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.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Will's Reach

It’s easy to remember the quiet times we shared together. How he went from a troubled soul who would strike out in fear to a gentle fellow who longed to belong. Sometimes, though, I forget Will’s reach. He touched hundreds of thousands of people. 

Last night, on the Following Atticus Facebook page, an old Willaby was posted. One of the responses grabbed hold of me and didn’t let go. 

Ann Marie Buttaro: One of the Willabys - Close your Eyes by Michael Buble touched me so much - I used it as our wedding dance song. Will's motto - which we see every day - I purchased 2 of the mugs 😊. Reminds me of how and why we met. I was ready to give up on love- had been married - divorced - children now grown. I had had a few relationships but for one reason or another they didn't work out. I thought I was content to stay single for the rest of my life- but then I read Will's Motto- 'It's never too late to trust again, to love or be loved again; and it's never too late to live again.' 
So I decided to try again. We met on an online dating sight- I liked his photo by accident - I think God had something to do with that! 
Here we are almost three years later- married for a year and so happy! Thank you Will ( and Tom) for showing me it's never too late! 

Ann Marie got me thinking, and I woke up this morning wanting to know more. So if you were moved or changed or inspired by Will in some way, here’s your chance to express it. You can respond to this on Facebook, in the comments on the blog, or if you wish, you can email atticusmfinch@gmail.com. 

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.

15 comments:

Jackie said...

I met you and Atticus through Will. Someone posted a a Willaby on my feed and I fell in love with Will. I was feeling like my life had flown by and was inconsequential. Seeing Will turn from being a depressed angry fellow to one loving and enjoying life made me realize my life wasn't over or inconsequential. Will changed his attitude and chose to live again. I changed my attitude and am enjoying life again. Will showed me that senior dogs are just as cute and lovable as puppies. Now I take in senior schnauzers that nobody else wants. Thank you precious Will.


Anonymous said...

Will inspired me with his bravery. LIke Will, I had lost senses. MIne are taste and smell from 2 concussions a week apart. The sense of smell is very important, memories are created and recalled because of it. I will admit I became depressed about it. However, it gave me great joy to see how much Will reveled in smelling flowers, something I had enjoyed and had been important to me. Why I wanted to make sure Will got to smell Florida gardenias, an intoxicating smell I loved. Will also taught me to make the most of the senses you do have and to enjoy life- it is a precious gift.

Dawn Middlestead said...

Wow, tears flowing but happy tears as I read this beautiful Blog. How wonderful to know what Will's inspiration, his life, him has done for so many, including me. I love Will's Motto...something everyone needs to read and remember. Thank you for this Blog, this gift this morning.

girliegirlrepo1 said...

your journey with Will helped me in my rescuing of animals. I do mostly cats. I used to turn down the ones that were difficult or 'a problem' deem them only worthy to be barn cats. Now I work harder at teaching them to trust and become house pets

Newfie said...

I belong to the cadre of those who have invisible diseases. That group who receives the "you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps" advice. The ones who get "the look" when they walk slowly, take a minute longer to respond, or who respond with "sorry, I can't make it" to most invitations. So, when I read about Will I knew we were kindred spirits--both in the dark; both afraid to trust; both ruled by fear. Fortunately, I, too, had a Tom. Someone who gave me succor by covering me with a soft blanket, playing soothing music, and scratching behind my ear. So, when I leave this world, I do so hope that I run into Will. We can smile at one another and be at peace knowing that we were truly loved and, perhaps, take a stroll among the flowers.

Susan Gayeski said...

Will's story led me to adopting another dog. I lost my faithful friend Oreo of 15 years, & swore off any more dogs as my heart was too broken. But then I read Following Atticus & enjoyed the antics of both Atti & Will so much. My heart was so moved that you could take an old scrungy dog like Will & open your heart & turn his life around, making his last living years full of so much life & love. I went to the local shelter again & brought my Murphy home. I want this new life for him to be better & happier than the abused life he obviously had. Thank you Will and of course Atti & Tom.

Mary Ann Lowrance said...

For me it was simply a matter of the universe once again stepping in to prove that "when you are ready a teacher will appear" ... boom, I was hooked. At first I was resistant to your writing, Tom, and consistently asked myself, " ... is this guy for real?" You described, in your inimitable way the biting, cleaning up after Will and suddenly I realized I was reading about this thing called unconditional love. In my own life I had been a caretaker for two husbands who were desperately ill - sadly, I found myself examining your posts for any sign of resentment for your tasks and could find none. I examined my own journals of those 14 years with my first husband and then the years with the second. There was much resentment and little of what I think of as unconditional love. As I followed you into the meadow with Will 'some thing' changed inside me but I cannot describe what that 'thing' was ... just that I knew I was not only mourning a dog named Will I had never set eyes on for real but something much deeper. Then your health scare ... I was forced to follow, hope and pray alone ... who could I share these feelings with? How could I tell my friend who caught me sobbing one day that my tears were for a little dog named Will and a young man named Tom who I wanted only the best outcome for you, yet feared the worse? My joy, like many others who follow but are not a part of your circle of friends when you departed the hospital, was cut short by the loss of Atticus. Processing all this has been tough for a a woman who will soon be 3/4's of a century old. Yet, I am so glad I 'boarded this train' as you are an inspiration I do not understand! I follow you and Samwise eagerly ... waiting for the pieces you choose to share with us. Long before I embraced Maya Angelou's "I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. When I knew more, I did better" (close, I think, but not verbatim) and my goal was simple: Be a Better Person. You've complicated that philosophy in such a good way. Sometimes I still read and question ... "is this guy for real?" but not as much.

