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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Was a Will Day

Yesterday, I was surprised by joy.

My last few days had been mired in a bit of this and that, stitched together around the edges by rays of wonder. However, when an email arrived late in the afternoon, a warm glow reached deep within me and started making its way to the surface until I was beaming. By the time we went to sleep, I had covered myself in a peaceful, joyous feeling and felt all was right with the world. 

It was a Will day. 
Will's red coat.

Let me explain. 

I learned that Christina, one of our moderators, had posted a video taken on the day before I said goodbye to Will. Tears? Yes, there were. But more than anything, there was happiness. What Will and I experienced together through two and a half years of hard work, was a dance between friends, ending in a crescendo of grace. 

Looking back on that day, seeing the way he was moving with difficulty, I remember something Dr. Rachael Kleidon told me the next day when we brought Will to the mountainside to say our farewells. I’ll always remember it. 

“Tom, this is a perfect time. Yours is a kind decision. Will can barely hold himself up. When he lays down, he flops over on his side. There’s no more strength. You don’t want him to suffer.”

I knew I was making the right decision, but it also felt good to have Rachael by my side reaffirming it. 

So as I returned home and saw that old video clip, I cried, and I laughed, and I smiled. Yes, Will, I fucking love you! I said it then, I feel it still. And I’m so proud of you. 

Just before he died, I made Will a promise that I would share his remarkable story with the world. I often think about that when I sometimes struggle in writing and re-writing it, trying to do it and him justice. I want it just right. There are days I take good writing and throw it away because it’s still not good enough for my friend. Perhaps I’m trying to be too perfect. 

Sitting at my desk, watching that video, that’s when the email came in. It was from my editor. She was forwarding the image of a two-sided postcard that will be used for marketing purposes at events I’ll be attending throughout the autumn. 

It’s brilliant. 


The only fault I could find with it was that I couldn’t hold it in my hand yet. Goodness knows I returned to the images several times yesterday, gazing at it, smiling at it, feeling proud for sweet Will. 

Eventually, you will learn about a promotion we’ll be running with Four Your Paws Only, in North Conway. I bought Will’s red coat from them. A coat that turned into his talisman, which became mine after he left. It hangs lovingly on a hook above my desk.

It’s handmade, by a New Hampshire woman. The quality is what you might expect from a  labor of love. 

Soon enough we’ll be making the official announcement as to how people will be able to buy their version of Will’s red coat from Four Your Paws Only. 

As for my profits from the sales, I don’t pretend to know what Will thought when he was alive, most of the time, and I won’t claim to know where his spirit resides now, other than in my love for him. But I don’t think he’d mind in the least bit that the money I would have made from selling a version of his coat will be going to the Conway Area Humane Society. Every cent of it, in hopes that other dogs and cats who are down on their luck and may just need someone to believe in them one last chance at a loving home. 

The story of Will is one of redemption, choice, and how things can turn around no matter how challenging life is. Yesterday, my struggles with the mundane were washed away and the night ended on an up note. 

(You can pre-order "Will's Red Coat: The Story of One Old Dog Who Chose to Live Again at all on-line retailers. It can also be pre-ordered through your local independent booksellers. Personalized autographed and 'pawtographed' copies can be called into White Birch Books at 603-356-3200.)

32 comments:

Stacey Betts said...

Honoring Will this way will help so many other dogs who find themselves in a predicament that can only be made better by the generosity of others. Tom, thank you for all you do for the wagging tails you never even know about.

Carol said...

You're still protective of Will just like you were when he was alive. Crying again!

Christine Ambrose said...

I'm sure you didn't see my post on the Atticus page, but you just said it again now. Will , I f*cking love you! Most people take that word as offensive, but when you feel something that fills your heart with love your eyes with tears and makes you soul ache just a little bit more that word is the perfect word. Tom, Will, Atticus and Samwise...............I truly from the bottom of my heart F*CKING LOVE YOU ALL!

Martha said...

So looking forward to your new book. What a joy it will be to read and gift to my friends. Will's Red Coat benefit will be a huge success I am sure. Your writing brings us all to the knowledge of peace and grace in a very tumultuous time.

Ismay said...

Will was such an inspiration to so many of us. My mug with Will's Wisdom sits right on my desk to remind me its never too late! Can't wait for the book and thank you for your wonderful writing and for sharing Atticus, Will, and now Samwise with us.

Carmen said...

Bless you Tom for sharing the life of Will with the world. It so desperately needs to hear your words and know that all is not lost.

karen koszuta said...

I got teary eyed just reading your blog Tom. I can't wait to read the new book and I thank you for sharing both Will and Atticus with us!

Onesnap said...

Love that pet store! :) Glad to hear that you're doing something special with them to honor Will's memory.

Cindy Ciocca said...

