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, May 23, 2012

Scholastic Book Fairs Chooses FOLLOWING ATTICUS

It's only Wednesday and already I'd say this is a pretty special week.  Will continues to improve; Atticus and I had a great event last night speaking to the Grafton County (NH) Bar Association at their spring dinner; my vegan diet has reached five weeks, I'm down eighteen pounds, and really enjoying the food; and other new adventures have appeared on the horizon.

On top of all of this, Will has added so much to our home.  We've had to adjust to his arrival but our lives are richer because of him.  He teaches us lessons we need to know, he offers love, he has added to the quality of our lives.  Sure he's come with some physical challenges, and that was even before last weekend's 'episode' that had tears flowing and hearts aching, but what it has cost us is minimal compared to what he's added.  We're so fortunate to have Will in our lives.

And today, Nicole Martella, Special Sales Representative at HarperCollinsPublishers, sent out this very exciting announcement regarding Following Atticus.  I've included it below...

I’m very pleased to share that Scholastic Book Fairs will include FOLLOWING ATTICUS (paperback - 9780061997112) in their fall book fairs. Their order of 12,996 copies will be shipped in July. We are excited they chose this inspirational story and feel that it will sell well to their adult customers.

About Scholastic Book Fairs:
Scholastic Books Fairs is a division of Scholastic Inc. Each year Scholastic Book Fairs, in partnership with schools across the country, hosts more than 120,000 book-sale events that serve more than 35 million students and families. The buyers at Scholastic Book Fairs review thousands of titles each year, and select a new assortment of books for each fall and spring season. These often include the latest award winners and most popular books. At the end of each Fair, the school is awarded a percentage of the revenue or books and educational materials. You can visit the company’s website at

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Will Update

As you can imagine it's not easy for Will to get around right now. 

Last night I carried him to his dog bed, which is about five feet away from our bed.  I covered him with a blanket and, on a whim, before going to bed myself I decided to bring him the shirt I hiked in on Friday so he'd have my scent with him. 

This is the sight I woke up to.  Little Will had pulled his twisted body from his bed, somehow dragged my shirt with him, and slept on it right next to our bed so he could be closer to us.

It's the simplest, purest acts that touch the human heart and I was moved to see the way he was sleeping.

I had to smile when I thought about something Parkie Jones, a therapist and a friend from Newburyport, once said to me.  "Don't pay attention to what someone says, pay attention to what they do." Actions do speak louder than words.  And Will's actions spoke beautifully last night.

Physically, nothing has changed.  I carried him outside this morning to go to the bathroom and he went, but I had to hold him up so he could go.  Inside he's tried to stand a few times but has toppled over.  We'll continue to watch him.  It's still early in the game.

Will is old.  And he's not feeling well.  More importantly, Will is home.

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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Following Will

William two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I was in Eastern Mountain Sports looking at child-carrying backpacks.  You see, Atticus and I were adopting William, a fifteen year old miniature schnauzer who was dropped off at a kill shelter and saved by the good souls at the New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue Network.  I knew by the photograph I’d seen of William he had cataracts and coupled with his age I felt pretty confident he would not be able to hike a mountain.  And yet I wanted him to experience what it was like to stand on top of a peak, feel the wind in his face, breathe the clean air, and gaze out at the sea of breaking waves the mountains resemble as they fade off into the horizon – even through cloudy eyes.  I wanted him to experience the wonder Atticus and I have grown to call life. 

But things rarely work out was we plan them.

When Atticus and I picked up William in Connecticut we got even less than I bargained for.  He was a dog with arthritic hips and had a difficult time standing.  He was mostly blind and mostly deaf.  He didn’t want to be picked up and attempted to bite anyone who did so.  One of my thoughts was that there was no way the poor fellow would live very long.

Whatever hopes I had for him sitting on top of some peak on his own or in a backpack were dashed.  The poor old guy couldn’t even sit – he’d just flop down due to lack of strength – and there was no way he’d let me put him in a carrier. 

I’ve never much liked limitations and I reserve a greater dislike for people who foist their own upon others.  But here was an old dog coming with plenty of his own.  Physically limited, emotionally lost.  He was abandoned, frightened, heartbroken (I imagined), and understandably angry. 

So Atticus and I simply let William be William.  Over the first few days there was a lot of anger and obstacles to deal with.  We live on the second floor and there are quite a few stairs to climb and poor William couldn’t manage a single one of them with his hips.  A harness helped him get down the stairs but I resorted to carrying him up to our apartment and each time he’d fight me wildly and try to bite me. 

