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.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Coming Soon to the White Mountains: Samwise A. Passaconaway

I don't know much about him, other than he's sweet
and less than a year old.

I wrote this to a friend yesterday from my cardiologist's office in Maine.


It is May 26, 2016.



Atti and I were supposed to be in Montana right now. But one of us is dead, and the other is sitting in a cardiologist's office.

WTF happened?

(As I just wrote that one of us is dead, the tears snuck up on me. I don't cry that much any more but it seems when I acknowledge he's gone, I do.)


What happened? Life happened. As it always does. 

When I told another friend that I was considering taking this death row dog in, he wanted to know why I would do that so soon after Atticus.

"Well, he needs a home, and my heart was meant to love. Plus, in case you forgot, I nearly died last month. Life is too short not to do what your heart tells you. And there's something about this fellow that calls out to me."

No, Samwise won't replace Atticus. No one could do that. But in giving him a life, through the help of the Conway Area Humane Society, who is flying him up here after plucking him from the kill shelter he was in at the last moment, I'm also adding to mine, and continuing the legacy of all that I've learned with Max, Atticus, and Will. 

Life is meant to be lived. I'm not a fan of feeling sorry for myself. I'd rather pick myself up where I fell, and move forward. There's a meaning in "Onward, by all means," and that's it.

How will things turn out with Samwise? 

I've no clue. That's part of the mystery of life.

Life happens, and so, gosh darn it, does love. My love for Atticus will be found in the nurturing of this young soul. 

Saving lives, creating friendships, transforming people and animals...is it any wonder why we support our local shelter and set up a memorial fund for Atticus there? Ironically, by supporting them, they now have added to my life.

Onward, by all means, everyone.


 If you would like to help us support the Conway Area Humane Society in Atticus's name, please click here. Who knows, the next life they save may add to yours. 

68 comments:

Shannon Zapf said...

This little paragraph: "Well, he needs a home, and my heart was meant to love. Plus, in case you forgot, I nearly died last month. Life is too short not to do what your heart tells you. And there's something about this fellow that calls out to me." Perfect, Tom!! I'm so glad you follow your heart.

pauladean47 said...

Onward by all means Tom and Samwise....I think you two will have an awesome friendship...thank you for saving his life Tom!!

Michele Kosboth said...

He looks OUTSTANDING. I am glad you are listening to your heart. I agree, there is no time to be wasted. Give the love you have to give while you are here.

Anonymous said...

You are 110% right - Life is too short not to do what your heart tells you...

Lynni OHaver said...

Excited for you & Samwise. And I agree, life does happen. I tend to think, at least for me, that life happens in chapters. You have to enjoy it while you are in it, but be ready to move on when one ends and the next begins. Beautiful blog, as always.

Liz Crain said...

What a fine turn of events!

Ed C said...

Best wishes to you Tom.
Somehow fate brought you and Samwise together.
Sometimes these things just play out- life we call it.
Thanks for all you bring to everyone on your blog and Facebook.

Marx Mom said...

You are absolutely right! I agree with you wholeheartedly on every point. This little dog is precious and he will be SO loved, not only by you, but from around the world. He has NO idea how his life has been totally flipped upside down but for the better! And I hope the same for you, Tom. Peace and love to you both! XOXO

Mark Hawthorne said...

Love, as the saying goes, is a four-legged word. Thanks for sharing your heart, Tom.

Donna Safford said...

Tom, Samwise looks like a wise-old soul! He looks like he is meant to be rescued by you. No friend can ever take the place of another, but they can encourage us to love freely and fully. Rescues are the way to go! We rescued Oscar, who was with us for 7 years, and Gizmo, who has been with us for two years. Thank you for your positive message, your loving response to Samwise, and the example of living/loving to the fullest. I can't wait to read the new adventures that you will post. =)

Pam Isom said...

You can swe his beautiful sweet soul

Ellen Freydl said...

Love is limitless.

AWBookGirl said...

I'm excited to see what adventures you and Samwise share!

Pam Isom said...

You can swe his beautiful sweet soul

Jackie Leaders said...

I just LOVE his face and his adorable smile!!! I am so happy for you and Samwise, I have no doubt your adventures together will be filled with joy and love!!

Honey Bear said...

He is beautiful. I'm so happy for Samwise and you. Saving the life of a dog is a wonderful way to honor Atticus. Looking forward to Monday as I am sure you are as well.

Pam Isom said...

His is a beautiful and sweet soul.

Barbara Grant said...

Tom,
He has such a personality. You two will be great together in your next chapter. Life is toooo short. Hope the cardiologist has good news for you. Have a safe and Happy Memorial Day!!

Barbara Grant

David Smith said...

Side by Side with Samwise! Such a cutie.

Barbara Sutton said...

What a wonderful announcement, Tom! So happy, for both of you that Samwise has come into your life. You have a big heart, and this is a new opportunity to love. Yea!