Roxanne K said...

I remember the day I saw "Following Atticus" in the airport. The Schnauzer caught my eye because I had one at home. A diabetic, blind one that stole my heart. I loved the book and started following you on FB. The Willaby - such a great concept -pulled my heartstrings and the story of adopting this disgruntled senior was, at the time, such a weird concept. I sent Will flowers because the thought of him loving flowers and music after being so unhappy when you first got him, was lovely. When Will left us, I internalized it and thought I'd never be able to get through losing Trixie, my Schnauzer. Ironically, she and Atticus passed away within 1 week of each other. More ironically, you (Tom) and my husband had just been through a life altering hospitalization with, among other things clots that tried their best to kill both of you. But, thank goodness, you and my husband were (as he likes to say) "strong like bear". After Trixie passed, Doug and I decided that we would adopt seniors, so we've adopted 2 from a rescuer that is relatively close to us. She specializes in Schnauzers, though one of our adoptees is a 'wanna-be' We call her a Schnorgierrier. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for sharing Will and Atticus and now, Samwise. I'm very grateful.

Marilyn Hughes said...

I have two rescued mini schnauzers one of which is very shy. While not aggressive, I have been trying for two years to break into her soul and hopefully make her more at easy. She was abandoned in the woods outside Princeton, NJ in the winter. Her name is Munchie (given to her by the NJSRN) and we all think that she is a product of a puppy mill. I have taken inspiration from your tender handling of Will and Atticus's helping that some day soon, Munchie will completely come out of her shell. Her sister BellaRose is doing what she can. Thanks for the inspirations in this blog and on the Facebook page, Following Atticus.

Stanley Wroblewski said...

My miniature poodle, Froo Froo had died on 10/14/14 and I discovered you and Atticus'book and wonderful FB page along with the Willabys. Will's story touched me ever so deeply as I had previously resigned myself that I would not have another dog whose death would break my heart. Froo Froo had congestive heart failure and epilepsy, so because I was his caregiver, I felt his death more so than when my own mother passed in 2010. Will and you woke me up and made me go out and search for a rescue poodle and I found one from Creole Poodle Rescue here in Louisiana. Three weeks after Froo Froo's death, I was approved to receive a rescue dog who had been kicked, abused, and had major surgery for repair of his herniated pericardium. Caine was his name and he looked just like Froo Froo, only just a little longer. He was around five years old, and I thought he would be fragile from his surgery, but he turned out to be a bundle of energy who loves to shower me with kisses. I felt your emotions when Will died as I had just previously suffered the same when I laid Froo Froo down from his congestive heart failure. You words, "Onward, by any means," forever lives in my heart and for that I am truly grateful.

Coni E said...

Following your journey with Will taught me that even if an older dog is angry and lashing out at anyone who touches him, he can still learn to feel love, overcome his anger, and enjoy the simple things in life. We adopted two Westie rescues in November. One of them is 8 and spent her younger years in a puppy mill, having litters. She is extremely loving and but doesn’t know how to play . . . with toys or other dogs. I find it sad because I think she is missing out on “all the fun” but, using Will as an example, I need to accept that she has her own way of enjoying life, mainly being held and loved. Thank you for demonstrating that they are their own individual personality and as long as we provide food, water, exercise and plenty of love, they will show us what is important to them.

Michele said...

I'm clearly going to need one of these mugs so I can read that quite daily till it someday sinks in. I'm in a place similar to where Anne Marie was post-divorce. Thank you so much for sharing this one.

Susan Marchbanks said...

I didn't know Will, and barely knew Atticus before he left us. But a posting of Will sleeping a while back touched me. I just watched as he slept and enjoyed the soft music. I am inspired to do the same with my old boy. I don't have much video of him and pictures aren't the same as watching them breath. I never would have thought to just video him sleeping and how soothing it is. Thank you for that. :)

Paige Foreman said...

I ran across Following Atticus, at the end of June this year in the form of an Audiobook. I'm glad to have my first introduction to you, be in your own voice. Like most books about dogs, I expected to cry at the end. But the very first day, I cried all the way home from work, when I listened to you talk about picking up your little sheep, and then his passing. I found your blog and Facebook page. When I saw Samwise's picture, I knew Atticus was probably gone, but I made myself read your blog from beginning to end, without looking ahead to the present. When I reflect on Will's story, what I'm reminded of, is The Little Prince, and the taming that transpires between the prince and the fox. You and Will both played the role of the tamer and the tamed. One line in the book says, 'You will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend'. That's what I learned from your relationship with Will. That even though taming is difficult to do and to have done, in the end, it is worth it because you will have experienced both knowing and being known. There really is no greater gift.

Kathy Martin said...

I have been inspired by Will to the extent that sometimes I just go to the site to read and find sollace in your words Tom. I figure if Will had the power to go on after all he had been through I surely can go on. Now I am facing a situation where I have to go through a time in my little companions Posie's life of renal failure. It at first made me very sad but then I got the power from Wills life to try to make this last period of my little schnauzers life the best possible time we can have. Thanks for this inspiration Will. It will never be forgotten and thanks Tom for your very encouraging words. Thanks to the both of you for I now have "Will power."