Luckily I live with Atticus, who has the patience of Job, and he allowed William a wide birth. I found my patience by imagining Atticus in William’s position.  If he was fifteen and in poor health and something happened to me so that we couldn’t be together ever again, he would be just as terrified as William.  Just as lost, just as hurt.  And this theme stayed in my heart whenever it started to break.  That, and the simplest and best of lessons: the old “Golden Rule” – treat others as you wish to be treated.

One of my friends met William during those first few days and raised his eyebrows.  “Hate to say it, Tom, but you made a mistake. I know you mean well but that old guy should have been put to sleep.”

I looked at him and asked, “If the tables were turned, how would you handle it?”

“I told you the other day, I wouldn’t have adopted him.  It’s not fair to you or Atticus.”

“No,” I said. “What I meant was what if you were in Will’s place?  What if you were in poor health, couldn’t see or hear, had the only home and the only family you’d ever known ripped away from you and you were put in a cage to die on your own unless someone took you home.  What would you have me do then?”

He didn’t say anything.  Instead he squatted, let Will sniff his hand, and gently ran his fingers over Will’s head.

As for my hopes of Will being able to hike?  He may never climb a mountain, not a real one anyway, but I’m reminded every day that in life we all have our own mountains to climb.  And yet some regular gentle exercise has strengthened those back hips.  Metacam and Dasaquin help with the pain and stability. Now when he goes to jump up to play with me his hips no longer betray him when he lands.  This gives him even more confidence. 

Just a couple of days of ago, just over twenty-four hours after a lengthy and much needed dental appointment where anesthesia was used, Will went on his first hike.  For Atticus and me it wasn’t very far at all.  It wouldn’t be far for many people for it was only a mile stroll through the woods along the Saco River.  But it was a sight to behold.  Will following Atticus, albeit slowly, but looking better than he had a week ago, stopping to sniff, and simply enjoy his surroundings.  When we came to a small tree that had fallen across the trail, however, he was stopped in his tracks.  I waited to see what he would do and he just looked up at me and this little dog that used to try to bite me let me kneel next to him and place each of his front paws on the fallen tree.  Then I placed one on the other side and used his harness to help him get over it. 

On our return trip to the car, when we came to that same log, Will stopped and looked up at me again. This time I dropped his leash and stepped over the obstacle and stood on the other side and waited.  Atticus, had stopped, too, and came back to sit next to me and we watched  Will together. After a moment of thought Will hopped over it and trotted to my arms. 

Like I said, we all have our own mountains to climb.  And Will is climbing them, as Paige Foster, Atticus’s breeder would say in her southern twang, “…by the wagonload!”

As wonderful as our little hike in the woods was, it was another journey that impressed me even more.  Five days after Will arrived he traveled down to the Grappone Center in Concord for the annual dinner of the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA.  Atticus and I were the featured guests and I had not intended to bring Will, but that morning something had clicked and he seemed to understand that he had found a home with us and I didn’t want to leave him behind. 

That night, when Atticus and I stood up on stage and I finished telling our story, someone asked me what our next adventure was.  I excused myself, left the stage for a moment, and returned with Will.    

Once lost Will sat comfortably in my arms, next to Atticus who was on a table. I told everyone about his journey and when I was done there was Will pushing his little body against mine, looking out with those old eyes at 360 people as they stood for him in unison and gave him a rousing ovation. 

Oh, I know it was for the three of us, but I think of Will and see his gleaming face, his eyes looking brighter than I’d seen them, his little pink tongue hanging out of his smiling mouth.  He was as dog left behind not two weeks before and now he glowed in a room full of admiration and affection. 

And so it is that those who we lift up can lift up so many others.  And you don’t have to be able to see more than shapes or shadows or stand on top of a mountain to appreciate the view . . . or the love.  

Will’s story is one of redemption. He gives us all hope. He teaches and we learn by following him. It is never too late to love nor too late to be loved.

I cannot help but think of Tennyson's Ulysses when it comes to Will and the last chapter of his life.  But more importantly, there is more to be written.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Will today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Sense of Self

Today is a good day.

There’s always something to be grateful for but this morning something extra special transpired. 

The most satisfying compliment I receive about Atticus is when people talk about his sense of self.  He knows who he is and what he wants.  There is rarely any place he is uncomfortable.  He could be on stage in front of more than 300 people as he will be tonight, walking leashless through strange cities during our book tour, or caught in a blizzard during a 23-mile trek across the Bonds.  It doesn’t matter.  So long as we’re together he is fine.

