On Losing Atticus, the Best Canine of the Year (and Decade)

by Judy Stone-Goldman on December 14, 2011

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Atticus and Heidi of Atticus Uncensored enjoy some outdoor time

Heidi and Atticus, enjoying each other (as always)

Today Time Magazine announced its Person of the Year award. For 2011, the Person of the Year is the Protester, to honor those around the world whose acts of protest have been changing the shape of governments and giving voice to new visions.

I like to think that this award was shared by the best voice of freedom that I know, a voice that just two days ago went silent. I am speaking of the voice of Atticus, canine extraordinaire, whose blog Atticus Uncensored has been regular reading for me since I discovered it about a year ago.

Atticus was (I first wrote “is” but then sadly changed that to past tense) an English Cocker Spaniel raised lovingly by Heidi Alberti. Atticus was the voice of the blog, but Heidi was the voice whispering in Atticus’s ear. Together they championed social justice, peace, and life’s delights, challenging us humans to adopt a pup’s positive (“pawsitive”) perspective on the world.

Tolerance in human relationships? Atticus spoke passionately in favor of everyone’s right to live and love (after all, spreading loving was part of his life’s work). The Occupy Movement? Atticus, a dog of action, was right there. People in need following a crisis? Atticus ached with compassion and reminded us to give to others. Civil rights and the legacy of Martin Luther King? Atticus revered King’s mission to bring equality to the world and hoped his own little pawprint would serve that mission.

Perhaps what I admired most about Atticus was his fearlessness in speaking his mind and acting upon his beliefs. One time he voiced opposition to Howard Schultz’s decision to allow guns into the local Starbucks, and I knew Atticus would not frequent Starbucks after that. I continued to do so (guiltily making excuses that there are not a lot of good options close by and we don’t have guns at our Starbucks anyway), but I thought of Atticus every time. I believed Atticus’s courage would rub off on me and I would become increasingly willing to trade in convenience for conviction. (By the way, you didn’t have to agree with Atticus on all issues–he just wanted to invite you into the discussion.)

Not everything was always serious for Atticus. From baseball to music to the great outdoors, Atticus took joy in life and displayed an exceptional patience for modeling costumes. Along with his family of Wilbur (another pooch), Bella (the sibling cat), and mama Heidi, as well as numerous doggy and human friends, Atticus celebrated every holiday and wrote of the pleasures of being alive.

Atticus was ill for several weeks, sometimes seriously so, but I never thought we would lose him. News of his death flashed around Facebook (fittingly so, given the on-line pro that he was), and the condolence threads burst forth with genuine shock and grief. Yes, we all knew he was a dog, and yes, we understood that Heidi was behind Atticus’s voice, but we cared about Atticus, for real.

That was Atticus’s gift: he made us care, about him, about his family, about people who were suffering, about injustice, about the scourge of negativity and hostility, about what and how we contribute to society. In a world where cynicism, unfairness, and fear can pull us under the dark waters, Atticus encouraged us to stay afloat with a positive-minded dog paddle. His simple refrain, “Think like a dog,” cut through human limitations and defenses and invited us to be the best humans we could be.

Read more testimonials and tributes to Atticus! Links below.

Questions for Reflection: If you were a fan of Atticus, how did he affect you? What will you remember him for? For everyone, what inspires you to speak out for justice? What role do animals play in your life?

Writing Prompts: “When I think of Atticus, I ______” (then keep writing); “I remember the blog post where Atticus ______” (then keep writing); “To me, think like a dog means ______” (then keep writing); “One social issue I feel strongly about is ______” (then keep writing).

Other tributes to Atticus:

My Way of Thinking/Atticus, by William Austin Howe, of Austin’s Thoughts

Atticus Uncensored: This is for Atticus RIP by Franziska San Pedro, of Living on Purpose, Art & Lifestyle

Dog Days are Over by Louise Edington, of Fabulous and Fearless

 

 

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

June Sockol December 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Oh Judy, this is so beautifully written. I never had the chance to actually meet Atti or Heidi in person. I started to read his blog about a year ago and became friends with his Mama through our mutual blogging group. When we did our 25 Random Things, I learned that Atti had been born on the same Canadian Island as me.

