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, July 11, 2012

Here's To the Power of Possibilities

The economy continues to disappoint; our country is still at war with outsiders while Democrats and Republicans go to war with each other, and the fact that it's an election year only makes it worse; and every time we turn on the television there's more bad news.  Even the Red Sox have fallen into an uninspired early season tailspin rendering a large percentage of New England utterly hopeless.  So every now and again it's great to stumble upon a story with a happy ending.

About a month ago some hikers were making their way down the Davis Path, a rugged trail that runs from just south of Crawford Notch up to Mount Washington.  There are some beautiful peaks along the way, including Crawford, which is a steep climb but just over two miles from Route 302, then comes Resolution and Giant Stairs.  Eventually, as you continue along the Montalbon Ridge, you reach Davis and Isolation before the final climb up towards Mount Washington.  It's a great place to hike but the initial climb makes it tough and since there is only one 4,000-foot peak on the trail (Isolation) it's left to hiking purists and not as many peakbaggers clutter the trail.  Hence, it’s not at all crowded. As for regular foot traffic from the public?  Forget about it.  It just doesn't happen. 

You can imagine how surprised these hikers were when they came upon a box literally in the middle of nowhere.  And the box, which was pretty big, was moving!  They carefully peered inside and what they saw astounded them - a small but fat, unkempt dog with a flat face and watery eyes.  It was clear that someone had gone to great efforts to abandon this rather scruffy looking old fellow.

The hikers saved the little dog's life.  Had they left him there - as someone else had - he would have been nothing more than bear bait.  They ended up bringing him to the Conway Area Humane Society and after taking one look at this anonymous and unwanted dog, the shelter staff dubbed him "Scruffy".


It always saddens me that some people are capable of such thoughtless and even cruel actions toward animals.  And it seems that most of the problems animals suffer from are brought about by people, and not themselves.  So it's only right that every now and again people do something to right these wrongs.  And that's exactly what happened. 

When I learned of "Scruffy" on the Conway Area Humane Society's Facebook page and realized he needed some financial help to get the necessary medical tests an older, abandoned dog needs, and understood how much money most of our shelters don't have, I took a chance and posted Scruffy's picture and his tale on the Following Atticus Facebook page used to promote our book.  A most astounding thing took place.  After reading Scruffy's story, people from various parts of the country sent in donations.  Those who are Following Atticus and have been nicknamed Atticus's Army because of their unbound enthusiasm, sent in various amounts understanding that the money would go to Scruffy's medical bills and if anything was left over it would go to the shelter.  Within a week more than $2,500 came in! 

You can just imagine the smiles on the faces of those people who are involved with the shelter.  Such things don’t typically happen but there was obviously something about Scruffy’s plight that touched a chord in many of us. 

And better than that, White Mountain photographer Corey Engfer, and his wife Carrie, learned of Scruffy and decided to adopt him. But that's not where the story ends.  What happened next was a cruel twist to what should have been a very happy ending. 

Scruffy was facing numerous medical problems and before too long he had a laundry list of issues and he ended up in Portsmouth down in an intensive care hospital.  Poor Scruffy.  And poor Corey and Carrie, too.  Here they had opened their home to this little guy with nothing but high hopes and warm hearts and within a week he was in trouble and the medical bills were mounting.  Many other folks would have surrendered Scruffy back to the shelter and left it at that.  But Corey and Carrie couldn't imagine doing such a thing.  Unfortunately, they had no idea how they could possibly afford the bills.  They were heartbroken in more ways than one.

This is when the story takes another positive turn.  Once again we posted about Scruffy's needs and "Atticus's Army" rose to the cause and within 36 hours more than $2,000 came in.  Had it not been for this money Carey and Carrie...and more importantly Scruffy would have been in a quandary. 

And the story gets even better, when the animal hospital ended up charging about a $1,000 less than what was expected and the bills are no longer insurmountable.

