Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Here Comes The Sun June 30, 2013

I thought I had gone blind. One second my brothers were all curled up together in the warmth of my mom’s fur and the next we were out in the open squinting into blindness. Out in the open, away from mom’s protective warmth, and in contact with the brightest thing I’d ever seen.I see opportunity

This thing called the sun used to absolutely terrify me. It was too big…too bright…too much. Not to mention I felt a bit like that baby bird who had been nudged out of the nest and forced to fly. Granted, I wasn’t exactly plummeting toward the ground on a free fall to test my limits, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary.

I thought of this today as I reveled in my own little slice of paradise. Here I am five years later enjoying something that used to make me quiver in my paws. My backyard was a paradise for the senses today, complete with birds singing in perfect harmony with the gentle tinkle of the wind chimes. The rays of sun warmed my soul in a way I would have never thought possible so many moons ago. As I breathed in the delicious smell of various types of people food on the grill throughout the neighborhood, I found myself completely caught up in the nature around me.

Nature overwhelmed me with its simplicity today, and in doing so made me reflect on some things. “The sun is new each day,” as ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, and with it comes a whole host of exciting new opportunities. Maybe that mother bird has the right idea with her little nudge toward self-understanding. These changes are not always welcome, but they sure do have a profound impact on our lives. “When the sun is shining I can do anything,” Olympic champion Wilma Rudolph explained, “no mountain is too high, no trouble to difficult to overcome.”

In some ways I was indeed blind that day when my mom left me out to enjoy the sunshine. I was blind to the beauty of nature outside our comfort zones. Blind to the possibilities an open mind affords. Blind to the truth that sometimes the things we fear most may actually prove to be among life’s most promising gifts.

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Let’s Start With Forever June 29, 2013

It has been suggested that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespans. At an alarming rate that runs roughly seven times faster than people time, I can’t say I entirely disagree. Man’s best friend shouldn’t get taken away from man any sooner than both parties are ready. But would we really ever be ready?

I wondered this today as I caught my mom indulging in what she admits is guilty pleasure entertainment. From witches and warlocks to dragons and vampires, all things supernatural have become very popular lately in literature, television, and movies. And while my mom tends to side with vampires (more often than not) on their seemingly endless mythical feud with werewolves, I can’t say I agree. This may not come as a surprise as I am obviously a (very distant) canine relative of sorts, but that is not my only rationale. Sure, vampires have immortality on their side, but from what I can tell living forever has its fair share of cons. I Choose Life

Artistic interpretations of vampire life continue to evolve over time, but the basics remain. And while it’s not always the case, many interpretations paint vivid portrayals of vampires who long for a chance to be human and live a normal human life. This leads me to believe immortality might not be all its cracked up to be. In contrast, werewolf life somehow strikes the perfect balance between natural and supernatural, allowing for a normal human life and (along with that) a susceptibility to death.

To me, death is just as important as life because it is our constant reminder to cherish what we have. I believe in the gift of each morning, living each day like it could be my last, and dancing like no one is watching. I believe in James Dean’s suggestion to “dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” None of that would remain a priority if I were miraculously granted immortality. And if it did, I can honestly say it would never be the same.

While I don’t necessarily disagree that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespan, I also can’t say I would change that if I was ever afforded the option. The truth is I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to lose a loved one. It doesn’t matter whether someone dies unexpectedly or inevitably loses a hard-fought battle with terminal illness. You’re never really ready. And neither way is easier on those left behind. But just as it is for people loved ones, the relationship between a person and his or her dog is priceless even after the dog moves on to doggie heaven. Just ask someone who has lost their best canine friend – those paw prints remain embedded on their heart forever. I’ll take that over immortality any day. That is my kind of forever.

 

 

Obedience School Drop Out June 28, 2013

I’ve been called a lot of not-so-nice things in my relatively short doggie life. Obedience school drop out. Behaviorally challenged. Approved for homes with children ages 12 and above. Yet I find in life’s greatest contradictions lie some of the most intricate sources of wisdom.

Its true of animals and people alike if you ask me. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it as truth. In a dog’s life, words like stupid, naughty, and troubled haunted my puppyhood. In a person’s life, overuse of words like stupid, disabled, or challenged as a child can impact a person for the rest of their adult life. Truth becomes us. But can we become truth?

Becoming Truth

I’ve often wondered this as I think nostalgically back on my time before my people brought me into my forever home. I encountered a variety of characters in a myriad of settings who each taught me invaluable lessons along my journey. So how could I be so stupid? Why do they keep calling me naughty? What did the folks at the humane society say to my mom that almost made her give up fighting to adopt me?

Then it happened. The tides changed, and with them my life changed forever. Two distinctly similar moments come to mind when I think of the brilliance of contradictory wisdom. My first night at the humane society when I thought the world was coming to an end, Rusty the golden retriever showed me the light. Much like my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rusty believed we are not products of what the world tells us, but rather of what we tell ourselves. We are what we think, so of course if we believe the negative things that are said about us we indeed may become them.

