Following Atticus: A lovely book with deep canine-man bond

As most books with animal friends are, this book is lovely. It has about 100 pages of excess fat(too much repetition of themes and mountain climbing), but the message is heartfelt. It’s a memoir about overweight Tom Ryan who runs a newspaper called the undertoad. The undertoad is all about revealing the political corruptions and seedy goings ons in the town. His life starts to shift when he volunteers to take care of an elderly schnauzer named Max. Max dies, but the impact he had on Tom’s life carries on and Tom finds a new schnauzer this time a cute little puppy with white eyebrows he names Atticus M. Finch.SONY DSC

Together Atticus and Tom begin a life together. A life that includes hiking all 48 of  New Hampshire’s White Mountains and slowly forgiving Tom’s father. They hike the peaks in the summer and then again in the winter(twice, both times to raise money for good causes). And everyone is amazed that this overweight man and his little dog that looks like it should be home curled by the fire, are scaling peaks that have claimed many lives.

The story is about expanding our mind’s view of what is possible. The thing that stuck out the most for me, were the people who felt the need to give their opinion to Tom and Atticus. One hiker sees Tom and Atticus starting up a peak and asks ” How long have you been hiking for?”  Tom replies a couple of months. And the hiker rigid in his viewpoint says something along the lines of that’s what I thought and your dog is too small to climb this mountain. And goes on to ask how many mountains they have hiked. Tom replies some number over 60( I can’t find the page where the quotation lies) and that shuts the man right up.

But that really illustrated to me, how we so want our world to fit in this box of limited possibility, because it’s comfortable. Because it’s what we know, that we will project our beliefs on others. I hope that was a moment that shook that hiker up and made him pause. Maybe he realized, there is more to life than what my narrow beliefs say there is. Life expands beyond the inherited beliefs of my upbringing. Those are the kind of realizations I have been having lately. So this book fit nicely into my life.

While I don’t personally want to move to the mountains and spend my life hiking as Atticus and Tom end up doing, I admire his bravery in pursuing what he loves. I admire his clarity of heart, that so often gets muddied in our everyday world.  It was a good reminder for me to choose to celebrate someone rather than feel jealousy. A good reminder that if I want to pick up and move somewhere I damn well can. Though I go more for starfishes and surf-swept rocks than glaciers and bears.

Here’s to all of us, may we pursue what we love doing and may we do it with a friend!

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