Book Review: Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

Hi everyone, this is Dakota’s Mom.  I fell in love this past weekend. I fell in love with a little black and white Miniature  Schnauzer  with a name and  bushy white  eyebrows reminiscent of a professor or lawyer, deeply knit in thought,  full of moxie, wiser than his years.

I fell in love with Atticus M. Finch as thousands of others have, for his wisdom, courage, love, devotion and willingness to defy the odds on many fronts.

Atticus and Tom Ryan

I also fell in love with author Tom Ryan who in many ways is a “dog whisperer”. He  didn’t believe in training methods that others would consider to be “normal”.   More than any other books that I have read about a man’s love for his dog and their ensuing  adventures, the title “Following Atticus” speaks volumes.  Ryan  is so keenly tied to the nuances of Atticus that he raised Atticus not to do what HE wanted him to do, (there is nobody who is hung up on who is the “Alpha” here), he raised him to be what Atticus wanted to be.

Tom Ryan, who knew little about owning a dog when he brought home Atticus based his entire upbringing on literally following Atticus’s  lead, which was also something he practiced when he and Atticus attempted the unthinkable,  exploring and conquering forty-eight peaks.

In other words, he observed, he listened, he sensed, he felt. This was a skill he was already adept at  using, being the founder of the Newburyport, Massachusetts, newspaper, The Undertoad where for a decade he was its editor, publisher and “roving reporter.”

From “Following Atticus”:

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

The above quote sets the stage for what lies ahead in this heart-tugging,  adventurous, suspenseful, thought-provoking,  deliciously descriptive gem.

From the publisher:

“Middle-aged, overweight, and acrophobic newspaperman Tom Ryan and miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch are an unlikely pair of mountaineers, but after a close friend dies of cancer, the two pay tribute to her by attempting to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. In a rare test of endurance, Tom and Atticus set out on an adventure of a lifetime that takes them across hundreds of miles and deep into an enchanting but dangerous winter wonderland. Little did they know that their most difficult test would lie ahead, after they returned home. . . .”

Ryan and Atticus,  two  unlikely partners conquering mountains both literally in reference to nature and figuratively of the mountainous challenges that life has a tendency to hurl our way as well as the  mountainous burdens of our past seeking to take over our present.

The book also features photos with incredible images taken by Tom and others that document his journey with Atticus.

Following Atticus is for all of us who dare to dream, who have dreams that we think may never become a reality, for dog lovers, those who are inspired and reap strength from nature, for those who set high expectations for themselves,  for those who seek to make sense of the past and how it relates to the present.

"Little Buddha"

For those who know what it feels like to sacrifice our own wants and needs for that of our pet, and for those who dare to admit that our pet just might be a lot wiser than we are and have faith that they will lead us, to give us exactly what we need, if only we are willing to follow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In 2007  Tom Ryan sold The Undertoad and moved to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to write and to hike with Atticus. Over the last five years the pair has climbed more than 450 4,000 foot peaks. Tom writes the popular “The Adventures of Tom & Atticus” column in the NorthCountry News and Mountainside Guide and the blog:

“The Adventures of Tom and Atticus.” 

In November of 2008 Tom & Atticus were honored as co-recipients of the MSPCA’s Human Hero of the Year award given at their annual Hall of Fame dinner at the JFK Presidential Library.

Heroes Of The Year 2008

FOLLOWING ATTICUS: FORTY-EIGHT PEAKS, ONE LITTLE DOG, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY FRIENDSHIP  published by  William Morrow Hardcover/September 20, 2011/ $25.99/ 9780061997105 E-Book/September 20, 2011/$12.99/ 9780062101303