Through his blogs, we got to know him and love him. It’s amazing to watch how his passing has effect so many people, how often does the death of an animal bring so many people together? But, Atti was no ordinary dog. He was very special and will be missed by many. As we mourn this beautiful pup, we need to continue to reach out to his mama Heidi and let her know we love her and hope one day she can move on. Atti will be missed but never forgotten.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

June, Some day you will perhaps meet Heidi, who has her own beautiful energy. It is amazing how she brought Atticus to us. Thank you for leaving a lovely comment. I am hoping these bring comfort to Heidi, and in fact to all of us. Though you didn’t get to meet Atticus (I never did either), we both know how special he was. It’s nice to share that much!

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Donna McCord December 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I couldn’t help crying while reading this and the feeling of loss is so acute; I too am amazed by how powerfully Atticus impacted so many people and, yes, I understand that Heidi was his voice, but somehow it just all came together in a way that is hard to describe unless you become part of it. I was blessed to meet Heidi and Atti in person a few months ago, before he started having his health problems, and I fell in love with him then…his sweetness, his energy, his obvious love for his Mom! and I connected strongly with Heidi, too, enjoying her openness, her big heart, her sense of humor, and her passionate nature. I could see where Atti got his characteristics! He will be missed, but I am so grateful that Heidi is still here with us and I trust that she will continue to brighten our days in the future, if not through Atti, I know she will find another way to share with us all, and I am looking forward to it!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Donna, Lucky you–meeting Atticus in person. Who could have imagined this would be the end of his life? You are so right, that Atticus “came together” in a way that was above and beyond what we could explain. Together he and Heidi had the hugest of hearts! Thank you so much for a beautiful, loving comment. I agree that Heidi will continue to share Atticus’s spirit with us.

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Heidi & Atticus
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Oh Judy… this post is incredible! I feel so honored that you would dedicate a post to Atticus. and not just any post — an essay filled with amazing links and so much heart. Thank you, thank you.

I would write a more in-depth, thoughtful comment if I weren’t crying… I need to come back to this when I’m a bit more centered.

Thank you for your support and friendship and for your brilliant thoughts about my boy.

Heidi

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Heidi, I knew I had to write a post and share the most important part of me–my writing–with you and Atticus’s spirit. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many links in a post! I could have gone on and on…I kept finding ones I wanted to link to. What an amazing collection! I am grateful you are able to even read this now, as I would not blame you if you couldn’t quite face even these loving tributes. I spent time with my husband, showing him Atticus’s pictures and talking about the different posts I linked to. He just loved the photos (laughed and laughed at Wilbur, too) and understands why we are all shocked and deeply saddened. He’s heard me talk about Atticus, and I think he’s become an FOA even now, just a little later than the rest of us.

You know we share in your broken heart. If you need to talk, or cry or rant or whatever, don’t hesitate to reach out. {hugs} to you, my friend.

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Josie December 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm

What a beautiful tribute to Atticus. What a special pup. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him. I’m hugging my sweet Lucy extra tight this evening, and feeling grateful for the opportunity to love and be loved by a dog.

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bill austin howe
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I cannot find words to say about this post! I have always said that you are one of the best writers it has been my privilege to know. You have outdone yourself!

Atticus was not just a cute dog dressed in funny outfits. He was a voice of reason when the world seemed hard to understand. When my partner, Jon was in a coma and near death, Atticus was there for me giving me strength. He was a symbol of so many virtues. I came to love him as a member of my family and his passing has produced enough tears to seriously worry about dehydration. I am so grateful to the beautiful mama who helped Atticus speak his puppy dog mind, Heidi Alberti! I am grateful to you too, Judy, for sharing your incredible and moving insight into all things human. Your friendship came as a surprise. It continues to amaze me!

Bill Austin Howe

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 10:03 am

Thank you, Bill. I know we all would have given anything to not have this happen, to not have to write our tribute posts. But here we are, and I’m glad that it provides a chance for us to all be strengthened. I appreciate that you started the ball rolling with your tribute, and that you’ve helped share my post as well. Take care of yourself, too (drink a lot of water to make up for those tears!)

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Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
December 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Very well done, Judy. Very touching and just plain sweet.

