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, July 29, 2016

There's Something Different About the Following Atticus Facebook Page

The Long-Backed Seussian Terrier upon first arriving in the White Mountains.
As the years go on, I realize that I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert. I’d never have thought of myself in this way in the past. No, years ago I used to love to jump into the middle of life and live out loud. But coming to the mountains has changed me. Letting Nature wrap her arms around me has simplified things. My days are now quieter, and I’m more cautious about who I let into my life. Those I am close with, I’m very intimate with. But no longer do I feel the need to “collect” friends, thinking that numbers are everything. These days, it’s more about quality. 

Of all the people I’ve loved and lost to death, the one I miss the most is my Aunt Marijane. Once a nun working with the Navajo Indians in Arizona, she eventually left to further study psychology and became a Jungian analyst. Conversations with Marijane were always illuminating. We’d talk for hours, and typically several times a week. She turned out to be one of my best friends. 

MJ was one of the least judgmental people I knew, but she wasn’t blinded by dysfunction or B.S. She forgave easily, but always was aware of the human condition. She had a great saying when explaining one person’s troubled life, “She’s driving a Mack truck full of crazy.” 

But Marijane’s point was not to hold it against the person but to acknowledge what you were dealing with. “It’s okay to pray for such a person, to like them even, but be careful not to get run over by the Mack truck full of crazy.”

These days, more than ever it seems, I’m aware of the Mack trucks full of crazy driving around at high speeds. Perhaps it has to do with social media. Things that were once thought but only quietly expressed to close family and friends are blasted out into the world. Look no further than the recent Republican and Democratic conventions. I streamed both, as best I could, on my phone and laptop, and I listened and filtered things through my beliefs. What I found was what amplified angst were the comments on so many Facebook posts about either candidate. There is such anger out there now, and much of it isn’t filtered. It has gotten to the point that I avoid most comment sections no matter where I find them on-line. And it’s not just about politics. It’s about guns and religion and race. Heck, even vegans fight among themselves in comment sections about who is more "vegan."  

When I pointed this out to a friend of mine who is a vegan activist he wrote back with a twinkle in his eye, I imagine, "Oh, don't ever read the comments." But it has gotten to that point.

A little while ago I remember reading my daily dose of the “Mutts” comic strip. I forget the complete message, but it had to do with the closeness shared on a walk between human and dog. To me, it seemed charming in every way, as all of the cartoonist’s work is. And yet, in the comment section, there were some people livid that the dog in the cartoon was wearing a collar instead of a harness. There were a lot of double exclamation points, and double questions marks (!!??). Just reading a few of them changed my mood. (The double !! or ?? so intrigue me that I looked them up. What they translate to is a form of anger.) 

So I’ve now learned my lesson. I avoid comments because the vitriol is tangible and it is toxic. It’s a lot of Mack truck full of crazy. 

This may help you understand why I’m so happy with the Following Atticus Facebook page. Sure, there are still judgmental and angry comments left, but they are in the minority. Just yesterday a man wrote that I was an abuser because of the hikes I shared with Atticus. He urged me to leave Samwise alone and let him stay in the house. Fortunately, I have some dedicated administrators who help keep the page positive. 

It has gotten to the point that I write a post, and then leave the rest to them. From time to time I check back in, but mostly I use the page as an on-line journal and leave it at that. My biggest request of my moderators is, “Keep the page positive. I would appreciate it if Atticus, Will, and now Samwise are treated with respect, and if you see something that you wouldn’t want to be posted about you, feel free to get rid of it.” What my moderators do with that is up to them. This way I keep my sanity. 

But here’s the thing about the Following Atticus page I really like. It’s the way many of you have networked to get to know one another. Friendships have formed by way of our Facebook page. What a beautiful thing to see. It’s brought to my attention that when someone is going through a bad divorce, or cancer, or has lost a job, or a loved one, people reach out to them and offer solace and kindness. They embrace each other, and that makes this a special place. 

