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, May 19, 2012

Will's Hurting Today

He's home...right where he should be.
Will collapsed this morning.

 
We were just starting out on a walk next to the Saco River and he was doing his old man shuffle, moving along easily enough, showing no signs of wear or tear, but taking his time.  I remember thinking how happy I was for him to finally start moving like a dog. When he first arrived and he had to go to the bathroom he took one long pee, perhaps he wasn't allowed to take his time in the past.  But today, finally, instead of only getting to go outside and taking one long squirt, he become more like he should be.  He stopped and sniffed and peed, then did it again, and again.  It's was a good sign. Then, probably 150 yards into our walk, he stumbled to one side and fell as a horse might, keeping his head up but having his legs betray him.  He struggled to get up, stumbled, and fell again.  I helped him up, but he fell again and this time he just lay on his side looking at me and groaning.
 
I carried him to the car and we brought him around the corner to Christine O'Connell, our local vet.
 
Atticus doesn't pay much attention to Will, or any other dog, and he's not a growler, but something interesting happened this morning when we were sitting in the waiting room at Christine's office: Atti beside me, and Will on my lap, his head rested in the crook of my elbow, just inches from Atti's face, and his full body weight - the weight of trust - leaning into me.  In walked a huge Italian mastiff.  Atticus looked at him, bared his teeth, and started growling.  The hackles on his neck raised and I tried to calm him down but he'd have none of it.
 
I won't pretend to know what dogs are thinking but I swear he was protecting Will and making sure the other dog knew to stay away.  The dog sat at the far end of the room with his family and only then did Atticus stop growling.

Christine thinks that Will has either had a stroke or something known as Old Dog's Vestibular Disease.  It masks a stroke but the dog gets better within a few days.  If it's O.D.V.D., he'll get better and there won't be much of a worry. But if it's a stroke and he doesn't improve. . . . well, a tough decision will have to be made.  There's no way of knowing which one it is at this time. So we'll just wait and see. 

Currently Will is where he belongs.  We brought him home to take care of him. He's sleeping soundly and we'll watch over him him.  Christine O'Connell is on call throughout the weekend and she's only minutes away should we need her. 

A couple of friends already know what's happened and they're heartbroken about it, especially since Will was doing so well.  Heck, this morning he wanted to play at 2:00 and then again at 5:30, but this is why we brought him here.  I wanted Will to live out his days in a place where he felt loved.  I wanted him to have a home.  I knew what we were getting into and whether the end comes within days, or years, we've already accomplished that.    He knows he is loved.  He knows he has a home. This much I know is true.
 
Of course none of this stops the tears from welling up while I hold him today.

51 comments:

Melissa said...

I am thinking about you and praying for you today. You are such an amazing person for taking Will into your home.

I am currently caring for my diabetic cat Tara who has a bad urinary tract infection and has had a rough few days.

These fur babies are such angels in our lives. It is so hard to see them hurting.

Judy said...

Will has brought you such a wonderful opportunity even though it may not be for very long. The inspiration you have given others to consider adopting older dogs is just wonderful. Atti's reaction to that other dog is most likely what you thought...very protective of Will. Dogs are such wonderful souls...we have alot to learn from them.

Dan the Mountain Man said...

I hope Will gets better soon. I am sure he feels loved.

arandsandy said...

I have been following Will's progress since you brought him home. We have had 4 mini schnauzers all living to be about 15 years old. So Will's condition is very familiar to me. Brings tears to my eyes. Whatever happens, you and Atti have accomplished what you set out to do. No matter how many days Will may have, the last ones of his life are probably the best. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

janimac said...

I am so sorry that Will is having a tough time. I will be praying for him! It is so special that you chose to open your heart to Will to let him know that he's loved. He is a lucky dog. God bless Will, you and Atticus.

Penni Glenz said...

Whether Will's life from this point is measured in days...weeks...months...or years...one thing is certain. He is experiencing unconditional love....caring....respect. What a gift that some humans don't ever come to know....This is the way it should be living...or passing away with those we love and who love us. What a special dog....what a special family that he has become a part of. Thanks for all you are doing for Will.

TheBookFetish said...

