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 06, 2008

I've Been Spoiled By Atticus

Well…this is a new experience for the two of us. We’re house sitting in Tamworth, a small town on the eastern side of the White Mountains just south of the Kancamagus Highway. We’re in the middle of nowhere, if nowhere is a beautiful place. The house sitting part’s new, but not the big part of the new experience. Atticus and I are also dog sitting. I feel like we’ve dropped right into the pages of Marley & Me.

Geneva is a sweet and cute but undisciplined and rowdy dog. Lock up the valuables, the baubles, the loose socks or drafts of anything important on paper, because if you don’t, well, Geneva gets it and often keeps it. I’m hoping some of Atticus rubs off on her.

I forget how difficult and exhausting it is to have a puppy in the house. Geneva’s 11 months old and I now realize how easy I had it with Atticus. He didn’t chew things, didn’t get into the trash, and didn’t grab food of the counters. Of course he wasn’t tall enough to reach the kitchen counter and still isn’t, but even when food was within reach, if it wasn’t his, he has always respected it. This morning, Geneva, a combination of Australian Cattle Dog, Husky and Whirling Dervish, tried to dislodge the frying pan from the top of the stove while bacon sizzled in it!

Earlier when I climbed into the tub for a good soak and some reading time, Geneva decided she wanted to join me and tried to hop in also. I really have been spoiled by Atticus and his quiet, gentle and respectful ways.

When the three of us went outside and made a slow loop around this big green yard I was stunned when a car passed and she took off after it like a greyhound. The only way to get her back was for me and Atticus to run in the opposite direction so she’d chase us. Then a car came in the opposite direction and she pivoted and chased after that!

When she finally came back I grabbed her by the collar and attached the leash. Inside we went. She climbed up on the couch next to Atticus but he wants little to do with her. He tolerates her at best. Occasionally he’ll lose it and growl and shock me with a piercing bark – Atticus doesn’t bark typically – to let her know she’s crossed over some line of appropriate interaction. Instead he came over and wanted me to lift him up. He’s now sleeping on the desk next to my typing fingers while she sleeps in a tight black circle at my feet.

I will admit, however, that she has calmed down a great deal since Christine, her owner left. It will be interesting to see how this relationship between the three of us works out over the next seven days. By the time all is said and done I’m hoping I don’t have to give back the award I’ve yet to receive from the good people at the MSPCA.


Michelle said...

Tamworth is a great place. We've stayed often at the Tamworth Inn.


LM said...

Tom you got seven days to train the dog to be like Atticus.

You can be a writer / dog chapter for your book..

Good luck.....! Ha....

Thomas F. Ryan said...

Well, I don't expect Geneva to be like Atticus. Much of that came from early training but more of that was done before I even had him. I've always thought the key to successfully training a dog is to find a dog smarter than the owner.

That's the way it was with Atticus and me. I didn't have to teach him much.

Strangely enough, LM, I did get plenty of writing done yesterday. The rain has made the dogs sleepy and happy to be curled up inside.

As for Geneva's training, we're taking baby steps.