C. S. Lewis has that fabulous quote about friendship that goes like this, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’ . . .” 

Even someone who has become as private in “real life” as I have, embraces these get togethers, and they make my heart swell. Whenever the stories are shared with me, I can’t help but smile. Earlier this week I heard about two women who are battle-tested by cancer meeting for coffee in Bristol, Rhode Island. Meeting made their online friendship truer. From what I take, they both left each other having felt blessed by the other. 

These kind of connections are not something I expected when starting the Following Atticus page five years ago, but it’s one of the things that makes it unique. And just to show this introvert is not immune to all of this, when Samwise and I take our trip around the country, we will be making five stops along the way to meet people I’ve been drawn to through the years because of their posts, and the correspondence that followed. 

To close, I want to share this, which was sent to me by a friend three thousand miles away.

“I went grocery shopping this morning, and as I came out of the store, there was a woman standing on the walkway with a dog who bore at least a passing resemblance to Samwise. Curious, I said to her, ‘What breed is she?’ With a completely straight face, she said, ‘She’s a Long-Backed Seussical Terrier.’ Of course, I started to laugh and blurted out “Following Atticus!” She said, “Yes, You too? Isn’t that just the greatest Facebook page ever? Have you read the book?” We talked for a minute or two about you, Atti and Will and Samwise, and your upcoming book.”

I thank you for helping to create a refuge from the craziness. Running a social media site is not always easy. There are landmines to skip around, but most of you make it a pleasure keep this page going strong. 


Onward, by all means. And look out for those Mack trucks full of crazy. 

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, thank YOU for creating a nice place for us to come to.

Anonymous said...

This post bought tears to my eyes. Swimming daily in crazy while trying to maintain my peaceful state of mind is trying at times. I love reading about your adventures and feel so many miss the beauty in the bond you have with Atticus and now Samwise. If only everyone could build bonds like this, the world would be a better place. Thank you for always inspiring me.

Anonymous said...

So glad to read today's entry, Tom. Not being on Facebook, I worry when
you don't write for a long time. Enjoyed, as always.

jd

Robin Fowler said...

Amen! You have somehow captured what is in my heart these days. I just find myself daily asking, "Is it really that difficult to be kind?" I anxiously await your posts! Love you and your friends too!

Missymia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you. That is all.

Laura said...

No,thank you.

Chrikijay said...

I read something from a David McKay that says "As a rock that is thrown in a pool starts a wave from the center which continues to enlarge until every part of the shore is touched, so your deeds, silent, many of them unknown, unspoken, unheralded, continue to radiate and touch many hearts" Tom you touch many hearts and I hope you continue to toss those pebbles. I ask myself daily if I have touched a life today and pray that it has only been for good

Judy Hostetter said...

Thanks for putting into words what I recently tried to explain to a friend about your site. I always look forward to it and feel better after reading it.

I've never posted before as I see how many friends you already have and don't really need to add me to the list, but I'm Judy and want you to know your writings have made a difference in my current stressful life. They allow me to remember when I was more attached to the earth and its beauty. I have always had a dog friend as well and appreciate your attitude toward the relationship between animal and human friends. So now I will go back to my "evolving introvert" life (a description that has changed for me as well) and continue to enjoy this lovely quiet spot in an angry and vitriolic time.

Continued health and happiness to you and Samwise......Judy

TwoSpecialWires said...

It's always a joy ... and an inspiration ... to come here. Especially first thing in the morning. Thank you.

Susan Smallwood said...

What a great post! You definitely inspire me to take life slower and enjoy the moment. Living in Houston, TX, I can attest that there are many here that Drive a Mack Truck Full of Crazy and I enjoyed hearing your Aunts take on that situation. BTW I've I love that phase and think I will be adopting it. :) Onward and Upward with Samwise......and so glad you had an encounter with the wonderful woman with the other Suessical Terrier!

Judy Hostetter said...

