Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

My Bittersweet Birthday Blankie May 21, 2013

My people call me a doggie vacuum cleaner. It’s no joke. I suck up anything and everything that hits the ground in my forever home, at grandma’s house, or wherever I am welcome. I’ve also been known to scavenge couches, loveseats and recliners for any leftovers that may not have hit the floor. Don’t get me wrong, my parents and (most) other loved ones are not in the habit of giving me any people food. Its a habit I picked up all on my own, likely a result of living on the streets and sharing food in the humane society.Mom's Blankie

Well, this little habit of mine bit me in the proverbial behind yesterday when I got a taste of something terrible. It smelled like heavenly caramel, but believe you me, it didn’t taste a thing like caramel. It was heavenly caramel flavored coffee grinds, but it was one of the most bitter things I’ve ever tasted. And oh dog, was I hyper after a couple licks of the stuff.

Not that long after my run-in with caffeinated torture, I found relief in my annual birthday treat: a single-scoop vanilla ice cream cone. I don’t care to bring too much attention to my special day of birth as one people year older is equivalent to approximately seven dog years. But my people always make a little deal out of it, and I can’t say I mind the extra attention.

Yesterday, after the sweetness of the ice cream melted away the bitterness of the (not-so-heavenly) coffee grounds, mom and dad presented me with a new fluffy blankie. “Because you like mine so much,” mom said. (Silly mom-she doesn’t realize the reason I love her fluffy blue blanket is because it smells like her.)

But this blanket was all mine, I realized, with a slight sense of pride. I closed my eyes in bliss, and it happened. I saw myself as a little puppy cuddling with my two puppy brothers into our birth mom in a blanket that looked the slightest bit like my new blanket. There we were, the four of us, all cuddled together to stay warm in a beaten up version of my new gift. What I realized in that bittersweet moment of nostalgia is again, the blanket was made special not by its warmth, but by its meaning. Who knows what my mom had to do to even find us a blanket big enough to share?

“In this bright future you can’t forget your past,” Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley once said. It was a bittersweet moment to relive with my mom and brothers, but I’m glad it happened. It reminded me why I’ve become the doggie vacuum cleaner, and brought to life a special appreciation for my birthday present. My bittersweet memories today reminded me its because it reminds me of my birth mom and forever mom, not because it’s all mine, that I love my new blanket. Indeed it isn’t actually mine at all. What it represents is so much bigger to me, regardless of how silly that may sound. It brings together the past and the present into a fabulously promising future.

 

The Family Fortune May 20, 2013

It was an absolutely beautiful day in Wisconsin today. The sun was shining its warmth on us and there was a solid breeze from the south to keep things feeling toasty. Literally. Today brought a warmth to the soul that breeds joy from the heart. That is, until I realized how awful a hand of weather was being dealt a few states to our south.

Tornadoes tore through Kansas and Oklahoma today, leaving whole neighborhoods in their wake. The latest reports are confirming casualties at an elementary school in Oklahoma City. Precious little people who were going about their day learning their multiplication tables and how to write haiku poetry. Gone. Lives are changed forever, ripped apart by mother nature. All of this on a day that seemed pretty close to perfect in my little part of the world.

I generally make a point of avoiding disturbing news, but today I find value in a moment’s paws to reflect. The physical devastation left behind by these tornadoes is apparent, but what’s less visible is the emotional wounds that have yet to seem real to those affected. Houses can be rebuilt, streets reconstructed, building facades altered, but you can’t bring back the precious lives lost today. This is where real devastation resides.

While I don’t condone living in constant fear of the unknown, my reflections today have led me to count my blessings. Among them are many valuables that can be easily replaced, as well as two that are absolutely priceless to me. My forever mom and dad. My family. Losing one of them would be like trying to function without the ability to see or hear or taste. I know when a sense is lost, the others generally pick up the slack, but I don’t think my increased love for the one left behind would ever be enough. Together they are ultimately more special to me than everything we have, including the roof over our heads and the endless supply of dog food in my doggie bowl.

The tally of precious lives lost today has not even been finalized yet. And it goes without saying that while the sun was shining in Wisconsin today, a cloud of grief remains. Today was not such a beautiful day for a lot of people. And no insurance policy can bring them back. But I know in my little doggie heart those lost will live on through their loved ones. I remembered this today as I counted my blessings, and among them was a fortune not made up of dollars and cents. My family is my fortune. No tornado can take that away.