Atticus’s sense of self is the reason we were able to adopt Will, a fifteen year old Miniature Schnauzer with serious health issues this week.  People are funny and bring their own scars to their observations.  Some predicted Atticus would be jealous or angry or resentful.  Others hoped that he and Will would become fast friends.  I know Atticus well enough to know neither would be true.  He wouldn’t become friends with Will, and neither would he shun him.  He’d simply let him be and allow him to work out whatever he needs to work out.  Atticus has done just that.  He’s respectful, patient, even gentle.  Never does he approach him and if Will approaches him, Atticus simply allows him to sniff away and then move on. 

I believe it’s all because of his sense of self.

When we picked up Will on Sunday in Connecticut I saw a dog on the opposite end of the spectrum.  I was literally stunned by his poor condition.  His hips were fragile and weak, his eyes ineffective, his ears equally so.  On top of that he was edgy, frightened, insecure, and at times aggressive.  He didn’t want to be picked up and one time when I was helping him out his car he latched hold of my thumb and took a good bite.  At the moment blood was trickling out of my thumb between his clenched teeth I didn’t pull back, I didn’t react at all other than to use my other hand to gently pat his head and tell him it was okay. 

I didn’t blame Will for being fearful and protecting himself.  Hell, I would have been the same way.  I don’t know much about his past or how he was treated.  Form what I hear he lived with the same family for fifteen years and when the fellow he lived with grew too old to take care of himself or Will, the little dog was dropped off at a shelter in New Jersey. 

I can’t even blame the gentleman who did this for I don’t know his state of mind and or even if he understood it was a kill shelter.  Luckily, the shelter contacted the New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue Network and they jumped in to save what many considered an unadoptable dog.  Through their efforts he was placed in a foster home.  His picture was placed on their website and one of our Facebook friends posted the link to William on our Following Atticus page praying someone would give him a home. 

There are many reasons why I decided to adopt Will – too many to go into here – but suffice it to say I wanted him to have the opportunity to live out his life in dignity.  I knew he would most likely be frail and by the photo I could tell he had cataracts.  I also knew that Atticus would react in an understanding manner.  He would simply handle it as Atticus handles everything – by being himself – and this would help Will do just that.

By the time Will was sinking his teeth into my hand he had been delivered from the shelter to the foster home to various members of the NJSRN for transport.  He’d been passed off, then saved, then handed over like a baton.  All this was wonderful for it saved his life, but I’m sure Will didn’t see it this way.  I know I wouldn’t if it was me.  I’d be confused and frightened.  I feel betrayed and abandoned.  I’d feel like my life was stolen from me. 

There have been challenges thus far.  Will is frail and needs to go to the bathroom quite often.  If I’m not paying attention he goes on the floor but we’ve come to an understanding about that and I know when to get him outside and how often.  He doesn’t do well on the stairs and we live on the second floor and each step can be slick to his weakened back legs, but he doesn’t like being picked up.  So during the first day I just spent a lot of time sitting on the floor with Will while leaning back against the couch.  Atticus sat on the couch with his head resting on my shoulder as I worked my hands tenderly over Will.

On the car ride back from Connecticut I noticed his ears perked up with certain kinds of music and I wondered what kind of memories they held for him.  Music is often playing in our home but now there’s more classical than there was before and some opera with female voices, which he seems to like.  Not knowing how bad his hearing is, only that he rarely responds to my voice, I thought of Beethoven, who was deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony and legend has it he cut the legs off of his piano and put his ear to the floor so he could feel the vibration.  I placed a small speaker attached to my iPhone on the floor near where Will likes to sleep and I hope he can feel the vibrations.  He seems to like it. 

Within twenty-four hours Will let me pick him up.  Within 72 hours he understood he needs to be carried up the stairs and he now stops and puts his front paws on the first step and I pass my hand under his nose to let him know it’s me and I softly cradle his brittle body.  He grunts out of joint pain now and no longer growls.  And when we get upstairs and I put him down he becomes playful.  He dances around like a little drunken leprechaun, and when he comes running towards me he attempts to stand on his hind legs and push me with his front paws (think of the way Elaine Benes used to shove Jerry on Seinfeld) but his hips are so weak they give out and he topples over (hence the drunken leprechaun).  That doesn’t stop him from wanting to play, however.  But he simply doesn’t have the strength to hold himself up.  

Occasionally he’ll find himself near the coffee table and when he wants my attention he’ll pull himself up and put his weight on his front legs and stare at me as if he has something to say. 