Thanks for putting into words what I recently tried to explain to a friend about your site. I always look forward to it and feel better after reading it.

I've never posted before as I see how many friends you already have and don't really need to add me to the list, but I'm Judy and want you to know your writings have made a difference in my current stressful life. They allow me to remember when I was more attached to the earth and its beauty. I have always had a dog friend as well and appreciate your attitude toward the relationship between animal and human friends. So now I will go back to my "evolving introvert" life (a description that has changed for me as well) and continue to enjoy this lovely quiet spot in an angry and vitriolic time.

Continued health and happiness to you and Samwise......Judy

Marilyn Clise said...

I have loved following you for a long time, and loved your first book, and this blog today should be read by everyone. I do love Facebook for its good connections too. It is so hard to understand today's political climate and I try to do so. But I would rather send our good feelings to all I come in contact with, making their day and mine a better one. Cheers to your for doing that for me, and for all who read your post today!

Honey Bear said...

Thank you thank you thank you Tom. Beautiful writing as usual .

Honey Bear said...

Thank you thank you thank you Tom. Beautiful writing and a joy to read. I no longer read comments and I filter all political information as well. I choose to focus on everything that has to do with animals and their well-being. It is because of your example to live life simple and with kindness that I am now a much calmer and peaceful person. As the saying goes I no longer sweat the small stuff. Looking forward to your next post you have touched my life and so many others in the most important way. I cherish my life now more than ever not just because of my open heart surgery journey but because of you and your wonderful dogs and many adventures and life lessons. Hugs.

Ramona said...

Tom, I agree wholeheartedly about the comments that some people make. I have never been able to understand how someone can take something that is beautiful and make something hateful out of it. Just know that it is respect for you and your work, and our mutual love for Atti, Will and Samwise that keeps us coming back for more. Your writing is so inspiring and beautiful.
I hope that you and Samwise have a wonderful trip and I wish that I were one of those lucky five. šŸ˜Š

Ann Benford said...

Thank you for the gentleness, the wisdom and for spreading the kindness.

Donna Perry said...

Thank you for your great heart and love of dogs. I'm so happy that you and Samwise found each other and the adventures and heartwarming stories can continue. They make my day. Donna P

LoriJK said...

Hi Tom,

So often your words mirror my thoughts and feelings. Reading your blog often helps remind me that I am not alone in my need for space, privacy and distance from social situations and conflict (online or not).
I'm still in the process of learning to accept my introverted nature as a gift rather than a burden.

I'm glad your doing well and am enjoying following along with whatever you share.

Pam Noble said...

This fb page is a Mack truck full of sanity and compassion thank you for that

sistermek said...

I can't remember how I ran across Following Atticus just over a year ago, but, it arrived at a transformative time in my life. Your blog and FB posts have been a place of peace and calm when the world gets too full of itself. Thank you and your staff for allowing us to join lovely group along the hike. mekulisch

Anonymous said...

I read every post because it always makes me not only smile, but lightens my mood and I become happy!! I've only been following you a few months, but they have been happy months ;) I can't wait for more Samwise stories. I'm curious to see how the two of you will handle "the terrible twos" ;) Brenda

Anonymous said...

A Mack truck full of crazy is a great description of what we all must avoid especially in social media. This is the one page that I can count on to be positive and not a forum for for anger and cat fighting among the commenters. If we all had someone to read and filter comment sections we would probably have other places of interest that we could enjoy. Not reading the comments is excellent advice. That some folks have found friendship from your page is great to hear. I would enjoy that and hopefully avoid the Mack truck. And I will be much more watchful of the !! and ??. I didn't know this had to do with anger.

Altheda Hughes said...

I am grateful for the joy your posts and your books bring to me. My life revolves around walking 2 doodles in the woods, and being attentive to all that grows in the dry oak forest that surrounds me in central PA. I always try to be the person that my dogs think I am. I'm the first person a friend said she knew that talks to her dogs like they are human. I have always believed animals deserve respect along with large doses of love and exercise. Onward and upward! ❤️ altheda

Mrs. Ward said...