Heavenly Reflections

 

No Freedom Without Love May 19, 2013

Shelter dogs long for it. Teenagers drool over it. Adults occasionally miss it. The way I see it, there is this thing about independence I can’t quite put my right paw on. It’s almost like its one of those things in the world that isn’t all it’s written up to be. But what exactly is it written up to be?

Well, you’d better believe I thought I knew the answer to that question while I was fending for myself on the streets all that time ago. After the initial anxiety I had about being separated from my mom and brothers wore off, I had a newfound and overwhelming surge of pride in my independence. I could do whatever I wanted wherever I wanted with whom ever I wanted. I didn’t have to report to anyone, rely on anyone or support anyone but myself. It was fabulous!

Feeling the LoveOh dog, did I have some growing up to do. I realized it a few days after I became an adjunct member of Tiger’s family. The dog (for whom I was previously uncertain whether to fear or despise) was my single most embarrassing misjudgment of character. It turned out he had four pretty good reasons to be protective of his food and shelter. Their names were Sam, Spike, Lucy and Lana, and they were only about eight weeks old when I met them for the first time. I wasn’t that much older than them myself, but upon meeting them I instantly felt protective like I would have been of my own brothers.

My moment of self-discovery happened a few days later when I had a rough day finding anything to bring home to share with Tiger and his pups. I scrounged harder than when I was on my own because I felt responsible somehow. I was so embarrassed to come home with empty paws that day, but Tiger didn’t mind one bit. He had a hidden stash of food for days like this. I was stubborn at first when he offered me some crumbs of a loaf of bread and a couple of almost-rotten carrots. I didn’t need his help. I could fend for myself. I was better than this. Stronger than this.

In that moment as Tiger’s earnest eyes held out to me my portion of the scraps I realized sometimes knowing when to ask for or accept help is wisdom at its core. There is more strength in those who ask for help than those who refuse it. Indeed, I was no longer the only dog who cared if I lived or died. I was no longer completely independent. And it wasn’t so bad. A few seconds later, I was scarfing down those precious little scraps with more joy in my heart than if I had returned home that day with a feast.

“Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

What a silly young dog I once was, thinking complete independence was the best thing since sliced bacon. Independence, at its skeletal core, is not all its written up to be. It’s not about being completely alone in all things, plotting through life to “figure things out.” It’s about understanding yourself well enough to know how you best relate to others. It’s about making the best of our moments of solitude and sharing the resulting joy with someone. It’s about asking for help when you think you need it least. There is no true independence, no freedom, without love.

Today’s post is lovingly dedicated to a four-legged blogosphere friend of mine named Claire.

She passed away a few days ago, and she will be sorely missed.

Claire and Frond

 

As Big As The Sky, Old Sport May 18, 2013

It has come to my attention that Hollywood has pieced together a new and modernized take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s charismatic American novel “The Great Gatsby.” It only just came out in theaters last week and my mom has seen it twice, so it must be decent. I’m out of luck, at least until they either allow dogs like me to the movies or it comes out on DVD and I can watch it in the comfort of my favorite spot on the couch.

Big as the sky, old sportIn the meantime, my thoughts turn to the words that make up the original story penned by Fitzgerald all those years ago. I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen one of the many film adaptations, but I will share what is most meaningful to me.

The story is romantic to the core, featuring the undying love of Mr. Jay Gatsby as shared with readers through the eyes of Nick Carraway. To me, the vision of this man is one of the most powerful written demonstrations of real hope. Determination. Vision.

Gatsby was not afraid to dream as big as the sky. Failure was never an option through his imaginative perspective. Instead, he kept his eyes on the prize, the green light that marked his destination. The green light of hope.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us,” Fitzgerald writes. “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

At some point in our lives, we are all born into our past. We are afforded that rare second chance to do things better. To dream bigger. To effect change. Above all, I see our journey toward the green light as one that seeks progress over perfection.

“How much of our lives is frittered away-spoiled, spent or sullied- by our neurotic insistence on perfection?” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Today accept that perfection is unattainable.”

Instead we find hope in second chances. Instead we believe in the green light and are borne ceaselessly into the past. Instead, old sport, we dream as big as the sky.

 

Paw-sing to Share Love May 17, 2013

It began like a single snowflake falling from the sky on a chilly December day. Unique in its concept, it has grown and developed over time, and somehow the glimmer of hope that snowflake represented has become a reality.

Today is day 148 in a row of sharing my stories of adventure and joy from the ground up. I set out to blog every day for 365 days, and so far I haven’tThank you missed a single one. But I can’t take all the credit for that commitment. There is something that keeps be going even when I’m certain my ramblings will echo endlessly through the night without touching a single soul.

