Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Adventure Becomes Us July 21, 2013

I knew as soon as we woke up that today would be special. There was a sense of adventure in the air. And, like most emotions, it’s contagious. The funny thing is, I don’t think my forever people were on to me. It was no secret they were excited about something, and as they hustled and bustled around the house I got excited too.

The dreaded suitcase made its way back out, and with it all the supplies for what I recognized as camping. Then mom said the magic word and confirmed my hopes and dreams for the day. Do you want to go camping, Wiley? (Silly mom, always asking me questions she already knows the answer to.) So I watched excitedly as mom and dad packed the car to the brim and off we went.

We drove to a beautiful campsite a few hours away, but as we approached the sense of adventure in the car morphed itself into a sense of impending doom. It was sunny where we came from, but it was dark where we were going. Storm clouds hovered directly over the destination, growing in intensity as we approached. Mom kept a positive attitude, saying over and over that it will be an adventure. Dad didn’t seem convinced.

I whined as I watched them struggle to assemble the tent in the downpour, wishing I could help somehow. It’s okay, mom kept saying to dad, it will be an adventure. Then came defeat. The tent that was to be our safe haven for the next few days contained within it a swimming pool of rain held up by unstable poles in the soggy sand. And down it went.

Something kind of magical happened as we all watched the tent collapse. Right there in the rain, sopping wet and frustrated, mom and dad broke out into the most ruckus laughter I’ve heard from them in a while. It was loud and it kept going and going, as they got more and more drenched. It seemed a little silly to me (I wish they could have enjoyed their laughter with me in the safety and dryness of the car), but it still made my day.

It all reminded me of the words of English novelist George Eliot who challenged that “adventure is not outside a man, it’s within.” That was us today. We were adventure.

When the giggles subsided, they packed up the tent, loaded up the car, and we headed back to the comforts of home. It rained the whole way, but I didn’t mind. I got to spend the entire day with my two favorite people in the whole world. It was among the longest car rides I’ve ever had in a single day. And I could tell they were disappointed, but in my humble opinion it was exactly what my mom wanted. It was an adventure that I’m certain none of us will forget any time soon.

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Only in Wisconsin July 20, 2013

Cheese. Beer. The Green Bay Packers. We are known for a lot of silly things in the fabulous American state of Wisconsin. But today was something new for me. Today I attended the world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry. Fish Day, it’s called, which sounds pretty simple all on its own.

But everything about this festival was far from simple. After an excessive heat wave, the weather lent itself to the perfect temperature that set the stage for a fabulous day. There was no wind, but still the most amazing smells wafted through the air. My nose enjoyed the cocktail of all sorts of fried goodness, kettle corn, sunscreen and people. Lots and lots of people.

The best part of it all was the people at Grandma’s house. I saw all the usual characters like my favorite little people and their parents and grandparents, but also met for the first time the majority of the extended Schmidt family. They drove up from Illinois to enjoy the day, and I was tickled pink to meet more members of my forever family.

Among them were some new (to me) little people, who embraced me without question. Literally. I got all kinds of hugs, kisses, playtime and treats from Reanna, Ryan, Emma and Grace. They range in people years from 2- to 8-years-old and I love them. We dogs fall in love pretty easily.

When I wasn’t busy making new forever friends, I enjoyed time playing pretend with my old ones. I love seeing their imaginations come together and create different scenarios. More than that, I love seeing them play together like little people regardless of their range of ages. They even made me Mr. President in our game. I wasn’t sure what to do with all of that power but smile and enjoy the show unfolding in front of me.

As compensation for my service as Mr. President I was awarded a couple of cheese curds. (Shh! Don’t tell mom!) Only in Wisconsin would a dog be treated with cheese curds. After all, it is for good reason we are known for our cheese, beer and Green Bay Packers. But while these may be favorites of visitors to our fine state, they are not my favorite thing about my forever home in the state of Wisconsin.

Before today I’d never heard of such a thing as the world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry. But it didn’t take long for my keen doggie senses to pick up something even more special about today than the smell of fried fish wafting through the beautiful summer air. Laughter. Family. Unconditional love. We had plenty of all of these things in the state of Wisconsin today. That beats fried fish any day.

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Best Laid Plans July 19, 2013

I don’t care for flies. I don’t like when I can’t catch them buzzing around the walls of my forever home. I don’t like them when I do catch them and they buzz around in my tummy. The way I see it, they are useful in one (and only one) way. Metaphorically speaking, flies on the wall get all the great information before it hits the public presses. Granted, I see this as a gross exaggeration of their microscopic brain capacity, but the theory is sound.

Dog on the WallI would argue instead that dogs are the ultimate flies on the wall. We see and hear things. But more importantly we understand things. We’re man’s best friend, after all. So when it comes to understanding my people, I am your resident dog on the wall. As such, I have come to recognize certain patterns of conversation that lead nowhere fast. And I can say this because I love her more than she will ever know. My mom tends to put far too high a stake in things sometimes.