Tom, couldn't agree more on the Mack trucks of life and the joy of meeting like minded animal lovers via FB! I am a dedicated follower of Harley, Teddy, and Juno. Thanks to them I have made many wonderful new friends, laughed, cried, and even met some of the dogs and their people in person. I so enjoy your posts, and your book as well! This is the first time I have seen a place to comment. Just want you to know I am a follower--not the furtive kind!

Missymia said...

Read your blog awesome! Thank you Tom for creating this page!! You have brought a smile to my face many times!! Your philosophy on life is right on!! The mountains and the innocence of our four legged friends can bring pure joy and peace to many a troubled soul! Thank you Tom, Max, Atticus, Will and now Samwise for sharing this beauty and love with all of us!

grumblesmom said...

Thank you, Tom, Atticus, Will and Samwise for providing peace and sanity in this "Mack Truck full of crazy" world.

Cynthia said...

Thank you, Tom. You and Samwise, and Will and Atticus have inspired so many people in a positive way. Social media has gone mental and will continue to do so. The world can sometimes be a Mack truck full of crazy (bless your Aunt for that marvelous phrase!). I wish you, Samwise, your moderators only the best. May Samwise continue to greet the days ahead with the wide-eyed wonder that he has and that we all should emulate. Best, Cynthia

Anonymous said...

A dear friend introduced me to you on Facebook. I love you...My Sophie Girl (miniature salt and pepper Schnauzer) has been gone for 8 years now and she was 14 when she passed into dogie heaven. I got a platinum Burmese male cat to fill the terrible void of Sophie passing (I was living with my 90 year old mother and she just could not tolerate a new puppy and a cat was easier to handle). Therefore, long story...I love your beautiful spirit with all your animals, and as I read your words, they are mine as well! You always make my day!!

Linda Webb Walsh said...

Your posts are like a cool breeze on a hot summer day. Very refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Tom, my lovely wife has introduced me to your website and Facebook page. She fell in love with Atticus, your book, and the online presence. I watch her enjoyment and she shares liberally. Today, I was reading an investment piece and the following caught my eye. The author of the piece "borrowed" the quote to discuss investing but I think it really applies to the "Comment" section of just about anything:

Quoting from Bill Bryson's book, "A Walk in the Woods", the author requites:

"All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on nor account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard, when he gives it. Take if from me, if you are in open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life."

So, run Tom run. And remember, Atticus, or now Samwise, will always run faster so just ignore all those nasty comments. Dave

Carolyn Banks said...

Thank you for the suggestion! I never realized the answer was that simple. From now on I shall skip the comments!
Carolyn Banks

Mary Ann said...

Ha ha ha-- yes to all and thanks as well. Good weekend wishes.

Anonymous said...

Tom, thanks so much for your comments and insight as always. I want also to apologize for asking you not to tweet political related material, as there are a lot of folks from both sides following you no doubt. I didn't mean to be offensive and I'm very sorry. I was just surprised by the tweet and I own that. I don't have to follow you. But over the years you and Atticus helped me through the deaths of my dog and parents, and inspired me to begin hiking in my area. "Following Atticus" is one of my all time favorite books for a multitude of reasons. And one thing is for sure- we will all be happy when this very tense presidential campaign and election are over. Thanks again for your writings and for sharing with the world and again my sincere apology.

Carol West said...

This site is a refuge from the crazy - thank you for all you (and your administrators) do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tom. Your comments about the hyper voices out there on social media are spot on. Even in a miniature schnauzer group I am part of on Facebook, there are times my jaw drops when I read posts taking others to task so vehemently. It is as if these ranters need to take a "chill pill". It is so nice to find a place of respite and inspiration on your FB page and blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tom for your thoughtfully refreshing comments. As usual ��
Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

This is the best post on Facebook I have seen in a long time. It warms my heart!!!

mlaiuppa said...