Something I’ve learned right quick in this blogging business is that the connections we make are legitimate. Anyone who says otherwise clearly has never blogged, or at least not done so in an arena like this one. To each and every person who has liked or commented on a post, followed the blog or even just stopped by to read without making a virtual paw print: thank you for being a special part of my little doggie life.

You are what keeps me writing on a daily basis. As any blogger knows, that is not an easy task. We all have our good days and bad days. There are days I’m certain I won’t make it to day 365. But the support and encouragement afforded me especially in the comments are what get me through the days when I sit and stare at the white screen and cursor hoping a brilliant post will magically appear.

I’ve been doing a disservice to many of you who have taken the time to nominate me for awards lately. There’s no good excuse for this naughty behavior, but I shall attempt to write this wrong today by saying thank you and recognizing those who have awarded me that extra special pat on the head.

I am humbled to receive awards that feature adjectives like versatility, beauty, and sweetness. These are some pretty powerful vocabulary words if you ask me. My sincerest gratitude to:

Sofie’s Diary, Versatile Blogger Award                   Maria at Accelerated Stall, Liebster Blog Award    Best Moment Award

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Mrs. Seeker, Versatile Blogger Award and Beautiful Blogger Award

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PeaceLovenWhiskers, WordPress Family Award            Jill London, Super Sweet Blogger Award                 Huntmode (& Fam) Very Inspiring Award

wordpress-family-award        supersweetblogaward   

Iamforchange, One Lovely Blog Award, Most Influential Blogger Award, Candle Lighter Award

Thank you!     Thank you!   Thank you!

Julianne Victoria (and Ku!), Super Sweet Blogger Award, Sunshine Award, Interesting Blog Award

sunshine-blog-award     interesting-blog-award     supersweetblogaward

Nikitaland, Dragon’s Loyalty Award                               Misufasa at the Presents of Presence, WordPress Family Award

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Melanie, Because You’re Fantabulous Award and Awesome Blossom Award

BecauseURFantabulous   AwesomeBlossom

As many of you know, there are a variety of rules associated with these awards, most of which I intend to break today. However, the one very most important rule of all (in my humble doggie opinion) is to paw it forward. If you’re reading this, please consider yourself a member of the family who deserves the recognition of these awards. Take your pick. Choose one, or a few, but know that I am sharing these awards with my dearest loved ones who have supported and encouraged me to keep on the blogging path less travelled. As American rock bank Fun. puts it “let our past be the sound of our feet upon the ground, carry on!”

 

My Little Peace Ritual May 16, 2013

I have this nightly ritual I’m certain my forever parents must think of as complete madness. Every night, my ritual starts the same way at about the same time.

Some of the Comfort CrewI grab Mr. Prickles from my toy basket (I’ll never understand the purpose of this basket other than making fun inconvenient) and take him to my favorite place in the house. I’ll suck on him for a while, but not too long. Then I’ll grab Mrs. Prickles. Repeat. Then Mr. Flea. Repeat. Then Mr. Tiger. Repeat. Then Mr. Angry Bird. Repeat. Well, I think you get the idea. If I’m being honest, this routine would probably continue all night if I didn’t run out of toys and sleep wasn’t necessary.

I’ve previously referred to these (albeit stuffed) characters in my life as my Comfort Circle and for good reason. Ever since I was a pup, I have found comfort in nursing on the soft little bodies. Animal behaviorists have linked this behavior in doggie adulthood to early separation from one’s doggie momma and abuse in puppyhood. (I unfortunately experienced both of these things). Also, I’m not sure if all people know this, but us canines store up a lot of our pent up feelings in our jaw muscles. The shoulder tension of humans is the jaw tension of dogs. It physically relieves stress when I rhythmically nurse on the joys (er, I mean toys).

I understand science and psychology have their reasons but I have one more to add to the conversation. There is something pretty great about beingMe and My Gal transported to another place and time in your mind. That’s what these toys do for me, which I’m certain is why I find peace in my nightly ritual.

What transports you to another place and time in your mind? Do you find peace there?

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake,” said transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

Every night, my ritual ends the same way at about the same time. Before bedtime, dad puts my Comfort Circle collection back in the basket in the living room. And every night I hop off the bed, grab whichever one is closest to the top, and bring that special pal back to bed with me. (It’s usually Mr. or Mrs. Prickles, but I mix it up so the others don’t get jealous). I don’t care if my people think it’s crazy of me to repeat these behaviors night after night. And that’s not just because I know they love me unconditionally. It doesn’t bother me because I know my ritual is my way of making a pathway to peace in my mind that brings a smile to my heart.