Hugs and hugs to all of you. I hope for the best here, but like so many others, I'm tearing up reading this. Partially because I know you've already fallen in love with Will, and this hurts. But also because Will is in a place of love- when he must be confused and scared, he at least feels love, as should we all. My thoughts are with all of you, but today, especially Will.

dreamspinner3 said...

Will knows that he's loved, Tom. Whatever the outcome of this unexpected development, Will knows in his heart what unconditional love is because he got it from you. I will pray for you, Will, & Atticus. Keep up the good fight!

patlesniewski said...

Tom, Atti and Wiliam

It is sad to hear that William is not feeling well at the moment and it must have been difficult to see him have an episode. But my deep down feeling is that because of all the friends and facebookers that have been sending such remarkable comments that there is a great deal of KARMA working for all three of you. I recently had severe issues with my Shitzu/Maltese who had to be attended to at Purdue University small animal hospital and as I was keeping her story on Facebook, she received so many prayers and concerns and lots of great KARMA, she is now almost good as new. However this turns out for William, please know that he knows just how much you and Atti have contributed to his life. We all will continue to offer our prayers to you, Atti and William and the gratitude for the compassion you have shown to the world.

blkjack86 said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

WendiPA said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Will, and Atticus today. Our Mini Schnauzer, Atka, also sends special love. Whatever happens, William knows he is loved, which is the most important thing in any life.

Anonymous said...

Love is a powerful healer and I am sure Will feels it all around him. You can count on my prayers being added to the many others for him to pull through and get the chance to breath in that clean mountain air again.

Georgette said...

I have stayed in touch with Nbpt friends via FB and have been wondering where you were and what you would make of the current goings on there. I am so happy to have stumbled on you thanks to a friend in NM where we now live. Following Atticus is wonderful, and while not a "dog person" I had tears reading "Will is Hurting Today". What a big heart you have and what a wonderful writer you remain. We have adopted 2 older cats in the past and it is rewarding and heart-breaking. Just wanted to say hello and let you know we still think of you and are so glad to be able to read your words.
g

Mrs A said...

With love and trust he will be ok, keep the warm blanket therapy up,
whatever happens he looks comfortable and at peace.

MarySue said...

Tom & Atticus, Thank for being true friends to Will and letting him be at peace and enjoy the last as you said days, months, years who knows! But he deserves to feel loved and you have done that.Sending prayers that all goes well. Thanks for all your love to Will. Get Well soon Will!

Anonymous said...

God on you all. I've had the same experiences as you and it's all in the loyal love that you give. Will is well. As St. Theresa said: all is well and all is well and all is well.

Elaine Smothers said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Will is hurting today and am sending prayers for a positive outcome. I pray he has more quality time to enjoy the loving home he's found with you and Atticus, but if it's not meant to be, I'm glad he knew such special love in his final days. So many are not that fortunate. Keeping you all in my thoughts & prayers!

Katy said...

Will has love pouring into him from all directions from the universe. I imagine the love You and Atti have shown him has given Will comfort and security that he has never known. Will Just being comfortable enough to be able to sniff and pee is a wonderful vision i now have in my heart!
My dear sweet Will, know that I hold you in my heart just as your horsey holds the weight of your head as you rest. You are loved; you have come home and now it is a safe haven for where ever you need to go and do next.

Anonymous said...

Sending love from us, including our 15yo Mini Schnauzer, Girl. Girl has been having what can be described as vestibular events off and on for nearly a year now. It is frightening to witness, especially when we are helpless. Last Fall, I was told that she could well have a brain tumor. Only option was an MRI, which would simply tell us if there was a brain tumor, and the procedure's dyes/chemicals, etc. could have complications. Things progressed to what seemed like a permanent head tilt, instability, and weakness. Many days, I thought we were about to say goodbye, but not yet. She is not as energetic as she once was; is nearly deaf, has cataracts, naps a lot, but it is all good. Oh, and oddly enough, her head tilt is gone. We will continue to watch your posts for news and hope for the best. gentle hugs to you, Atticus, and Will from Pennsylvania.

Hazel & Trusty Canine Teddy said...

