Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What a Little Moonlight Can Do

I don’t spend too much time living in my past, so it’s no mystery why I don’t spend much time wondering about what Will’s life was like before he came to us.  I concentrate instead on what his life is now.  But the other night as I was carrying him outside I was struck by the calm black water of the harbor and the way it caught the low flying luminous full moon and scattered its reflection toward us.  There was Will cradled in my arms like a baby, his full heart and equally full belly reaching up toward heaven, his nose tucked under my chin while his little body shivered at the first bite of night air. I felt in my arms a living, breathing soul who is so dependent on us and a thought entered my mind for the first time. 

“Sixteen long years ago Will was a puppy…someone’s precious puppy…and his life and theirs was bright with the promise of what could be and was touched by his innocence.”

For some reason this stopped me in my tracks and I thought of what an honor it is to be able to give him this gift, to allow him to feel precious again as he most likely did as a puppy.  As I pulled him close and thought of all this, caught under the magic of the moonlight, a tear rolled down my cheek for Will and the splendor of this moment and my little ancient friend stopped shivering just long enough to lick it with his tongue and look up at me with those cloudy eyes. 

So funny, this was a dog who was so angry, betrayed, and confused when he came to us that I had to be careful what I put near his mouth for he was vicious and made me bleed several times.  But nine months later he was comforting me with a kiss as I held him against the cold.  I hesitated before putting him down to go to the bathroom because I wanted to hold onto that moment, not just for what I was thinking but more so how it felt.

There have been many moments where I’ve witnessed Will redefine himself and I’ve noted when we’ve reached milestones together.  But none of it compares to what happened the other night and I realized how far we have come together. 

As for how I felt?  It was a mixture of many things. I felt proud of him for choosing to live life when he could have quit. I felt joy in knowing we had given him a home when he needed one most. I felt a twinge of sadness realizing that no matter how much time we have together it will be sad to see him go. I felt gratitude for the bond of love we now share.  So many emotions ran through me but none was more powerful than how honored I felt to know that he completely trusts us now and how we are blessed to see him through to the end of his days. 

Last May when I told a friend we were adopting Will she said, “Don’t do it, Tom.  It’s horrible.  There will be nothing but heartache.  He won’t last very long. He’ll soil your floors and there will be costly medical bills and it will all stress out Atticus and it will end in heartache.  It’s a thankless thing and I think you’ll hate it.”

She was right about most of it: the medical bills have been steep at times; he has soiled our floors; and this will surely end in heartache when we have to say goodbye to Will.  But she was wrong about something else.  It’s not thankless.  Not at all.  It’s an incredible gift to share what we do with Will and to receive what he shares with us. 

I’m sure when all is said and done and the years pass I’ll remember Will in many ways, but I doubt there will be a more lasting memory than the one we received the other night standing where the water met the land near midnight while the reflection of the full moon reached across the harbor to embrace us with her light.
         

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful.

Pam Hicks said...

Sweetness itself, Tom. You describe what it is all about....what everything is all about at it's deepest essence. As always, thank you for your generosity in painting this beautiful story.

Anonymous said...

Gave my furry friend an extra hug after reading this. Thanks.

Jean said...

Evocative piece. Didn't I say you were standing in a powerful place Will? I felt it all the way across the pond :0)

Anonymous said...

I do love your insight. We have a 13 year old retriever/collie. We got him for $5.00 at a flea market. He was the last pup left in the back of a pickup. He wasnt friendly and wouldnt even come to us. It was so hot that day and the guys that had him (and originally 4 others) were getting ready to leave. I ask anout the lone pup. They said they were dropping him at the shelter on their way home. I didnt really want him but ....the shelter? I couldnt let it happen. All this time during the conversation I hadnt noticed "Buddy" staring with his big brown eyes....at me. He got up and walked to me...tail down. He was begging..from then on he belonged to us. He is whitefaced now but is a wonderful house baby. I keep seeing some things that do make you worry hut hey....we will deal....just as you have with Will. I pove your posts,blogs and what I have read of your book. I will probably finish it today after just huying it yesterday. Thank you.