Oh Tom, tears run down my cheeks as I read this. I, of course, will be purchasing a version of Will's Red Coat once available. I, too, opened my home to a 14 yr old two years ago because of Will. He became my best friend instantly. Unfortunately, this past February, I had to say goodbye to my friend. I wish I could post a picture for you to see my wonderful friend.
This December, I will be opening my home up again.
It's all because of you Will.

Nancy H said...

Thank you Tom. For honouring not only Will but Atticus as well. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is make that decision. While it certainly does not feel like it at the time, it is truly the kindest thing we can do for those that we love, and that we continue to love beyond time and place.

Kathleen Jennings said...

Simply beautiful !

Martha said...

I am going through a period of terrible stress in my life, but please know that your writings and especially your videos of you and Samwise hiking in the woods having provided me with calm and peace and solace. Thank you. Onward...❤️

Kay Distefano said...

Will captured my heart from the first time I saw a photo of him. I believe he and Atti would be equally proud of you.

Bonnie said...

Tears! Cannot wait for the book, thanks Tom!

Sharon Stokan said...

What a beautiful testament in honoring Will to the love that you and Will (and yes, Atticus, too) shared by helping other sweet lives in need. I've already pre-ordered my copy of 'Will's Red Coat' and am eagerly waiting for March to arrive! Blessings on you Tom Ryan!

colodreamer said...

Will was a powerhouse of love that touched so many of us...I believe he is very happy with your decision on what to do with your share of the profits...

Dawn Baker said...

Will...still bringing joy, love, and important life lessons about how we treat all who have been on this earth awhile...

Anonymous said...

William Lloyd Garrison <3 Prince of New Hampshire <3
Forever Etched in our hearts <3

Valerie Stough said...

Crying as I read that. I have already pre-ordered the book, but will call and order another from White Birch. Anxiously waiting to read it And a red coat for my rescue friend, she is my love!

Paul Ilmer said...

What you've written here, Tom, is a share of how 'in the thick of life' you are. The intensity of the feelings you are relaying isn't something anyone can sustain for long, but their nature helps to remind us and focus us and reassure us just what makes this 'passage' we all are navigating thru truly worthwhile, truly meaningful. In all its fullness, I say Thank You.

Honey Bear said...

Just beautiful writing again Tom. We all have learned so much from you Atticus, Will and Max. Your my hero.

Mendy said...

One absolutely amazing man one amazing friend. Your words bring me to tears. I didn't realize tears of joy and sadness could mix so well. Thank you for continuing your journey and sharing with all of us. It is a high point in my day and always give me reason to delve deeper into myself.

Danna Hoffmaster said...

I am filled with a wash of emotion reading your thoughts and feelings connected to Will. I visualize the anguish after being bitten and it is immediately followed with love and pride in Will's accomplishments. Thank You so very much for sharing him with us.

Maureen said...

We'll all miss Will as we miss Atticus.

Rachel Pattillo said...

I love this so very much. I am beaming along with you Tom. I can't wait to order a red coat for Bug and to read Will's book.

Patricia Stallman said...

I believe I will have to purchase one for my Heidi Bug (miniature schnauzer). The reason I have her is because of Finding Atticus. Thank You Tom, Atti and Will

susan goodreau said...


The book cover is just perfect. I am so looking forward to it's release next spring.

Cynthia Newton said...

Thank you Tom, Christina and all of the Magic Moderators who get it right every time. Will - ever will-full. Atticus - the mountain man. Samwise - the surprise big boy with a heart that beats for all three. Thank you Tom, for sharing your friends with us, making us smile and cry, and laugh and think. So grateful to be a part of your "tribe" via e-mail. Wish there were more Tom's in this world. Onward, by all means!

Anonymous said...

I have rescued many senior dogs who were on their last days if not hours at the high kill Los Angeles shelters. I'm always moved to watch them embrace their new life and navigate through a new house, a new routine and new friends. They are constantly teaching me to live in the moment and keep moving on. They sometimes are only with us for a few months sometimes a few years but it is always so special and rewarding. I wish more people would realize how wonderful senior dogs are and adopt them from the shelters.

Thank you for taking Will in and loving him the last few years of his life.



k kelly said...

Tom, you are a special person. You, Atticus and Will have given me so much!

Maryann Dodge said...

My life is so much fuller having met Will, Atti and you, Tom Ryan. Never stop being you - the world is a better place because of you and what you have shared with all of us. Michael & I look forward to meeting Samwise next month and walking in memory of Atti.

Dawn Middlestead said...

August 24th was an extraordinary day...and so appropriately called...a Will day. Who couldn't love that sweet boy in his unforgettable red coat?! Will's red coat transformed him...brought him such joy when he romped around in it. Another magnificently written Blog. Thank you Mr. Ryan for continuing to share your inner most thoughts and feelings. So excited about the postcard created to promote the book. The picture of Will and Atticus... absolutely perfect.