As for walks, it’s an advantage to have Atticus off leash so he can go at his pace while Will and I go at his.  He’s grown used to his harness and seems to find comfort in the connection it gives us.  On Wednesday we took our time walking in the woods along an earthen path.  Every now and again Atticus would return to make sure we were okay – and we were.  We were simply going at Will’s pace.  When all was said and done I realized we’d actually walked a mile.  I wondered how tired he would be, or how sore.  But when we returned home and I carried him up the stairs there was that same drunken leprechaun charging at me with a wide open mouth, but no longer to bite as he did that first day, but to play. 

Some have noted in his pictures that Will now looks like a puppy and he does.  He plays like one, too.  The only difference is that after fifteen minutes of playing he needs to sleep for a few hours.  He finds one of the dog beds I have around our home or plops down on the carpet and when he’s asleep I cover his old, bony body with a blanket to keep him warm. 

Atticus and I lead a pretty boring life.  We love our privacy, music often plays in the house, comforting scents drift from the crockpot, and candles flicker.  I sit and read and Atticus sits next to me.  And now Will often sleeps on my feet.  When we’re outside, it’s a different story, of course.  Atticus and I take full advantage of Will’s numerous naps to get plenty of exercise at a faster pace. 

And through it all I cannot believe it’s only been five days.  So much has transpired.  So much has transformed. 

This morning we went to Christine O’Connell’s office for Will’s first vet visit.  I wasn’t sure how he would handle it since he’s sore in numerous places and many dogs do not like going to the vets.  But a most wonderful thing happened.  Will walked to the door with me, got on the scale when I showed him where it was, then walked calmly to the front desk with me.  When another dog came in he acknowledged him and they sniffed each other in a friendly fashion. 

Christine greeted him on the floor and when I lifted him up to the table he was kind and gentle and let them pull and prod him in places that couldn’t have felt good.  His teeth are rotten and he badly needs a cleaning, his ears are extremely sensitive and need a deep cleaning as well, his hips – his poor hips are weak and under-exercised.  And yet throughout it all there stood Will, his blurry eyes looking right into mine as I cradled him. 

When we left the office he was calm and confident as we walked to the car together and when I looked down at him I had to smile at him for I saw something in him I’d not seen that first day.  It was a calm yet warm sense of self – a sense of belonging and of being loved. 

He has come a long way in the past ten days: pulled from his home, placed in a kill shelter, and feeling frightened to feeling right at home – to feeling like there is no place he shouldn’t be at ease. 

I believe the greatest gift we can give another is the ability to be themselves.  It’s amazing what can happen when you allow another to simply be who they are. 

I have no illusions about Will.  Never have.  I understand he’s come to live out his days with us and that no matter how much time is left it will break my heart to see him go.  But days like this…well, I think this is what heaven is like – to give the gift of life and dignity. 

Five days ago we took in a frightened, angry, and lost soul.  Today we walked out of Christine O’Connell’s office as friends. 

As I write this I have a tears of happiness welling up in my eyes for I have one friend who will never be abandoned with his head resting against my hip, and another who was lost and has now been found with his head on my feet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Limited Edition Map of the 4,000-Footers of the White Mountains

Atticus M. Finch with his pawtograph and a copy of the map.
Here it is! The beautiful map of the 48 4,000-foot peaks of New Hampshire created by Jackson, NH artist Kathy Speight Kraynak for our book Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

When I approached Kathy about doing a map for the end papers of our book I told her I wanted something reminiscent of Tolkien's maps but at the same time different.  I wanted her to create something that would give the viewer a sense of the quest and yet have it be geographically accurate.  When I saw what she had come up with I was stunned.  It was perfect and better than anything that I had imagined. 

Since the book has come out a multitude of readers have asked if there was somewhere they could get a copy of the map.  Until now they couldn't. 

However, Kathy has created a stunning reproduction of the black and white print measuring 18" x 12" on 80# felt stock.  These prints look superb matted and framed in a standard 16' x 20" frame.
We decided we wanted to do something different with the maps and so we've made a limited edition of 250 hand-numbered prints signed by both author and artist, more importantly they carry Atticus M. Finch's 'pawtograph'.  And better yet, a portion of each sale will go to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire - North, our local animal shelter lovingly run by Virginia Moore. 

Each print is $30 and includes shipping and handling and there are two ways to purchase.  You can order directly through Kathy's website or you can pay by check.  If you wish to pay by check please make it payable to Kathy Speight Kraynak and mail it to P.O. Box 441, Jackson, NH 03846.   