Carter W Rae said...

Life is a lot like this also we start with energy and excitement but as we go our innocence and our trust are many times dashed against the realities of life With your/our journey with William Lloyd Garrison he, through your efforts and beautiful quotes and thoughts have given us a much needed look at love and redemption that we ALL need... To take that hurt, disappointment and darkness and remind us that it is life and the journey to the light not the darkness along the way that is the prize You the pack have given us much . I am speaking especially for myself but I know in the "times that try men's "souls" all of the Following Atticus Army have gleaned much We must keep our eyes on the goal (onward by all means)... I hope we have the privilege of meeting you and the pack one day ....at the next book tour perhaps... I also know that with Will he is fragile but determined thanks to you and your care. Thank you again for the beautiful blog today ,,, I will hug my little friend Cooper with a greater tenderness also .. They as are all of God's blessings just on loan for a season
to give us a certain sense of focus and urgency we but have to be the good stewards as best we can with great thanksgiving.... The very best of all blessings to you Tom and pack from our pack your friends ♥♥♥♥

Silvia G. Soos-Kazel said...

Words truly expressed from the heart. Life is not always fair, but if one does not reach out to life, one may never have the opportunity to experience true joy and happiness. Tom, your unselfish deed to give Will his final earthly home may have posed some negatives, but as you have shown us through Will's journey this last half year, the mutual happiness between you and Will has become a memorable treasure never to be forgotten.

Ginny said...

oh the beauty of this journey you have taken us along on...
heart full of love for little old Will.
the gifts we are given, all of us!

Rhonda McCracken said...

What a wonderful memory to share. As I read your piece, I believe I could almost feel the warmth of holding and cuddling Will. He trusts you completely and the love you have given each other is wonderful. Please give Will and Atticus hugs and kisses today from all of us!

ps ~ My mother is reading your book again.....she loves it (as do I) and wanted me to let you know it's even better the 2nd time :-)

Anonymous said...

Heartfelt, what a treasured moment for you & Will! <3

Stephanie Higgins said...

Wow! Your words describe your emotions so eloquently and I can feel and understand each word! I know what it is like to love and care for a furry old soul! I had to say goodbye to my best friend of 14 years last February and honestly it was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. We have since adopted another loving little guy and I know he was absolutely meant to be placed into my life and heart at just that time as I feel Will was for you and your family! I am inspired by your blog and words and will continue to follow your blog and read your books! I don't think my heart or soul could ever be complete without having a precious furry friend by my side! You all are so lucky that Will found his way into your family!

Philafilly said...

Beautifully expressed. Bringing Will into your home -- and all of our lives -- makes us all the richer for the experience. Thank you for sharing such a crystalline moment of understanding, love and compassion.

Anonymous said...

I am astonished to find that Will's happiness means so much to me. I've never met him; in person, only through your writings, pictures and maybe a video. They are so touching; and they make me more aware of all that I share with my own little dog. Thank you so much Tom, Atticus & Will.

John

Joan S. said...

We also adopted a dog, named Gidget, who is part Min-Pin and part Chihuahua. Similar to you, I have felt both proud and satisfied by adopting her we have somehow have made a difference in her life and given her a environment of love. And she has made a difference in our lives too. When we first spotted her at the Pet Smart Adoption Day, she was quivering and probably unsure where she was going to wind up—coming and going, coming and going from the foster home (they were wonderful to her, but to this day, she doesn’t like going into a Pet Smart). Her prior family couldn’t keep her because they got divorced. We were actually there that day to adopt another doggie, but the foster owner never showed up. Glad for us and glad for Gidget that we saw her, however, at 8 years old, didn’t expect to have a semi-senior dog in the house. I didn’t even expect to have a dog, since we already had two cats and a Guinea pig. But my husband is disabled and it is something he wanted. She made herself right at home; in fact, when she got out of the car in front of the house, she proceeded up the driveway and onto the front porch like, “Ok, I’m home now” and from that moment on, she has been a part of our family (although, she follows me around constantly, much to my son’s chagrin). Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures with us – keep them coming – I love to read them!!

