost him his sight.

But he's about to gain the last thing he ever expected.

A big-hearted black Labrador named Nelson ...

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Together: A Story of Shared Vision

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Sometimes you can't see what matters most until it's gone.

Brenden McCarthy feels like he's lost everything. His fiancee. His independence. And his passion for life. All due to one tragic misstep while mountain climbing that cost him his sight.

But he's about to gain the last thing he ever expected.

A big-hearted black Labrador named Nelson who's given one last shot at being a Seeing Eye dog.

Both are beyond hope and resigned to live alone. And both are about to experience a bond of friendship that develops when they least expect it.

Together is a heartwarming story for anyone who's ever lost sight of what matters most in life . . . but has hope that there's more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595545756
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/14/2009
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 711,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Sullivan, who lost his sight as an infant, is known as an actor, singer, author, and producer. He has been nominated for Emmy Awards and has written nine books for youths and adults.

Betty White is an Emmy award-winning film and television actress, whose diverse career has spanned sixty years. White is well-known for heradvocacy in animal health and welfare--including her work with the Los Angeles Zoo.

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Read an Excerpt


A Novel of Shared Vision
By Tom Sullivan Betty White

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2008 Tom Sullivan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59554-575-6

Chapter One

The young man stood, silhouetted against what he believed to be the bluest sky on earth. As always, he felt at one with the mountain, never conquering it, only sharing its beauty with all of nature's creations lucky enough to ascend its peak. For a brief second, he shivered as the whitest of white clouds passed overhead, temporarily blocking the intense noonday sun. It was the summer solstice, June 21, when the great orb stood above the equator and time was suspended as the earth balanced precariously on the edge of the changing seasons.

Today, Brenden McCarthy was in the Elk Range above Aspen, Colorado, at the top of the Maroon Bells. In actual fact, his feet were planted firmly on North Maroon, the toughest of the Bells to climb. It was a moment of utter happiness.

In McCarthy's short life-twenty-five years and six months, to be exact-he had climbed all fifty-four peaks of fourteen thousand feet and above in the state of Colorado. Climbing was his passion-or rather, one of them. He was just as passionate about becoming a great orthopedic surgeon.

Having just graduated from the University of Colorado medical school, he was in his first year of residency at St. Joseph Hospital, overwhelmed by work but somehow loving theexperience.

That's who Brenden McCarthy was-a young man who loved the experience of being alive. This morning he drove up from Denver on his prized possession-a rebuilt 1959 Harley Panhead motorcycle that took every penny he could scrounge from jobs he worked all through undergraduate school at Colorado State. The bike was a total trip as it roared along I-70 traveling west and turned onto Route 82, crossing Castle Creek and then turning south on an access road that allowed him to be more aggressive. He pulled in and wheelied to a stop in the parking lot of Maroon Lake Campground.

He knew he was showing off, but on this Thursday there wasn't anyone around. And frankly, he just couldn't help himself. With this perfect weather, he figured the climb would take around six and a half hours with the descent actually slower than the ascent because of having to be so careful of a mountain climber's most deadly enemy-scree-loose rock that at any time could send even the most experienced climber plummeting to-what? Injury? Death? Brenden didn't want to know.

He shook off the thought as he began to prepare for the climb. Today he chose a familiar route to the top of North Maroon. Though he was dressed in shorts, a T-shirt, heavy socks, and hiking boots, he was experienced enough always to be completely prepared. In his daypack he carried a simple but appropriate hiker's first-aid kit-a bottle of water, along with a filtering pump that would allow him to take water from mountain springs, power bars and a banana for energy, and a gigantic tuna fish sandwich. He also never climbed without a signal mirror, compass, and topographical map that he certainly didn't need but was never without. As an Eagle Scout, he never forgot the axiom "Be prepared."