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Jane
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 5:22 am

Hi Judy:

What an awesome tribute :o)

Hugs:o)
Jane~mom to Nicole, 17 yo, VSD, PAH, Eisenmengers, BHJS
“If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

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Franziska San Pedro
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 6:07 am

Thank you Judy, this is so beautiful and now I am sitting here early in the morning with big tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. They are for our connections, our friendships, our community, for Atticus bringing us together, for Heidi’s voice behind Atti, for the love we all share and so many other things you summed up in your post.

Just like you, I keep on going back to his blog, reading, laughing and discovering posts I haven’t read yet. My hubby became a great friend of Atticus, too, and only a few weeks before we came to the coast, Ron read the blog regularly.
I even shared stories with my family in Germany -my Mom asked me on the phone this week how Heidi was doing after she found out. Atti definitely had a great impact on my life and I will miss him.

Sending Heidi many hugs and loving thoughts. And thanks Judy, I am very touched,
Franziska

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 10:06 am

Franziska, I do feel the power of our circle of on-line (and sometimes off-line!) friends. We have a lot to be grateful for, which is the paradox of a period of grief like this. Glad you are part of this experience, even though we all wish we weren’t here missing Atticus and feeling such pain for Heidi. Thanks, too, for your wonderful tribute. I love that every tribute brings a different perspective.

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Fiona Stolze
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 7:51 am

Judy, I loved this. I never got to meet Atticus either but what a huge love radiates out of these words and photos. I feel blessed to be part of this amazing sharing right now. I know I will meet Heidi one day. I love her energy and I loved what I saw going on between her and Atti.

A time for hearts to open wide all round. What a gift that Atti has given us all. Big love to Heidi. xxxx

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 10:07 am

Fiona, When you meet Heidi you’ll know how Atticus became so powerful! She has amazing energy and heart. She and Atticus were just a “fit” together. Glad you were here to read, remember, and reflect. I know that Heidi is appreciating the outpouring of emotion and caring.

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Heidi & Atticus
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for these words Judy. I’m really reeling at the expressions of love for Atticus (and towards me, too). It’s a bit overwhelming. But this shower of love is a great balm to my showers of tears… I am in awe of this wonderful worldwide community of friends we have amassed.

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Candace Davenport
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

Judy- This is beautiful as I sit here with tears rolling down my cheeks. Writing (and consequentially reading) can be so cathartic. Thanks for this.

Candace Davenport
http://www.ourlittlebooks.com ~ Little Books with a Big Message

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 10:09 am

Glad you were part of this community of readers and mourners, Candace. I can’t quite imagine the blogosphere without Atticus.

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Catherine Balck December 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

Judy,

What a beautiful eulogy to Atticus and Heidi. You captured his pawsitive spirit and desire to make the world a better place by teaching people to be more like dogs. (When was the last time you saw a dog pick up a gun and shoot someone?)

Thank you for your loving reminder of the impact Atticus had on his friends and the online community as a whole.

Catherine

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Appreciate your commenting, Catherine. Everybody’s voice adds to the beauty of the tribute.

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Rowena Starling
Twitter:
December 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Louise knew/read him also. Sorry to say I didn’t know him. So sad to lose sweet things.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Rowena, Atticus was a real gem. Sorry you missed him when he was among us. Thank you for reading and caring.

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Trish
Twitter:
December 16, 2011 at 5:49 am

Judy, What a beautiful tribute to Atticus (and Heidi). I have been lucky enough to meet with Heidi in person but hadn’t yet met Atticus in person. It was clear through the fun pictures Heidi posted and through the blog through Atticus’ point of view, that Atticus was deeply loved and cared for. Like others here, I too am struck by the amazing connection Heidi & Atticus shared as well as the connection our online community has shared. I’m actually kind of new to the world of FB and Twitter and am astounded by the sense of community created there.

Thank you for writing so elegantally about Atticus.

Trish
http://www.robertssister.com
caregiving. family. advocacy.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Trish, Thank you for sharing in Atticus’s remembrance. It’s wonderful to have you as part of this community, which is far deeper and more caring than I ever anticipated. I didn’t get to meet Atticus in person either, much to my sorrow now. But I am grateful for Heidi’s continued presence and I know she will carry the strong spirit they shared.