The bookend to my understanding of this occurred only a few short months later, when my forever family took me to see an animal behaviorist for my alleged behavioral problems. (This was required by the humane society as a condition of my adoption.) I’ll never forget the first two sentences Jenny said when we began our session. “He’s got to be one of the most unique looking dogs I’ve ever met,” she said, “and so smart!”

It was the first time anyone had ever used the word smart to describe me. And in that moment I was both overwhelmed with joy and humbled. Rusty changed my interpretation of the world around me by changing my interpretation of myself, and here I was being praised for simply being me. I know it sounds contradictory, but in that moment I realized true wisdom is found through admission there is much yet to learn.

It is because of my personal admission of humility that I can say I honestly wouldn’t mind being called those negative names anymore. Sure, if we hear something repeated enough times we begin to believe it. But let us learn from the variety of characters life offers us. Let us choose to contradict the negative things with our positive thoughts. Let us become our own truth.

 

Life’s Power Outages June 27, 2013

The sky cried so hard today the tears did some serious damage in my neighborhood. I usually do all right with storms, but I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced one like this alone before. My people were still at the place called work, which seemed unusual since it was incredibly dark outside. The lightning was blinding and the thunder deafening. The wind seemed to shake the house and I thought the rain was going to break into the house somehow. Then the power went out and all I could do was wait.

Everything quieted down outside, but pandemonium continued when dad got home and let me outside. Trees are down and power is out throughout the neighborhood, I heard a stranger tell my dad, and basements are flooding everywhere. We were fortunate that our basement was the exception to the rule, but our neighbors on either side weren’t so lucky. And that’s when I heard something I didn’t really want to believe. Our friendly neighbor man died suddenly on Sunday, the stranger told my dad. I remember hearing the sirens and seeing the lights on Sunday night and saying a prayer that everything was okay. It wasn’t.

I felt like I’d gotten kicked in the doggie gut. The man was fairly young in people years (in his 50s I would guess), and had been having some health problems, but I didn’t think it was that bad. They just had everyone in the family over to their house that day. I’d never seen it that busy before. And it was incredibly hot and humid on Sunday but everyone was together and happy. There was all kinds of giggling children running around and tents and food and a bouncy house. It was the perfect day. Until it wasn’t.

I’m no stranger to loss so I can say with confidence that the friendly neighbor lady the man left behind probably feels like she’s in her own kind of power outage right now. Everything seems dark around her except for perhaps the occasional unwelcomed burst of thunder and splash of lightning. Its so much easier to see darkness instead of light right now. But what matters are those flashlights and candles, those light bulbs and lanterns, who bring the light into the dark. People have been in and out of that house constantly since it happened, offering their own sources of light. Candle of Light

The sky cried hard today. It brought down some trees and power lines. We lost power for a few hours. But ultimately the power was restored. Life’s power outages can ironically be pretty powerful sometimes. Whether we are alone or surrounded by people, these storms can take away our senses and leave us in the darkness. The wind can shake us to our core. And the tears feel like they will never stop. But they will. Just as all power outages eventually come to an end, the good news is with the help of life’s flashlights, candles, light bulbs and lanterns, our power too is eventually restored.

 

I Believe I Can Fly June 26, 2013

It’s a sight to be seen. Sometimes when I see other dogs doing it I laugh a little inside. But it doesn’t change the pure unadulterated truth. We canines sure do love sticking our heads out the windows of cars. It doesn’t what we look like, generally with our eyes all squinty, fur all slicked back, and ears out like wings. We are flying high and nothing can get us down.

And as we are (in my neck of the woods) in the heat of a time of year when it is best for dogs to avoid car rides altogether, I find myself reflective on some of my best car ride moments. I’ve had so many its hard to choose just one, but the heat of the day today reminded me of a day at about the same time of year two summers ago.

Laughter so incredibly gut-wrenching it brought my mom to tears. That, my friends, is what I most vividly remember about one of the most memorable car rides of my little doggie life. My aunt Morgan had just recently become the proud owner of a Volkswagen convertible, which she was committed to keeping clean and spotless inside and out. She wasn’t necessarily thrilled when my mom pleaded to bring me along on whatever summer adventure they were about to embark upon, but she ultimately agreed to let me tag along. (I gave her “the look” – you know the one – and she couldn’t say no). I Believe

I don’t remember too many details about the adventures that unfolded other than the car ride to get there. It was yet another instance of life’s journeys being more exciting than the destinations. There I was, on my first ride in a convertible with its top down, and my mom and her sister could not stop laughing. Not just giggling. This was full-fledged, gut-busting, face-turning-purple, almost-peeing-your-pants laughter. I had no idea what they were laughing so hard about, but it didn’t matter. I was in car ride heaven.

I had more wind in my fur than ever before, my eyes were certainly not even open because of the squinting, and my ears were slicked back against my head. In that moment, I could fly. In the soundtrack of a dog’s life, R. Kelly’s lyrics to “I Believe I Could Fly” were blaring in my head. In that moment felt more free than I ever had before. (Which is ironic as I know some of my former pals from the streets would consider my station in life as a family pet to be restrictive and undesirable. Not for me.) In that moment, I felt free because I felt safe and loved and no one could take that away from me. Not to mention all that laughter in the car made my heart smile.