Long-Backed Seussical Terrier. That is funny.

You know, you can register that as Samwise's breed when you fill out his dog license. I did something similar with my mostly pointer (He became a Braque St. Germaine) and they didn't bat an eye. When his license arrived, that's what he was.

I completely understand about comments. I have a Livejournal account that is friends only. I have three friends. It was one friend for about 10 years. This past year I invited two her friends that I have traded comments with to come to my page. They don't comment often. Everything is positive. I think my friend only had a handful of friends on her "friends only" page as well as I didn't see many comments and all the same names.

I don't do Facebook. Probably never will. Now that there is a huge floating banner covering most of the page if you aren't a member, I really don't go there anymore. I don't do Twitter or Instagram either.

My human contacts tends to be up close and in person. My adult water workout class and my watercolor class. I see my parents once a week and know their neighbors and friends when we walk the dogs.

Some people need a lot of contact, some not. I'm more of the not kind. I visit a few blogs (and yes, read the comments) but they are generally very positive. When things turn otherwise I just leave. It allows me some human contact outside my local circle. This increases my exposure to diversity.

Through blogs I "visit" Alaska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and France. Digitally.

You are my east coast blog and gateway to the beauties of the northeast through your beautiful photos. When I read your words and see your photos, I almost feel as if I am hiking too. My favorite time is when it turns cool for you (still hot for me) and the leaves turn. I love the green and can almost smell the trees.

Angie D. said...

Oh gosh I agree. Sadly I've begun to "unfollow" people who have become strangers to me. They would never say the things that they do in polite company yet on Facebook it's as if they've lost their ability to be gracious. Thank you for a sure fire way to make me smile or to feel deep feelings just by reading your posts. God bless you.

Urbzgrl said...

Thank you so much for your stories of inspiration and love. I, too, have found myself retreating from the "crazy"and narrowing my human social circle. Following Atticus is my "go to" page, as I am ALWAYS uplifted and renewed. I am ever so grateful!

Anonymous said...

I thought Atti had a wonderful life. He had a "job", got to do that job with constant companionship with his "packmate". What more could a dog ask for?

cheryl newton said...

I always enjoy reading your posts about Atticus and Will and now Samwise,it is hard to keep a positive attitude when life seems to be full of crazies and sadness.I don`t watch the news my husband tells me if there is anything I should know.Enjoyed Following Atticus,great book and looking forward to Will`s Red Coat when it comes out.Your posts are always so positive and you have a real gift to write.Hope your upcoming trip with Samwise is safe and happy.
Cheryl Newton

Michelle said...

Of all the pages I follow on Facebook, this is by far my favorite. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us! I finished "Following Atticus" in one day! Can't wait for the next one.

Anonymous said...

It's funny you should mention anger. Mr. Anger and I were good friends for a long time. He drove off many of my other friends because he wanted me all to himself. Mr. Anger exhausted me though. He gobbled up all my time, emotion and energy while giving nothing back to me in return. When the light bulb finally went on I told Mr. Anger to take a hike, no pun intended. I see a flash of him now and again like most people do I suppose. But for the most part he leaves me alone now for I just refuse his presence. Tom, following your FB page and blog reinforces my knowledge that I have never made a better decision in my life, and for my life, than to say goodbye forever to Mr. Anger.

Anonymous said...

Your post gave my day a smile. Thanks.

Steve of The CLE said...

Dear Tom, having just stumbled across one of your community member's FB Shares, at least that avenue of SM offers a positive outreach. Discovering Following Atticus is a form of acceptance for many ongoing details in my life. I often walk my border-collie Charlie in the region's parks system to escape the built environment I am compelled to live in. I hear your similar communion with Samwise and wish you all the best in your cross-country plans together. Steve

Anonymous said...

This is a place where the air is clear and the water is safe to drink. I cherish this place. Thank you.