Yes, Tom you did exactly what you promised you would do - provide Will a loving place to enjoy his days.

And he, in turn, has found the happy slightly stronger pup he used to be. Whatever happens, you know he's definitely feeling secure in his new home and loved.

I, too, send best wishes and positive thoughts on Will healing and progressing with every day.

Thinking of you, Atticus (who definitely demonstrated his protection of Will) and Will.
Hazel & Teddy

Cherie said...

Tom,
You know we have honored and supported you from the get go in your adoption of Will. And old dogs who have been given up then found a new "forever home" often do better than they have in years. I know how this is weighing on your heart. I've been there often with older dogs that we've made a part of our lives. It is never easy knowing when to say "enough". I will pray for discernment when and if that need presents itself. Holding you and Atti and Will gently but firmly.

Bonnie said...

Crying uncontrollably happy Will has you and Atticus and sad because of his illness. Praying for William. Bless you Tom Ryan and Atticus!

Brooke Elaine said...

I am so sorry to hear this...but he is getting the love he deserves.
You and Atticus are his family and he is where he needs to be...prayers for Will and you and Atticus as well!

Jean Ramsay said...

I love that Atti was protecting Will. I know it's tough, but you are a fantastic person for doing this. I hope Will recovers and will pray that he isn't in any pain and only knows the comfort and love that you have given to him.

Chris said...

You and Atti and Paige have given Will the greatest of all gifts..unconditional love. If Will is to leave you here on Earth, he will undoubtedly join Max and your Mom and Dad where he will be comfortable and young again. Bless all of you and please know we are all praying for yoi.

Madelyn said...

Tearing up here as well - I know you will keep us apprised.

~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

Lauren Bergeron said...

Christine and I are on call if you need anything. Lauren

Maureen said...

Years ago my 16 year old schnauzer mix had a similar situation that is going on with William. We thought it was a stroke, but she recovered within 3 days or so. She was a feisty one and lived to the grand age of 23. Hopefully William will do well and you will all be together for a long time to come. Prayers coming your way.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. Thank you for taking Will in and giving him a loving home. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

God & St Francis bless Will, and you & Atticus. Beagle kisses to Will from Miss Willow in Wisconsin, Xander & Toby too.

Anonymous said...

My heart is sad thinking about Will today. I will pray that all will end well and Will can have a long time to spend with you and sweet Atti.

Pam Hicks said...

Strongest prayers ever!!!
Wills will let you know what he needs & you Tom, along with Atti, more than most, will know exactly how to give it to him. Perfectly in sync.....

Mark Molyneux said...

"I wanted Will to live out his days in a place where he felt loved. I wanted him to have a home. I knew what we were getting into and whether the end comes within days, or years, we've already accomplished that. He knows he is loved. He knows he has a home. This much I know is true."

God bless you Tom and may Will live for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

I hope Will gets better. I've had many elderly cars and 2 dogs live their lives with me and pass on. I hope will can stay with you longer.
~Kathy

Kerina said...

Will definitely pray. You already know that love can move mountains. I hope that he will recover and that you can all spend a little more time together. God bless x

Jan D in VT said...

Your & Atti's love for Will will carry you all through what dreams may come.

With Love,
Jan and Reba&Lila(Australian shepherd rescued dogs, who in turn rescued me:)

som30n3s said...

So sorry Will is ill. Thank you for knowing the challenges of adopting a senior dog and opening your heart and home to him. I hope you have many more happy moments in the future together.

I believe Atti was protecting Will as well. Once my cat fell out of a tree and landed face first in the top of a truck. The fall resulted in both of her bottom canine teeth breaking and several lacerations in her mouth. My dog and cat never got along but in that moment of time the dog guarded the room the cat was in and refused to allow any non-family members (animal or humans) into the room. As soon as the moment passed the dog and cat resumed the normalcy of teasing one another and only tolerating living together because they had too.

Bev A said...

Forgive me Tom...I can't share a story, I can't be clever, I can't say anything except my heart that was slowly healing vicariously through William and Atti and yourself after the recent death of my Whiski...is shattered and I am scanning my inner landscape for a sense of maturity and acceptance...but the tears won't stop.....and I simply think no fair!! I continue to seek my own evolution and honor yours and Atti's while praying for Wills's recovery if it will give him the quality of life he deserves...