McCarthy was a young man exacting in all things, and it was this quality of exactness that allowed him to seem to others to be a completely free spirit. His father had always said preparation and perspiration allow for expectation and inspiration. McCarthy believed that was true, so additionally, his clothing consisted of a heavy woolen cap that could be pulled down over his ears; a woolen scarf his mother gave him that seemed a little effeminate, but that he secretly loved; a wool long-sleeved shirt that could be covered by a down vest; and a Gore-Tex windproof jacket. He also carried long underwear that could fit under his shorts and heavy Gore-Tex pants with plenty of pocket space. Two pairs of gloves, extra socks, a flashlight, whistle, and ice axe completed his equipment.

As he checked over his stuff one more time, he read the history of these great peaks on a large plaque at the base of the ascent. The Maroon Bells were so named because of their pyramid-like shape and astounding native maroon color that changed to fire red when emblazoned by the sun.

Mountain historians Lampert and Borneman referred to the Bells as red, rugged, and rotten because of the unpredictability of their sedimentary surfaces. The history went on to say that North Maroon Peak was the fiftieth highest of the fifty-four Colorado peaks, measuring 14,014 feet.

He was surprised to read that the mountains were sometimes called "The Deadly Bells" because more than on any other Colorado peaks, unprepared climbers lost their lives. The complexity of the tree roots and the rock often spelled disaster. In 1965, for example, six climbers ascended the Bells and never came down.

The Haden and Wheeler surveys in the mid-1890s first mapped the Bells, and the first documented ascent had been completed in 1908.

So, here was Brenden, a century later, feeling like the luckiest young guy in the world as he began to climb. The route for his ascent was based around a series of ledges that measured eight to ten feet in height. Brenden always thought of this particular climb as being like ascending the Washington Monument or maybe the Lincoln Memorial. There were literally hundreds of these steps, and you were forced to snake your way up them very much in the way you might ski down one of the sister slopes of Aspen.

As you moved laterally back and forth across the mountain, you kept your eyes down in search of stone cairns-piles of rock left by other climbers indicating the places where you could scramble up to the top of the next ledge.

Brenden's climb began from the campground at 9,600 feet, moving southwest along a well-beaten hiking path and skirting Maroon Lake. He continued for about a mile and a half before he stopped and caught his breath at the beauty of Crater Lake, a volcanic crater filled with water as pristine as anyone had ever seen.

Then came a half-mile climb up the steep Minnehaha Trail that forced even this very physically fit young man to take deep breaths as he exerted his will on the mountain. Arriving at the top of the trail, he looked back and saw the last of the campgrounds at Buckskin Pass.

Then, turning south and fording a small creek, Brenden began the main part of the climb up a prominent gully that reached to what looked to him like a round island of rock surrounded by green, thickly layered mountain meadow grasses. Then it was time to cross the Ancient Glacier, being oh so careful of loose rock, until he reached the northeast face and began ascending a couloir. These couloir, as they were called, were like divots in the mountain, allowing the climber to press himself against the sidewalls as he worked his way up.

Brenden breathed like a bellows when he reached the top of the couloir. But he gathered his strength while crossing a flat ledge that took him to a second couloir and a final ascent to the north base, bringing him to the summit.

So, here he was with his chin tilted up to the warmth of the noonday sun, believing that Robert Burns was right, all has to be in its heaven. All has to be right with the world, or at least that's how God designed it. Brenden was comfortable in the thought that there were screwups in the environment. But these were all on man's shoulders. God had nothing to do with them.

Brenden felt a lump in his throat as his eyes swept over the panorama that surrounded him. The combination of toylike forms and colors as seen from this mountaintop delighted him, giving rise to feelings of joy, appreciation, and sheer awe in the vivid majesty before him.

He was two thousand feet above timberline, and the scrubbed pine below looked like miniature Christmas trees decorated with the sunlit yellow-gold of thousands of aspens reaching hungrily skyward.