And I prefer to sleep smiling.

 

An Interview with My Incouragable Mentor May 15, 2013

Once-in-a-lifetime is the only (albeit lengthy) adjective I can think of to describe the opportunity I had in my daydream today.

I was sporting a doggie suit and tie (yes, they actually make those) but that wasn’t the unbelievable part. Sitting across from me was the one and only Marley. Mr. Incorrigible, Mr. Obedience School Drop-Out himself. But that’s not all! When I finally gathered my thoughts and opened my mouth, out came words! People words! (My voice was much deeper than I’d expected, too, so that was an added bonus.) This was truly a dream come true.

Marley and MeThe conversation didn’t last long (this was, after all, a daydream), but it meant the world to me regardless of it not being real. I asked him all about his escapades chewing the floors, jumping out of moving car windows, chasing down a baseball at Dodgers stadium, and causing all-out chaos at Dog Beach.

“I never did any of that for the attention or out of spite like I’m sure some people think,” he explained. “I did it to live life to the fullest. Looking back, I can say I did everything I wanted to with my doggie life. I have no regrets.”

His live-each-day-as-if-it-were-his-last outlook on life had a softer side too, in moments of extreme emotion in the Grogan home.

“I always knew when something was wrong,” he said. “I sometimes sensed it before it even happened. It is agony not being able to say anything to make it better, so I loved with all my heart in those moments and I think that helped in its own way.”

Sad times aside, there were a good deal of happy times to which Marley contributed as well. I was pretty excited to talk with Marley about our shared interest in dancing with our forever moms around our respective kitchens.

“Oh that,” he said with a laugh, “It was terribly uncomfortable as I’m sure you know, but it was worth it to see her smile that big because of me.”

I confided in Marley that I’ve often wondered what will happen to that special time together with my forever mom after she has children of her own. Marley scoffed at the thought.

“I loved every new addition to the family like they were my own pups, and (in a way) they were,” he explained. “That’s what being a family dog is all about. Living each day to the fullest, loving with all your heart, and finding any opportunity to bring joy to others…no matter how small they might be.”

And, with that brilliant soliloquy, my daydream was interrupted by my mid-afternoon visitor also known as the mailman.

Regardless of the interruption, Marley’s words stuck with me throughout the remainder of the day, echoing in my soul like a constant reminder of who I am and what I am meant to be to the people in my life.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours,” said John Grogan, owner of Marley and author of Marley and Me. “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”

I can only hope to have impact like this in the lives of my people.

 

Another Man’s Trash May 14, 2013

The great and infamous “they” say one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. Well, us canines are masters at making treasure out of life’s most unusual garbage. While some of us are more subtle about it than others, we canines do some pretty good treasure hunting. From garbage cans to discarded Kleenexes, we have a gift of finding gold in the most unusual of places.

Treasure SeekerI got to thinking about this earlier today when laying on the bathroom blanket my people refer to as a bathmat. (I’m so blessed to have people so considerate to lay down this thing called a bathmat specifically for me because the bathroom floor tiles are chilly. I’m sure it has nothing to do with keeping the water off the tiles.) Every morning the Schmidt bathroom offers a myriad of scents and aromas I can’t say I appreciate.

Lotions and potions and perfumes, oh my! It is so confusing to me why my people try to hard to mask their natural (in my opinion beautiful) smell. In the shower they go: body wash, rinse, shampoo, rinse, conditioner, rinse.  Then after the shower, there’s lotions and perfumes (or colognes) and deodorant. It’s exhausting to me.

Why not find treasure in the garbage? Why not embrace one’s natural scent rather than masking it with various lotions and perfumes? I wish I could explain to my people that is why I obsessively roll around in clean clothes and dirty towels. They don’t smell like home. Call me crazy, but I love the natural smell of all my loved ones. Dogs and people alike, I prefer them in their most natural form.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus,” said American author Mark Twain. My eyes, nose, and imagination are finely tuned, if I do say so myself. To me, another person’s garbage is only an imaginative thought away from being my treasure.

 

A Writer’s Best Friend May 13, 2013

John Steinbeck had Charley. Stephen King has Marlowe. Dean Koontz has Trixie. There is something a lot of writers seem to have in common: they have human whisperers. Their canine companions lend a fresh sense of imagination and unconditional love that inspire.