Becky said...

Absolutely wonderful.....you are so special to him as he is to you. I always get a little teary when I read your posts and listen to Will's lullaby. May there be many more happy tears!!

Carly said...

God bless you and God bless Will. Treating another living being with humanity and respect is never thankless.

KGMom said...

Tom--even as tears roll down my face as I absorb your sweet paean to Will, I am thinking of all rescued dogs (and cats).
Our own sweet dog spent the first year of her life running with a pack of dogs--her litter mates--outside, unattended by humans. In that time, she was shot (as we learned when she had an x-ray unrelated to the old injury).
We often think of what her first year must have been like--as she is the most people friendly dog we have ever had. She always wants hugs--and then I think she spent the first year of her life with NO hugs.
So, I give a hug--every time I am with her.
Thanks for being such a sweet and gentle voice reminding all of us to be kind and loving to our animals.

Kristyl said...

Writing from the heart. A wonderful thing. Takes us all inside your world and being. Of course Will would lick your tear. He loves you. Simple as that. :) Yes, you've climbed a mountain with him prior to this. But none so great as this moonlit horizon. Forever etched in your life. Thank you for another wonderful blog, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Through your words I can see the moonlight on the water and feel the love and joy you have with Will. It will be heartache for me, too, when he is gone, just as it is so heartwarming to know him even a little from reading about him. I'm blowing Will a kiss! Thanks Tom.

Sharon said...

What beautiful sentiment. Will is one sweet boy and you're all so very blessed to have found each other. Makes me even more anxious for the next book.

Barb said...

I respect you so much for what you have done for Will. What a wonderful, selfless thing you have done for this wonderful dog! It proves that no one should give up on an animal and say a situation is hopeless. What you have is priceless, and what you have done for Will is priceless.

lacachet said...

You, sir, are a sweetheart!

Sue said...

Even when you start with a puppy it ends in heartache, and most likely costly medical bills and soiled floors. If it was thankless I doubt we'd all be lining up to do it again and again and again. Beautiful piece of writing, Tom!

Librarylady said...

Moved to tears...again!

AA said...

A beautiful image. I could see you both clearly. We all love Will and Atticus, and we will share the heartache with you when it comes. All of us who have furry friends know what we face, yet it is a tribute to them all that we do it again and again. Sue said it all very well.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ryan,
You are a prince. I just finished your book. I am a middle school librarian who opened our first book fair carton on Friday and your book was on top. Destiny? my best friend lives in Newburyport, I have a house in NH and adopted our rescue bichon poo 3 years ago. Loved your book...love your blog, may you and yours, puppies and people prosper this year. Looking forward to summer in NH. We sold out your book and will reorder tomorrow. thanks for your heart and soul in your writing.
Holly Rigby
Spring, TX

Anonymous said...

How glad I was when I saw what you have written just some days ago, To know that Will is still with you, and to read your wonderful thoughts about what an animal can give us. Thank you so much,all the three of you: Will, Atticus and you, Tom. Greetings from Switzerland Ursy

Mary said...

Please hug Will and tell him he is in my heart, too. We do what we need to do for the ones we love because we do love them.

Tacomapat said...

It is so good to know that Will is enjoying his life with you and Atticus still. Thank you for this post - tears running down the face here in Seattle.

Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie said...

Love. Will is one lucky pooch. You are one lucky man. A wonderful story of love.
Smooches from pooches,
BabyRocketDog & Hootie

Mike Meadows said...

Tom - thank you for your sensitivity and for what you and Atti are giving Will. I know what he gives back in return is priceless as well. Thanks for sharing.