WGBH's Mid-day anchor Henry Santoro hosts another animated segment of Henry In The Hub with his interview with New York Times best-selling author Tom Ryan, who wrote "Following Atticus" and his newest book, "Will's Red Coat."
Below is a loosely edited translation of the interview.
Henry Santoro: Fans of adventure hiking, animals and dogs don’t need me to tell you who Tom Ryan is and if, by chance, you don't know who Tom Ryan is … let me just say that he's the New Hampshire-based author of the hugely successful book, “Following Atticus" — 48 peaks, one little dog and an extraordinary friendship. Tom is also a saint when it comes to taking in unwanted dogs and for some reason schnauzers tend to gravitate his way. Maxwell Garrison Gillis was a schnauzer, Atticus M. Finch was a schnauzer and William, or Will, was also a schnauzer. And Sam-Wise, who was not a schnauzer, just happens to be sitting across from me right now along with Tom Ryan, who's here to talk about his brand-new book,” Will's Red Coat,” the story of one old dog who chose to live again.
Tom Ryan: Morning, good morning.
HS: Your writing in these stories that you tell have really changed people's lives, but it has also changed your life. Tell us about going from the rigmarole reporter lifestyle that you once lived to the lifestyle that you're living now.
TR: The high stress of running your own newspaper in a town that’s going through gentrification—
HS: Which was Newburyport.
TR: Right. A paper called the “Under-Toad” taken from John Irving's “The World According to Garp,” and that great scene where he talks about the book over and over again when his grandmother always wanted him to be careful of the undertow. But he thought there was a giant toad under this beautiful surface that would suck him under, and that's what Newburyport was like politically back in that time of gentrification. Discovering the mountains with Atticus, discovering the forest with Atticus — rediscovering the forest of my childhood, I should say — it was very soothing, nurturing place to be and I found out that I did not like coming back into City Hall after spending some time in the woods for a weekend.
HS: There's something about that field of green up there that is very attractive.
TR: Yeah, we are very fortunate. I mean the White Mountains, artists of the 1800s… more than 400 of them… flocked to the White Mountains from around the world to paint them. And they were known as the most beautiful mountains in the world at one point and they still are. But I think the automobile has changed a lot of that and transportation has made it easy to see other places.
HS: Let's talk about your companions, your little guys who travel right next to you whenever they're around. You say in “Will's Red Coat” that you don't go looking for schnauzers, they just happen to be schnauzers. What are some of the things that you've learned about them as a breed?
TR: Oh, you crossed the line right now Henry.
HS: Because I said 'a breed.'
TR: Yeah, I'm totally against breedism. What I discovered was that I don't care whether you're a beagle, a schnauzer, an Irishman, a Puerto Rican. We're all individuals.
TR: And even though I've lived with three schnauzers, every single one of them were completely different than each other. They are atypical of the stereotype and I like that because I think if you give an individual — no matter what species — the right to be who they want to be, that's what they become.
HS: Tell us about Will, and when you when he finally met you brought him to your place in New Hampshire. Describe what he was like coming from that place where he was.
TR: He had been dropped off to a kill shelter and the kill shelter contacted New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue and they weren't hopeful about finding him a home. They said he was sweet, he could climb stairs easily, he could do many things. He couldn't do anything. He was malnourished. He was broken. He could barely walk. He was deaf. He couldn't see very well. So, that coat represents a very special time of two and a half years of transformation.
HS: And that's how you opened the book, with that story.
TR: Yeah it was actually, the opening was a letter to a friend. And I just decided to go with it.
HS: Tom Ryan's latest book is "Will's Red Coat" the story of one old dog who chose to live again. Tom and Sam-Wise thank you so much for coming in.
TR: He's not going to respond to you so I will, I'll say thank you for both of us.
HS: Thank you so much.
To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.