Nancy said...

Congratulations to Samwise and you and best wishes for your new chapter.

Nancy H said...

The perfect way to honour Atticus' memory. Samwise needs you and I suspect you also need him!

Kristin Harmon said...

So incredibly happy and excited for you and Samwise! Love the pics and can't wait to read about the adventures you and he will share! God bless you both!

Anonymous said...

Such wonderful news. I'm crying tears of unspeakable joy. Your resiliency is an example to all of us. Looking forward to the journey of Tom and Samwise. He is darn right adorable!
Janet

MFM said...

A perfect way to honor Atticus.There is no "replacing",just expanding the love.

Jean O'Neill said...

This made my day!

Janice Badger Nelson said...

Lucky dog....lucky you!

Shirley Rieven said...

He is bigger than I originally thought, not that it matters! Maybe, if he gets big enough, his size will match the size of Tom's heart! (Best wishes and Onward!

Grace said...

Dear Mr. Tom, I do not normally comment on this blog but I had to say that Sam is so very photogenic. (happy smile) The photographs make it appear as if he is happy and inquisitive. From the way you write, I believe you and he will have a grand time learning about each other. I pray that you both live a long and happy life. :-) Thank you for sharing your life with me and the world.

Patti said...

Yay! This is such good news. He has the same look in his eyes that my Sunny had the first time I saw her photo. That touch of sadness and the longing to find someone to share all the love, joy and happiness that is bundled up inside of him. What lucky fellows you are have found each other. My heart is bursting with happiness for you both!

leighburks222 said...

I believe that Atticus would want you to do this..Give another dog the same happiness he had. Looking forward to the journey you two will share.

Lake Lady said...

Our daughter's first dog was adopted a few years ago from a shelter. Later on Allie passed due to cancer. When our daughter considered whether to rescue another dog she asked me if she was being "unfaithful" to Allie. I told her that it would be a huge compliment to Allie to know the love instilled by her presence. So our daughter then went and rescued Kenzie. I thoroughly love reading your words and thank you for sharing.

George Gretser said...

So happy for Samwise and you. Every day with you is a day he would not have had (and rescues seem to know this). Another amazing journey begins, which will be its own unique story. As for being ready, when my beloved Peke passed suddenly, I thought I needed time and was not ready - then one of the rescue groups I work with posted the saddest picture of a 15 year old blind Peke surrendered when her owner died. I knew I had to at least get her out of there - I could do that. By the time we got home she had already started to transform. We got the medical attention she needed and she blossomed into a "foster failure" and I am amazed by how she adapted to her blindness and has overcome what I perceived as limitations. She is one of our rescues inspired by Will and his journey - and since we are older, we have focused on seniors who may not have much time and like Will, have the chance for better end of life journey.

Amy Pinker said...

He is just adorable. So happy for you both!

Paul I. said...

Best of luck to you and Samwise, Tom. Your decisions seem so right for you. And your life is such a public issue, at this point especially. I would find that very hard. But trust that your sharing is very powerful on others. Myself included. After losing both my beagles last year, I've anguished if and when I'd take in another friend. Your journey is good food for thoughts and feelings. Again happy journey!

Rebecca Wish Esche said...

Handsome dude! Congrats to Samwise and Tom Ryan. Long may your family love and flourish!

Sherrie Hitchcock said...

I particularly like the picture of Samwise on the tile floor. The look on his face is a window into his soul - sweetness and good times ahead. I look forward to following your collective progress. May you bring great joy to each others lives.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully lucky little dog Samwise is! That face is going to have lots of stories in the years ahead...

Melanye said...

Samwise is just too dang cute!!!! Best wishes for you both!!!

Carla said...

You pick the bestest names. I'm excited to read how this bundle of puppy is going to impact your life and wonderful writings. Congratulations! and thanks again for sharing your life with us.

Marilyn Hughes said...

Congratulations and best wishes to you and your new companion, Samwise. What a beautiful, I mean handsome puppy. No, no dog can replace a beloved companion. I have found that out after my two original girls passed away, but rescuing two others have added to my life greatly. Blessings, Tom Ryan, from New Jersey.

Petra Breen said...

I think this little one is going to make you laugh; those eyes, a little sweet, a little saucy! That is my hope for you both. And may both your hearts soar in this new friendship.

MelS said...

Lovely, simply lovely. And filled with love too. Enjoy, both!

Laura said...

That face! It would have had me at hello, as well. Welcome to your new life, Samwise, and thank you, Tom, for giving him one.

Mary Ann Branham said...

Aww.. I like Sam's smile and his thoughtful side. Atticus, Will, and Max would surely approve of your giving him love. Full speed ahead, Tom Ryan!!

Candy said...

I'm thinking young Mr. Samwise might be quite a character!��

Lori Thombs said...