It wouldn't be a happy ending, however, unless Scruffy got to go home with his new family and that's exactly what happened on Monday evening.  Medically cleared, he's now home where he belongs, in a quaint house by the water in picturesque Tamworth, New Hampshire so far from where he was found a month ago in many ways. 

The late mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out many times in his writing that we often find our treasure when things are darkest.  We get gold out of the cave we are most afraid to go into and only end up there because of what seems like a wrong turn.  So it's clear to me that one little dog who was left to die in a box on a less than crowded hiking trail has not only survived – he has brought out the best in people, nearly all of whom have never met him and never will. 

So yes, it is an election year, and yes, there are wars going on, and yes, the economy still sucks, and plenty of people have their share of reasons not to believe in happy endings.  But in Tamworth there is a little four legged fellow who doesn't look quite so scruffy anymore, who now has a reason to smile with his tongue dangling out of his mouth, and he sits at the center of a story that proves good things do happen in this world. 

Here's to the power of possibilities.  Here's to a little dog who wouldn't give up and his new family that didn't give up on him.  And here's to the generosity of strangers. 

Here's to happy endings. 

16 comments:

John Zaffino said...

This is terrific! Facebook has thousands of animal lovers who open up their hearts, and wallets if they can afford it, to just this sort of cause. Good for Scruffy, good for Tom and Atticus, and great for Facebook, which has proved once again that it can be a useful tool for the world community.

colleen said...

And here's to Tom Ryan. When you get involved, something magical starts to happen. You have come into so many peoples' lives, when perhaps in these troubling times, was most needed. With your story of Max, then Atticus, your wonderful book, and then lo and behold Will, you have given so much meaning to life to so many. It seems that you have touched the hearts and souls of people around the world, and so have your wonderful friends Atticus and Will. Now Scruffy and even Corry and Carrie will be able to impart some more magic, gleaned from you. You are a good man, Tom Ryan.

Anonymous said...

Great blog and very happy for Scruffy and his adopters. Onward and Upward. :)

Anonymous said...

Can you remind us how to donate? I did not yet but I do want to
Thanks

Anonymous said...

Shoot--of all days for me to put on eye makeup (which I never do..) Happy tears, though! Thanks for such a positive read!!

Wendy said...

This just makes me smile (and cry a little) to know that there are so many good people out there willing to help this little dog... It is strange how the most horrible act can lead to such an amazing outcome. I just wonder what the person who left Scruffy out there would think of this...

Patti said...

I'm so happy that I could be a small part of this incredible story of love and kindness. Here's to Happy Endings!!

cindidejnozka said...

Tom...this would make an awesome movie! The Adventures Of Scruffy! What a beautiful story....and thanks to you it has a very happy ending.

Hazel & Trusty Canine Teddy said...

And just as you, Tom, are following what truly matters to your life, so too are those who follow you, Atticus, Will, Scruffy and all the other creatures by living in the present, enjoying life and making happiness a priority during challenging times. To more 'good' stories!

Hazel & Teddy

Wendi said...

Once again, Tom, you have hit the nail on the head with this blog. That something great came out of Scruffy's abandonment is truly a sign that there are many good people in this world. Thanks for being one of them, and for sharing your story(and Atti, Will, and Scruffy) with us.

Caryl said...

I'm so happy for Scruffy and thankful for his new parents. I especially like a quote from St. Exupery's The Little Prince: “People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed."

Carter W Rae said...

Tom and crew here is to MANY MORE happy endings!!! Thank you for the beautiful and TRUE post... I think all good people every where are going to be given many chances to do many more good things too ... Blessings from our pack to yours

Mike said...

Ah yes, the power of possibilities. The more we believe in that power, the stronger it grows. And you, Tom, show us all how to believe in the possibilities more and more. Thanks for sharing this story!

Anonymous said...

Thank God this battle has been won.

Tina L said...

:)))))

1HappyHiker said...

Tom, there certainly is nothing "scruffy" about the efforts you put forth on behalf of this innocent animal. Thank you for your kindness!

John