Brenden reluctantly remembered that he had not yet honored the climber's tradition. Moving a few feet to his left, he reached the summit block, a stick in the ground with a two-foot-long piece of PVC pipe wedged tightly between two rocks at its base. Unscrewing one of the ends, he removed a folded up parchment, a document on which all climbers logged their dates and times of arrival.

These scrolls were kept by the Colorado Mountain Club and published in various climbing publications. Climbers didn't sign for glory. They respectfully stated their achievement of the summit with gratitude to the mountain for allowing them to succeed.

He sat down on a rock outcropping and began to wolf down his lunch.

Boy, am I hungry, he thought. I missed breakfast, and this tastes delicious. Something about altitude air, I guess.

In the distance he noticed the white contrails of a jet leaving the Aspen airport as it cut its way through the crystal blue sky. Between bites, he let his eyes wander back to the valley below.

He noted the minimansions across from downtown Aspen looking like dollhouses built by the hands of miniarchitects. There is civilization, he thought, interacting fairly well with the natural order of things in these mountains.

Still looking east but above and beyond the town, he could see Mount Massive and Mount Albert, the highest of the Colorado fourteeners. Turning slightly to the north and shading his eyes, he could make out the outline of Mount Holy Cross, though the cross itself was hidden from view on the east face. A little more to the northwest, he traced the slender outline of Snowmass and Maroon Peak, the second and third of the Bells.

He brought his eyes back south and took in the vista of Pyramid Peak, looming so close he felt he could almost touch it. This was a mountain he loved to climb. Beyond he could also see Castle Peak. And because the day was so clear, in the far distance he could make out the outlines of the mountains that made up the San Juan Range.

Never, he realized, would he ever take any of this for granted. He was at the top of the world, relishing one of the best moments of his life.

And now he wasn't alone. He heard her cry before he saw her: a golden eagle, diving for a pika and getting it. There was now one less rodent on the mountain and an eagle to share lunch with. He watched as the bird chewed its prey, sitting motionless on the thermals.

Now there's something I wish I could do, he thought, sit up there all day and not have to work hard. "You're beautiful," he called to the eagle. "Beautiful."

The bird moved her wings slightly, like a princess acknowledging the presence of a commoner.

Okay, bird, he thought, I get it. It's your sky, but today it's my mountain.

By the angle of the sun he reckoned it to be just after two o'clock. Time to start down, he knew. Even though the light would last until well after 8 p.m., you never wanted to run the risk of not getting down before dark, especially when all you had with you was a daypack.

He allowed himself a fifteen-minute nap, resting on the warmth of the sunny rock with his jacket as a pillow. Call it a catnap or dognap or people-nap, when he stood and stretched, he felt amazing-at one with his own physicality, at peace with his emotional state, connected to the earth, and ready to return to civilization and all the challenges that were waiting for him.

He began working his way back down the exact route he had ascended. He was careful but catlike as he moved over the loose scree. Though it sometimes moved under his foot, he was on to the next stone before danger could threaten. His eyes never stopped evaluating the placement of his feet, and he had an uncanny sense, developed over years of climbing, regarding the feel of the rock. He was like a ballet dancer with a wirewalker's appreciation for the risks involved.

He had been descending for about an hour and a half when he came to a particularly squirrelly area of loose junk-he never used the word scree-made worse by the runoff from a mountain stream.

Careful now, he reminded himself. Be very careful. Don't rush.

A whir just to the right and above him made him turn his head, and from the corner of his eye he once again saw the beautiful eagle diving for something to eat. Later he would wonder if the turning of his head changed the angle of his foot plant or broke his concentration. All he knew for sure was that the fall began oh so slowly.

Rock slid from under his boots. Slow falls are the ones that kill you, mountaineers say, because you work so hard to maintain balance that you lose it.

Like the wirewalker knowing in an instant that there's no net below, Brenden understood this. He had time to think about it as he desperately competed with gravity to maintain his balance.

For a moment he thought he'd make it as he sort of slalomed along the top of the sliding stone. But then he tipped forward, his chin dropping to his chest-a human bowling ball bouncing down a natural alley to strike stone pins that could not be knocked down.