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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 17, 2011 at 9:24 am

Judy, This is a wonderful tribute to Atticus. I sincerely hope that we continue to hear his voice through Heidi. This has to be such a difficult time for her. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Thanks for joining in, Sherryl. I believe all the condolences and comments are a way we can help Heidi. I know that in time we will continue to hear Atticus’s, and Heidi’s, voice in one form or another.

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Lisa N Valero December 17, 2011 at 11:07 am

Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Atticus. I read it on Thursday, again yesterday and today. I just could not even comment on the beautiful tribute and your deep, heartfelt description of Atticus and what he stood for and what he embodies. I still can’t read any of the tributes without just dissolving into uncontrollable tears – but I did want to thank you for this beautiful piece.
The grief that Heidi is going through is very profound and the way everyone has rallied around her with support is just wonderful.
Again, thank you Judy! ♥

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Thank YOU Lisa, for being part of this community to support Heidi and mourn Atticus together. I still cannot believe what this week has brought. That is the way unexpected death is, a shocking horror dream that we cannot shake off. I, too, find myself reading and rereading various posts. I don’t think we can make sense of losing Atticus, but I find comfort in the tributes. Your comment and heartfelt expression are much appreciated.

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Angel Collins December 18, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I got teary-eyed just reading this one even though I haven’t really met Atticus or Heidi. But I really felt the warmth and care that you are actually letting us readers feel. Maybe, in the coming years, a new Atticus, in a form of a new dog will inspire us again and continue his great legacy. Thanks for this inspiring post. :)

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 19, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for sharing, Angel. I have faith that Atticus’s spirit will endure. Heidi will find a way!

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Anna December 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

Amazing attribute to Atticus!I was hardly familiar with this story, but it is so breath-taking..I can only imagine how these people now feel..

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Anna, Thank you so much for caring enough to post a comment even though you didn’t know Atticus. Hope you’ll check out some of the links–maybe the one about “costumes”–as the pictures are so delightful!!

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Lauren December 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

Unfortunately, 2011 has been a year of losing great personalities like Atticus. And Judy, I think no one can pay such a wonderful tribute to Atticus as you did.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Thank you, Lauren, for sharing in the tribute to Atticus. It’s still very hard to believe that he’s in another puppy place now.

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Carla Brooks December 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Dear Judy, as I am on the internet infrequently, I value the time I have to see what you’ve been up to. And here I discover the loss of dear Atticus – who I found once in a while because of “his” posts on your blog. One day I looked at all of his photos and fell in love. Yes, I love the doggies too and not just the kitties. Just to say briefly, my condolences to all of your fans who clearly kept up with you and with Atticus and your other friend/authors.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
December 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Carla, So many of us loved Atticus, and I’m happy I spread a little of his voice to others through my blogs. I’ve been so cat identified in my life, I haven’t known too many dogs! But Atticus has opened my eyes to the possibilities. I’m going to make sure Heidi Alberti sees this comment as well (Atticus’s owner and kindred spirit). Thank so much for the comment.

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Heidi & Atticus
Twitter:
January 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I had to come back to this post again, with a clearer head & lighter heart. The way you can string words together astounds me, Judy! I always feel better reading your posts, whatever the subject matter.

Reading the comments has left a lump in my throat… but not so much sadness now… with warm fuzzies :)

Again, thank you for this incredible tribute

Heidi & Atticus

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
January 8, 2012 at 11:40 am

Heidi, I have reread this myself a few times. Although my feelings don’t touch the depth of yours, I also find myself having different emotions at different times. It was very special to write this, and I’m glad different pools of readers have found it. Perhaps it will be an annual post in remembrance. Take care xxx

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Adam August 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

It’s really heartbreaking to read a story like this and I genuinely would like to pass on my support and best wishes, Judy. I’m aware that it was some time ago now, however I’ve only just read this and, based on your previous posts and your clearly vibrant spirit, I felt almost compelled to offer my words of support.

I hope you don’t mind.

Best,

ADam x

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
August 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Thank you, Adam, many of us still miss Atticus a good deal. Atticus’s owner (or Mama, as she calls herself), still occasionally sends us messages from Atticus from his new doggy afterlife.

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