Such happy news. I was dogless for only a month after my 18 yr old Sheltie "Bennie" and 12 yr old wiener dog "Moobie" made their trnsistiin in summer 2008. Now I have Ocho and Parker, two rescues with giant personalities. Samwise looks like a strong hiker. I love his coloring too.

Rev SS said...

Me too! What a cutie he is!

ann bess-king said...

Congrats to you Tom - and to Samwise as well. So happy his life has been saved.
Wishing you all the best

Peggy Ann Rabalais said...

Love at first sight of his whiskers! Precious face with a zest for fun in those deep brown eyes.

Peggy Ann Rabalais said...

Love at first sight of his whiskers! Precious face with a zest for fun in those deep brown eyes.

Coni E said...

So very happy for both of you! May you have many wonderful years getting to know each other and finding the path to understanding and love.

Vicky Lightner Cox said...

Thanks for that reminder, Tom. It isn't all about us, even when life gets hard.

Sylvike said...

He looks wonderful, Tom. Congratulations.

Joan T. said...

What a handsome looking friend! Love abounds in the Ryan household. Wishing you both much happiness.

Linda P. said...

I'm so happy for you and Samwise. You have so much love to give and he is one lucky puppy to be able to be part of your life. He's also very, very cute. I'm looking forward to following your journey with Samwise as I did with Atticus.

Heather Wilson said...

That is wonderful Tom - as you and Samwise journey onward in your new life together - I pray we will be allowed to be a part of that journey as we were with Atticus and with Will. A really sweet looking puppy - who is indeed coming to join you soon ... may it all go smoothly - onward by all means! Congratulations!

Val said...

Atticus would be so proud of you. His space is filled with another that needs your love. Never a replacement. A new chapter❤️

Karen Miller said...

So happy that you are getting a new friend.I promised my dog during his life I would save another friend and so the story goes on...life.

Barb said...

The eyes have it. As I look into Samwise eyes What a spirited soul. He is one lucky fella and I am so happy for the both of you Congrats!! Looking forward to reading about the friendship you develop and the adventures you share

Melinda Stephenson said...

Congratulations! I was so hoping this would be your announcement! Love is meant to be shared not tied up in our souls and I'm so happy you have chosen this path.

PP said...

So happy for Samwise and you Tom ... When a heart knows, it knows ... Cannot wait to read about the new adventure!

Rebecca Boren said...

There's no such thing as, "It's too soon," only "There you are"!

SusanSerene said...

Ah, the way Samwise cocks his head is priceless and those eyes are just full of curiosity and love. I'll echo the many expressions of thanks, Tom, for sharing your life and incredible love for furry companions. It has been a delightful journey these past many years with adventurous Atticus, then the wise sage Will; I wonder how Curious Samwise will greet your bruin neighbors! Truly, I am looking forward to learning more about Sam as you delightfully share your future together. Onward, with joy and love! Thank you, Tom, thank you.❤️

topshot said...

I too live in the White Mrs and also hike nearly daily with my dog. When he passed at age 12 in September from cancer, I found that my passion for hiking started to feel like an exercise chore which shocked me.

I adopted a rescue 2.5 months ago. While he doesn't replace my old dog what I love is going to some of our favorite climbs and experiencing the joy of discovery through the new dog's eyes. It's as if everything old is new again. Joy has returned.

I thought I should hold off till the grief subsided before adopting again, and then once i felt ready it took a frustrating few months till I found the dog that was right for me. The time in between was agonizingly hollow. Life is good. And even better with a dog. I am so grateful for my new canine companion. You will be, too.

LjonesNapa said...

Tom, I am so very glad to read that you've opened your heart and soul so soon after Atticus's passing to the possibility of more wonderful days and adventures with your new friend, Samawise. I love that you take such consideration with your furry friends' names. It really makes them extra special in their own way. I'm so looking forward to reading about Samawise and how he's fitting into your life. He's a beautiful creature!
If I may, I'd like to ask a favor. Somehow, or for some unknown reason, I've been blocked from the Following Atticus FB page. I truly don't know what I might have said to cause this to happen, but I'd be extremely grateful if you could please remove the block for me. As I've shared in the past, I came to find you after googling my grandson, Atticus's, name. I thoroughly enjoyed your book and actually just finished it days before Atticus died. To say I was heartbroken for you would be an understatement. I hope you're doing better with each passing day.
I look forward to being able to contribute to the conversation on the Following Atticus FB page.
Thank you so much, and take good care!

Rene Dumas said...

Dogs open our hearts. They love us unconditionally, with all of our flaws. They teach us to be better people. The best way to honor a beloved companion, is to save another and continue the cycle of learning and love. <3

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I think it's great that you've already begun sharing your heart again.
Just finished a book that I think you would enjoy. The man who wrote
it shares your first name and his last is Michell. The title of the book is
THE PENGUIN LESSONS and it's about a young man who rescued
a Penguin who was covered in oil and brought him into his life. It's
an excellent read and brought you to mind.

Best wishes,
JD