Los Angeles pet lovers.
The Young and The Restless’
David Shark Fralick
By Lori Golden
Actually, his name is David Shark Fralick, and that’s pretty much what happened last year when a group of West Los Angeles cat rescuers were desperately trying to save a kitten that had been crying in a 60 foot redwood tree for over two weeks.
Known to fans of The Young and the Restless as reformed ex-con Larry Warton, Shark describes “the Wartman” as a guy who’s been given a second chance. “He’s been doing good, walking the straight and narrow, keeping his nose clean and rising up the quasi corporate ladder, helping others by helping himself stay clean. He’s not a bad guy any more.”
But bad guy is exactly the kind of character Shark usually portrays. He’s been in a lot of action films (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Desert Heat, Chill Factor, and Assassins to name a few,) playing characters that are always on the wrong side of the law: the drug lord, the mercenary, the cop killer, the thug, the playboy, the hustler. “I’m always the villain in the movies,” he says, “but I’m the opposite in real life.”
He certainly proved that when he was called upon to rescue the kitty from the redwood tree. But that wasn’t a first for him. The road that led Shark to that tree in West LA began in South Florida and New York, and it was filled with animals along the way.
Pets were always a part of his family. There were a couple of dogs and never less than two or three cats. One of his favorites was a cat named Cuda (short for Barracuda) that he gave his Mom a few years ago. “But he died when he got into some poison down South. I’d had him and his brother Flipper since they could fit in my hand,” Shark says. He gave Cuda to his Mom because his father had passed away. “Statistics show that widows and divorcees and single people live longer with pets and I wanted to give her the best pet I could find. She loved him very much. They were very close and it tore her up when he passed away unexpectedly, way too soon. It tore me up, too. I had to fly home and bury him.”
With a heart like that, it’s not surprising he sprang into action when called upon to help with the kitten in the tree. “Other than my own cats, I’ve probably rescued 8 or 10 other cats out of trees. But I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I was always in trees, falling out of them and learning to get back up. And I’ve always been gifted or cursed with wanting to climb. I have something like a seventh sense- kind of like “the horse whisperer,” but I’m “the kitty whisperer.” Friends of my father would call to see if he knew someone who could get a cat out of a chimney or off a roof, and they would enlist me.”
His latest saga came about when his friend recommended Shark to the desperate rescuers. “These people had been trying for over 2 weeks to get this little kitty down. They had asked climbing people, gardeners, and firemen, but no one could get him.”
According to animal rescuer Patty Baret, in a story she wrote about the incident that appeared in Best Friends Magazine, “our conversation with him was brief and to the point. He showed extreme confidence in being able to bring the cat down. We pointed out how we had all tried and how difficult it would be and perhaps we should all meet there and go over the details with him. All he wanted was the address and which tree the kitten was living in. He said he would call us once he had the cat.”
Shark picks up the story from there. “First I had to figure out which tree the cat was in. Then I noticed someone had built a little platform about 30 feet up with some food and water for the cat to go to. But the cat didn’t have reverse… he didn’t know how to climb down. He only knew how to climb up. The food didn’t even look like it had been eaten. So I shimmied up the tree, climbing higher and higher, calling for him. Finally I saw a bit of fur. Once that happened I took my time climbing up because he was kind of antsy and fatigued. I kept talking to him the whole way. It took me about 45 minutes to an hour to go the final 20 feet, working my way up real slow, talking to him and making jokes, telling him, (in a high pitched voice), “you’ve got nine lives and I’ve got one. Let’s make this easy.””
“I finally got up to him but he was getting ready to jump. He was growling at me and I was trying to talk to him in the same language. “It’s ok, ok. You’ve got a nice view up here. You can see the ocean. But we gotta go now. I’m gonna take you and get you all better and get you some food.” I’m talkin’ baby talk and kitty talk. And then I finally grabbed his tail. I was that close. By this time I’m on probably a two-inch limb that started swaying back and forth. He turned around to bite me, but I didn’t let go. He continued to claw at me, but discovered I wasn’t afraid of him. I was almost 60 feet high. When it got to a point where he was about to launch, I grabbed him. And then he simmered down. By this time the branch was angling over 50 degrees. I slowly started petting him, and then I pushed my hand against one side of his body. The natural reaction is to push against it. Then I let go, and he pushed back and kind of fell into my hand. He was still trying to bite and claw me, but I just held him with one hand real close and reassured him over and over again saying, “it’s ok, now. We just gotta go down. Just hang tight with me.”
“I climbed down with him in one hand, holding the tree in the other. He knew that I was there to rescue him and that his little ordeal as far as THAT was concerned was over. As soon as I reached the ground I put him in my car and called the rescue people to let them know I had the cat. They didn’t believe me. Five minutes into the drive to the vet clinic the cat released his pee and was just like, “ahhhhhhhhhhh.” Finally he could relax.”
“That incident led to me becoming a National Spokesperson for my friend who formed United Pet Way in Florida. I’m also a big supporter of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and will be at their Lint Roller Party event on March 30th. ”
Shark is also a volunteer for Last Chance for Animals and helped promote their Pet Theft Awareness campaign in February. “They said they would call me the next time they have a “sting operation.” Since I’ve been an actor for so long, I’ve become a chameleon and can kind of blend in and do accents and contort my body and not look like I’m 6’3” and 220. I’d like to be involved in that and help out the little critters… especially the abused and neglected ones.”
Shark’s companions these days are two beautiful dogs. Chevy, who’ll be two in June, is a purebred golden German Shepherd that was given to him. “He’s my boy and he means business.” His other dog is Nitros, a half Chow, half Golden Retriever he adopted at a Super Adoption Festival. He’s 14 months and is “very loving. Kind of like Linus from Charlie Brown. Big bark, no bite. Always carrying around a teddy bear or blanket that is so cute to see.”
He’s also looking to adopt a pair of cats: gray tiger stripes, Siamese, or all gray or all black. “I want a pair of them, males preferred. I think you should have two so they can keep each other company while you’re gone.”
Shark says he “wants to see more families incorporate pets into their lives. When you come home from a hectic drive or a stressful day, it’s good to just collapse on the floor and have your pets come over and lick you and wag their tails and always be so happy to see you. They give you good loving no matter what!”
Shark’s love for animals also extends to his love for our planet. “You’ve got to have respect for the planet. If we don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of us. The way we keep raping it and polluting it and abusing it… especially these high-echelon corporations that really could give a shit because they’re multi-millionaires. I think they need to be more conscious and aware of what by-products are harmful to the planet.
It starts with the littlest piece of paper or soda can or candy wrapper. It’s so easy to keep it in your car until you get to a place with a trash can rather than just dump it on the street. I’m also an avid water person. I love to surf and sail and swim and dive, and if they throw all that stuff in the street, the next big rain comes and it ends up in the ocean. It comes down to ignorance, lack of self-respect and awareness.”
Shark says that some of the best advice he ever got came from Coach Paul Bear Bryant, “when I played football for the University of Alabama. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” So don’t keep pawning responsibilities and pass judgment on other people. You need to judge yourself first. If you see an animal being abused or neglected, or if you hear one crying for hours because it’s locked up in a room with poor ventilation and no food or water… or you see someone abuse an animal on the street… it’s your duty to step up and say hey, “that’s not right! You’re in violation of whatever law, not only the humanitarian one of your own morals and ethics and values.”
“These animals can’t speak our language,” he continues. “They’re only here to love us. That’s all they want to get back in return.”
(David Shark Fralick can be seen on the daytime soap operaThe Young and The Restless. He also appears in Lockdown, a film he expects to be on video or cable very soon.)
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