Silvia Soos-Kazel said...

Dear Tom, as one of your new faithful "Following Atticus" friends, I was taken a back about the news of
Will's sudden collapse. My pack(2 Minis & 1 Beagle rescue) & I send love, prayers & hugs to Will, you & Atti. We are thinking only positive thoughts; and wish little Will a most speedy recovery. Praying to God to give
all of you more well deserved time together! Silvia & Lorelei, Sigi & Buddy

Kimberly said...

I know that you and Atticus have given Will a great home and I will pray that the old boy has many more years left. Prayers for Will, Atticus and you.

Tina L. said...

Last night, I read your blog "Following Will", after reading I was so happy for you all, especially Will, I ended my evening with a huge smile and warm heart for you. I read your blog today, my heart breaks for you.....I know exactly how you feel....Will is where he's suppose to be in your arms with Atticus near by, with the positive, loving energy emitted by the two of you, Will knows how very much he's loved..how very safe he is....my prayers are with all of you....
Tina
PS: For Will, Extra warm touches and extra soft kisses to you.

Susann A, said...

Tom, In the midst of loving and caring for Atticus and Will, and the sorrow of Will's present illness, you choose to keep all of us with you, sharing the love and caring and keeping us in the loop. I'm very moved by what you write about this process of bringing a very old dog into your lives, regardless of what that might ask of you, and how you are there for him 100%. As Willa Cather wrote: "Where there is great love, there are always miracles." I think the miracle is simply in the love. Blessings to you all.

Angie said...

I am praying for Will this evening. This just breaks my heart. But, he knows that he is loved and that is all that really matters.

Mollie said...

Dear Tom,
I love the quote Susann A. put in her comment by Willa Cather. "Where there is great love, there are always miracles." I feel that Will is in your life for a reason--beyond you caring for him and loving him, which is wonderful! Our canine companions teach us so much. Blessings to Will, you and that Atti who protected his sick four-legged friend. Their 7th sense is amazing. Take good care and gentle hugs to all of you.

Vicki B said...

All the right words have been said here by others. Will, Tom and Atti are in our hearts and prayers. Love and peace <3

Ellen said...

I have faith that everything will turn out OK. William is in good hands-so lucky to be with you.

Anonymous said...

My love and prayers are with you, Atticus and most of all sweet William. I hope over the next few days he improves. With your love he will fight as he will not want to lose what he has got now

Mike said...

Tom: Will looks so very cozy and at home in that photograph that everyone can see the love that he feels. That is a feeling that many people and animals alike seek but never find. I'm hoping that Will enjoys that contentment for a long, long time.

cindidejnozka said...

Tom, I know how you are feeling. This takes me back to my Holly. We rescued her from a puppy mill where she lived in a cage for eight years and had litters every heat. She was a breeding machine. Someone yanked out her vocal cords so she couldn't bark and her teeth were so rotted we had to have every one of them removed. I too wanted to give her a loving home, spoil her rotten and just love her to pieces. I held her for days. I couldn't put her down. We had her one week shy of three years. She died in my arms from breast cancer. I love all my fur babies but she will always hold a very special place in my heart. Oh how I miss her so! We are all pulling for you Will!

grandma peden's porch said...

Oh my gosh I just found your blog and I only know about it because I saw the book at the book store so I searched twitter and found you and then found the blog. I will be adding you to my reading list on blogger. I to have schnauzers and they have my heart. Reading this post sounds exactly like what happened to my Sam. The vet said it was a stroke but he got better a few days later. Our vet recommended we put him in a room that was dark and quiet so he could rest we did that and a few days later it warmed up and we took him outside and he started getting better. I so hope will does the same thing. I cried like a baby reading this it brought back all those feelings. I know what you are going through and my prayers are with you.

Leo the Basset said...

And yet another incredible story of sheer "will" and determination to face these challeges together as a new family. Poor Will but lucky Will that he will experience a glimpse of Heaven here on Earth before he leaves it for good. And all because of your unlimited love and huge hearts, Tom & Atticus! Thank You!