Writer's Block?“A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down,” American humorist Robert Benchley joked. All kidding aside, I think there is truth in the perspective man’s best friends offer to writing. Ironically, the silent understanding between owner and dog is some of the most powerful communication methods.

I would argue that is one of the reasons why science is supporting that having a pet can increase longevity in a human’s life, according to Forbes and NBC News.

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives, and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race,” prolific Scottish writer Sir William Scott said. “For if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

Indeed, I have lost enough doggie pals to heaven in my life to know the aftermath they leave behind. People have funerals to celebrate life of lost loved ones, and many people families do the same for their canines who leave us to go to doggie heaven. But while the tears and emotions of a people funeral are normally present, words are generally kept to a minimum. As it was the same in life, it seems only fitting it is that way in death.

I can’t explain the connection I feel with my forever people, or with my extended forever family. I think that’s one of the things that makes it so special. Isn’t it ironic then, that this unspoken connection makes its way into words in books and blog and even social media platforms? It’s one of the most striking examples of give and take I can think of. Even though I struggle to explain the connection, it is what inspires every blog post. It among the emotional fodder for greats like Steinbeck, King, and Koontz.

It’s funny how us human whisperers speak so loudly without ever muttering a word.

 

Lanterns of Love May 12, 2013

Every visitor to she Schmidt home is welcomed by the same message above the stairway as they walk in the door. “Home is where your story begins.” I see it every day, yet today it speaks to me and I see it in a different light. I think it’s because today is mother’s day in my neck of the woods; a day set aside to show gratitude and respect for everything one’s mother has done in his or her life. I’m blessed to have more than one of these characters as lanterns of love in my life, so today I take a moment’s paws to recognize each one.

Dear birth mom,

It’s Wiley. Your son. I know it’s been a while (almost five years now), and words can’t tell you how sorry I am that is the case. Our time together was short-lived, but I want you to know how special each moment was to me. Age and experience has taught me how challenging it must have been caring for my two brothers and I all by yourself. I’m so proud of you. And I want you to know I’m okay. Well, actually I’m better than okay. I’m spectacular. I’m happy. And I found a forever home with people who love me so much they sometimes squeeze me so hard I can’t breathe. They take really good care of me, mom. I wish you could meet them and they could take care of you too. Are you okay out there? I sure hope so. You deserve to live happiness like this. Wherever you are, please know I love you now as much as I ever did.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Jo,

Remember me? I was your little buddy in the house with the man and the leather belt. I hate that he took me away from you that day all those people years ago. I miss you every day and pray you are living a the life you deserve to live, with any luck separate from that awful dad of yours. Even though you were only a little girl, I know you would have done everything you could to keep me from harm’s way. You were a hero to me, a mother in your own rite. If there is one thing I’d want you to know above all else, it is that you will be a fantastic mother one day. Never doubt yourself.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Katie,

You probably don’t remember me. I am one of so very many doggies you help at the Oshkosh Humane Society, and it’s been almost three years now since you last saw me. But sometimes it is those who we meet in passing that make some of the most distinguished impacts on our life, and this is true of you. You didn’t do it for praise or adoration, and that’s why every little thing you did for me meant so very much. You are a living example of a servant leader. Thank you.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear forever mom,

Thank YOUI know you haven’t always been dealt the easiest hands of cards to play in life. I know you struggle with some things more than you let on.

More than once I’ve seen you stop and look away from yourself in the mirror, just like Sarah Ban Breathnach talks about in the early pages of Simple Abundance. I’ve seen you cry, and heard you question you direction in life. Sometimes you talk to me about your feelings and I wish more than anything I could tell you I understand (at least the majority) of what you’re saying. I’d start with telling you to see yourself the way the world sees you. You are beautiful, strong, and confident (even if you doubt it). You are more special to me than you will ever possibly know. As my number one fan, I know you are reading my blog, so I will share with you a sample of Breathnach’s words that speak to me.

“Turn away from the world this year and begin to listen,” she writes. “Listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Your silent companion has lit lanterns of love to illuminate the path to Wholeness. At long last, the journey you were destined to take has begun.”

I love you mom. Let me be a lantern of love for you.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Home is where your story begins, and I can honestly say each of these women has been home to me. Lanterns of love for me. They are all important characters that define chapters of my life, and I would not be who I am without each and every one of them. Today I say thank you these women. And today I say thank you to all the women who are these characters to people (and pets) in your lives. You know who you are. Thank you.