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Knock On the Door

It's a sleepy morning here in the mountains as the rain taps on the metal roof of our home. Birds sing nevertheless and their symphony tells me the weather's not a problem for them. Some mornings when it rains I welcome it, as this morning. Such mornings are cozy and cool and made for getting work done inside. There's always writing, and cooking, and cleaning. These are things that take a back seat when we are hiking. And when it rains it makes me look forward to how lush the trees and grass will look in the coming days. And, of course, on days we're inside I often trace my finger over the memory of our last hikes, and start to plan our next ones.

Atticus and I have never been up Table Mountain and it was recently suggested to me by a friend. I always enjoy a new peak, it brings with it the excitement and trepidation of being someplace for the first time, of having faith the trail will bring you where you need to go and the sights you will see will be well worth the journey. One of the pleasures of a new peak is a new angle on things.

The first 4,000-footer Atticus and I ever climbed was Mount Garfield and we saw it soon after again as we walked along the top of Franconia Ridge. But later that summer, when we came from the east and hiked over North and South Twin, I was stunned by the new angle and view of Garfield. At first I didn't know which dramatic new peak we were looking at. It's a lot like seeing a friend in a new light, an exciting light. It's his or her beauty in a way you’re completely unaccustomed to. So next week we'll do Table Mountain and see what treasures await us.

But first we'll be taking a trip up Black Cap in North Conway. It's a simple easy hike. At 2,369 feet it offers great views but the trail to the top is relatively easy since you can drive up Hurricane Mountain Road and get all but about 500 feet of elevation gain out of the way. And the walk is relatively short. It's about two and a half miles for the round trip. It's so easy that we often do it for our morning or afternoon walk without planning ahead.

So why would I be looking forward to doing Black Cap in the near future? Why would I be planning ahead for something that doesn't typically take much planning?

Well, one of the pleasures I have in being in the mountains and knowing them as well as Atticus and I do is on occasion we have the ability to introduce a stranger to them and I love to see the transformation, no matter how temporary or lasting it is, come over the face of one who has never been here. And Black Cap is a perfect introductory hike. After all, there are some who might not be able to do anything more than this and its astounding views allow that new soul to be renewed without too much effort. Sometimes it's enough to plant a seed to make someone wish for me, and at other times it's simply more beautiful than anything else they've ever seen and that’s enough in itself.

In our case, the latter is most likely true.

You see, Atticus and I are getting ready to introduce and elderly fellow to the mountains. He's from New Jersey and in all his years he's never been here. I don't think he can do much but I'm hoping we can get him to the top of Black Cap so he can look through the clouds of his cataracts and see the views he's never seen before. Now that will be a gift he'll never forget. He'll feel as though he's been born again and his world will change - as do all of ours when we see the world from the top of a mountain for the first time.

There is another reason I'm enjoying today's rain - there's much to be done to get ready for our house guest. You see, the life Atticus and I lead is about to change a great deal.

This week, on our Following Atticus Facebook page, a friend posted that since we now have 6,000 'friends' following our journey on-line on a daily basis, she wondered if someone could possibly help out another who was down on his luck and homeless. His name is William and he's a fifteen year old miniature schnauzer who was dropped off at a kill shelter in New Jersey. Now if you know shelters, a fifteen year old doesn't stand much of a chance of being adopted so William's prospects didn't look so good. Seems the gentleman that had him for all of those years could no longer take care of himself or William so I imagine he did the only thing he knew to do and dropped William off at the shelter. Not even sure if he knew William would be put to sleep if no one took him.

Fortunately for William, and for us, the New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue Network swooped in and William was given a reprieve.   

Funny how life changes, isn't it? One moment you’re doing one thing and have no plans to do anything out of the ordinary, but suddenly there's a knock on the door and everything changes. In my case it wasn’t a knock on the door so much as on my heart. Ah, but isn’t that how all great adventures begin?  

This weekend Atticus and I are driving south to pick up aged William and we're bringing him to live out his days in our home. When a friend heard what I planned to do she said, "What? Are you nuts? It will be a very sad situation, Tom. At this age all he has to look forward to is heart problems, cancer, and incontinence. It will be nothing but sadness for you."

I suppose she may be right - well, about all but the last part. I'm sure there will ultimately be sadness, but there will be many other things in between now and then as well. And one of those things will be to see old William's face when he meets the mountains of New Hampshire, when he hears the birds sing, smells the clean air, and sits atop a mountain, even if I have to carry him to the top of it.

You see, I believe it's never too late to live. And I have to believe that William, no matter what he's come from, deserves something special from this day on – just as we all do.