All right, all right, I will admit it. (I may be cute but I’m not stupid). I’m 99.99% certain that they were laughing at me, because (let’s face it) I know I looked absolutely ridiculous. It is a sight to be seen, after all, when us dogs stick our heads out car windows. But to us it doesn’t what we look like, generally with our eyes all squinty, fur all slicked back, and ears out like wings. We are flying high and nothing can get us down.

 

Tick Tock (The Watch-Dog) June 25, 2013

My mom has a thing for clocks. Big ones. I realized it the moment I cautiously tiptoed into my forever home for the first time. Excitement abounded as I was greeted by all sorts of new smells, sights and sounds, but two things instantly stood out to me. Both hang above the stairway leading to the basement; one is a sign that reads “home is where your story begins” and the other is an enormous clock.

Time is on our sideIt’s not the only oversized clock in the house, and sometimes when I’m all alone waiting for my mom and dad to come home from that place called work it’s all I can hear. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The tiny rhythmic sound drowns out all others in those final moments before one of my beloved people arrive home.

I for one generally have mixed feelings about clocks. On the one paw, it is a constant signal of time passing that can in itself be a reminder to live in the present. On the other paw, it is a reflection of time passing. Period. In a dog’s life where one dog year is equal to seven people years, it’s not always a happy thought to think about another moment passing us by. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The Watchdog

All of this came to the forefront of my little doggie mind today thanks to a strange recurring dream I had again last night. I’ve been having this same dream since before I can remember that I am Tock (the watchdog). As in the Tock (the watchdog) made famous in Norton Juster’s famous children’s book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I’m wearing a watch and everything.  In each dream I befriend a little boy just like Milo in the book. It’s a different boy each time, but our journey is the same. I find the boy in the Duldrums where I rescue him from the dreariness and we begin our journey to exciting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Land of Wisdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of characters who share their stories (all rich with life lessons) with us.

Each time I wake I know I’ve just lived the plot of Juster’s book. I know for sure because each time the dream begins and ends the same way. It starts with an image of a boy who seems generally bored with life receiving a message “to (insert name here) who has plenty of time. It ends with the boy seeming much more excited about all that life has to offer receiving a message “to (insert name here) who knows the way.” Just like in the book.

All of this makes me wonder why my mom has a thing for clocks. I generally have mixed feelings primarily because of the dog-to-people ratio of time. But then I am reminded of what it’s like to be Tock (the watchdog) helping a lost little person find the way and suddenly my perspective on the matter changes drastically. Maybe that recurring dream I have is God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for every moment of time I’m granted in life.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Indeed we do not have plenty of time. Each moment is a blessing now, just as it is for the little people in my dream. While I can’t say I care much for clocks in real life, I don’t mind being Tock (the watchdog) in my dreams. Tick tock. Tick tock. The rhythmic sounds of time passing remind us to embrace the present. Time is on our side if we let it be, not because we’re bored with life but because we know the way.

 

On Morality and The Good Life June 24, 2013

I did the right thing today. It went against everything my terrier nature told me to do. And it wasn’t easy, which is why I know it was right.

Dad was using that scary loud contraption called a lawnmower in the backyard when it happened. He came across something on the ground that prompted him to turn off the machine and stare. Which prompted me to investigate what he was staring at. Sure enough, the rabbit I’ve been seeing a lot of in our yard lately suddenly appeared from beneath the ground and darted away. I chased her, but she was too fast for me and quickly ran beyond the length of my lead. I’m certain she was hoping to cause a diversion, as dad and I quickly discovered she left behind two little rabbit babies (each no larger than the majority of my chew toys) and they were both in my reach.

In that moment, I was faced with a decision. Do what came naturally to me as a terrier or do the right thing. I knew immediately what I was going to do so (in spite of my dad scolding me and pulling me away) I simply sniffed at the little guys and wished them well. Life's Big Questions

It goes back to my first moments after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers. I know what its like to be in their teeny little rabbit paws in that situation. They were me today, lost and afraid and uncertain of what the future holds for them. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy, let alone two helpless little rabbit babies who may or may not reunite with their mom. To make matters worse, I watched in horror as they each scurried off in their own separate way. I know it should have made me want to chase them, but watching everything unfold the way it did actually just made me sad.

Still I know in my heart that my birth mom would be proud of what I did today, wherever she is. She is the reason I believe no character comes into our life without a good reason, without a message or life lesson. Her brevity in my life made my moments with her that much more valuable, and I can say with honesty that I remember the majority of what she taught me. Some things made sense immediately: dream big, love bigger, never take no for an answer. Others didn’t make sense right away (as these things never do when we’re to young to understand) but these are the things that seem most important now. Love your neighbors as yourself. Strive to be a servant leader. Do the right thing even if it hurts.

“Aim above morality,” American author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau suggested. “Be not simply good, be good for something.”

I did the right thing today. I was good for something. And it was far from easy. But if there is anything experience has taught me its that usually doing the right thing is most important when it hurts. These are the moments when learning comes full circle and we truly understand morality and the good life.