Kristin's Reviews > Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan
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's review
Oct 23, 2011

it was amazing
Read from October 16 to 23, 2011

While not quite as moving as 'Merle's Door", "Following Atticus" is a book in the same vein, where a man partners with an unlikely canine traveling companion to explore the great outdoors. In this case, the author, Tom Ryan, finds himself as a bachelor living in small-town New England, self-publishing a commentary newspaper about the goings-on in the town, when he adopts an unwanted miniature Schnauzer. Though his time with Maxwell was brief, the pair became well-known in Newburyport, and it inspired Ryan to adopt another miniature Schnauzer from a breeder in Louisiana, naming him Atticus.
Ryan brings his troubled childhood into the story early, as he lost his mother at a young age and his father never built a strong relationship with any of his 9 children, of whom Tom was the youngest, nor did Ryan have a tight bond with any of his siblings. A chance hike with 2 of his brothers and memories of camping trips in New Hampshire's White Mountains awakened an inner peace within Ryan, and he soon learned that Atticus felt the same way. Ryan and Atticus begin doing regular hikes in the White Mountains, and Ryan takes the opportunity to write letters about the hikes to his father in hopes of using this common experience to form the bond they never had.
Being a small dog, Atticus gets many looks from other hikers used to only seeing large breeds like Newfoundlands and retrievers accompanying their human partners on the trails. Ryan realizes that they are a well-matched pair though, as Atticus' small legs and subsequent slower speed work well with Ryan's out-of-shape body. Even so, Atticus consistently outpaces Ryan, possibly due to puppy energy early on, but more likely because Ryan often finds Atticus sitting on a ledge with the best view of nature when he finally catches up, and suspects the dog wants to get to these Zen places and thus rushes ahead.
2 major events in the lives of Atticus and Ryan set the wheels in motion for special fundraising journeys to climb all 48 4,000+ foot peaks in the White Mountains twice each winter, for 2 consecutive winters. Only one dog had ever climbed all 48 in one winter, a Newfoundland, and doing the whole set twice was a feat never done by a canine and rarely, if ever, done by a human. These journeys cause Ryan to re-evaluate his life again and make some tough decisions.
Overall, a great read on approach to winter, showing the true strength of the canine-human bond. I also like that the book doesn't truly end, as it wraps up the story Ryan presents but left me with the feeling that Ryan and Atticus have many journeys ahead in their beloved mountains.

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