He screamed, or he thought he screamed, as he bounced along. He heard more than felt the crack of his climbing helmet as his head tattooed the boulders. All of this might have taken mere seconds-almost no time at all in the scheme of life-but the impact would resound forever in the man he would become.

Unconscious now, he continued to careen along until finally he came to a blessed stop against an outcropping that probably saved his life.

The mountains give, and the mountains take. How Brenden would come to understand that fundamental truth.

Chapter Two

Bart knew he was in trouble. The big, black Labrador lay with his head on his paws, listening to Lady as she screamed at him. When she yelled this loud, he knew she was really mad. The dog raised his head and sat up when Lady waved the shoe she had just taken from him-or at least what was left of it. The high heel that had come off was still in his mouth.

"Look what you've done! My new shoes! You are a bad, bad dog! BAD! I can't take this anymore!"

Hearing the commotion, the dog's master came in to investigate. Being blind, he couldn't see the damage, but his wife's fury made the situation clear.

Man didn't yell, but Bart could tell from his voice that he wasn't happy.

"Calm down, honey. How did he get hold of them? Did you leave them on the floor?"

"Don't you dare try and blame me for this. I told you the last time this happened that I have had all I can take. What do I mean, the last time-there've been too many times. I'm through with this animal!"

"You don't mean that, dear. You know how much I need him. He helps me more than-" Lady cut him off.

"Oh sure, you're fine. Strolling around the neighborhood or showing off to your friends. What about me? What about the turkey? What about the Christmas tree? When he knocked it over, who had to clean up the mess? Not you! Sometimes I get the feeling that dog's more important to you than I am." She paused for breath, but not for long. "Make up your mind; either he goes or I do!"

Slamming the broken shoe into the wastebasket, she stormed out of the room, the man right behind her.

The big, black dog was always tense when he heard them argue, but this time seemed worse than usual. He lost all interest in the shoe heel and for once didn't automatically follow the man but slid to the floor and stayed where he was, his chin between his paws. He could hear their voices, still raised, going on and on in the other room.

Bart liked Man, but he didn't understand Lady.

Why did she talk so loud?

A picture came into the dog's mind.

The loudest he had ever heard her yell was that day with the turkey. Oh, it smelled so good when they were eating it. Afterward, she put it up on top of the fridge. If he wasn't supposed to touch it, then why did she put it where he could reach it? All he had to do was put his paws up on the door and pull it down. She must have heard the platter break-she sure came running. But he got some of it. Oh, he was sick after. Real sick. Man tried to help, but Lady acted mad at both of them. She really yelled that time.

Soon the angry voices calmed somewhat and eventually ceased altogether. The dog stood up and shook himself hard enough to rattle his collar. He hoped things were good again.

Time to go check on dinner.


Excerpted from Together by Tom Sullivan Betty White Copyright © 2008 by Tom Sullivan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Not usually my style

    This book was chosen on a fluke. This is a really good read and really warms the heart. It is a quick and easy to understand style of book. I really enjoyed it. Short but sweet. I would recomend this book to any age adult and anyone 6th grade and up.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2012

    highly recommend

    This was one of the books when you start you are not sure but once you get started you don't want to put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2011

    Great for dog lovers

    I don't own a dog, but thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great insight into the animal's behavior.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Should Collaberate More Often

    Both Tom Sullivan and Betty White have wrote books, but this their first joint fiction together. If they wrote more fiction together, they'd have me hooked.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    An Amazing Read for anyone!

    This book was so wonderful and heart-felt. I could not put it down. This book reminds us what is important in life and explores the partnership between man and his best friend. Anyone would enjoy this wonderful story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2008

    A must read for anyone who loves dogs.

    I you know someone who just recently became blind read this book. It is fantastic and may help you help your friend or loved one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Great read.

    Great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    Katana bedroom

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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