She looks forward to something, plans it all out in her head, and when it doesn’t work out — if it doesn’t go according to plan — it’s a complete disaster to her. It’s all very confusing to dad, who generally tries to make the best of a sticky situation. Unfortunately for the both of us, best laid plans don’t always come together and there is little we can do to fix it.

It turns out you were right. My mom absolutely missed me as much as I missed her while she was away at that place called the spa earlier this week. She missed me so much she came home the same day she left! Well, that’s not entirely true. Health issues brought her home early, and I was ecstatic (albeit sincerely concerned). But what made my day may as well been a weapon of mass destruction on hers. She clearly felt incredibly ill, but moreover there was simply no cheering her up. I tried all of my tricks. I jumped and licked and wagged and jumped some more. Nothing.

Fortunately I’ve been in the business of being the dog on the wall long enough to know this too shall pass. And it did. But it got me to thinking about the best laid plans that don’t work out. Because let’s face it – things do not always go exactly according to plan. And yes, it sucks. It’s disappointing. But these things happen and it is not the end of the world. “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment,” suggested one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau.

I don’t care for flies, but I sure do like their job of being on the wall. There’s lots to be learned from that perspective. I (for one) find my compensation in knowing even the best laid plans can go awry. It’s how we deal with the hurdles, how we find ways to be quiet and ready, that we grow.

 

My Two (Fashion) Cents July 18, 2013

It startled me at first. There I was, minding my own business, when someone else’s business looked me directly in the eye. There she was, the most beautiful West Highland Terrier I’d ever seen, all dressed up. Literally. She was walking down the street in a dress that matched her collar that matched her scarf that matched her visor. Yes, you read that right. She was wearing a visor obviously made special for a small dog, as it had teeny tiny holes for her ears to peak through. Our eyes met and she radiated this powerful positive energy that led me to believe she was incredibly happy to be waltzing down Antoine Avenue covered in matching pink fabrics.

It didn’t make any sense to me at all. I guess it would be plausible for a dog to wear clothes to keep warm, but it was a beautiful 70 degree day. There is no need for extra layers upon an already warm fur coat. But I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened to be living with Tiger (the black lab) and his litter of puppies. They took me in as part of the family after I misjudged Tiger as the big, bad dog in the neighborhood. (When in reality, he was gruff and pushy because he was a single dad trying to provide for his family).

I learned a thing or two about the judgment trap from my experience with Tiger. First impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Its never fair to judge a book by its cover. So why would it be fair to judge a dog by its clothes? Fashion is an art form, and no form of self expression should be off-limits for us canines. (Or our people for that matter). Donning the Green

I say this now, as the proud owner of a small assortment of doggie sweaters, T-shirts, and turtlenecks. I occasionally sport a timepiece people call a watch. I even have a classy blue Body Glove swimsuit top should I ever feel the need to don it. I say this as a dog who now feels naked without my collar, lost without my identity. I say this as a believer in all things artistic. All things joyful. All things alive.

Next to my collar, my favorite animal accessory is my green scarf. It was a gift from my dog groomer Mary, who gave it to me at about the same time I started this blog. It’s threadbare, dirty, and falling apart so mom doesn’t let me wear it anymore. But it wears itself on my heart. Symbolically speaking, green is a color of renewal. Rebirth. Life.

I get it now. It’s not about matching pink outfits or visors with holes for doggie ears to poke through. It’s not about how many collars you have or whether you have that sweater in enough color variations. Sweaters, T-shirts, and timepieces aside, a the art of self-expression never goes out of style. “Fashion fades,” as fashion icon Coco Chanel put it, “only style remains the same.”

To read the story of how I met and befriended Tiger: http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/03/14/forget-first-impressions/

 

The Board of Life July 17, 2013

Personalities. Inside or outside, that’s the first thing I want to explore when I’m faced with an exciting new environment. My nose doesn’t always allow this to happen until after I have also run a perimeter check, marked some territory, and sniffed some butts (if there are other animals involved), but that doesn’t change what’s in my heart.

I realized it today when mom took me to a new dog park. It was a lot farther car ride (let’s face it, I didn’t mind that one bit) and when we got there I knew I had something pretty spectacular waiting for me inside that fence. Sure enough, there were all kinds of new smells, new dogs, and new people all just waiting for me to arrive. As I ventured around the novel space, my mind wandered to the characters I have been fortunate to meet in the various dog parks, homes, shelters, and streets I’ve had the pleasure to explore over the years.

Deep in Thought

I’ve come to think of these characters, these personalities, as those who make up my board of life. Influencers, decision-makers, and simple lovers of the present of presence make up my own personal board of directors With age and experience, the council grows and I understand more about who I am and what my purpose in life really is because of these people.

Granted, we all have characters we would probably prefer not to have met. The man with the leather belt probably tops that list for me. But even these weaker links are still very often links to something special. Without the man with the leather belt coming into my life, I would never have met Jo, a child who taught me by example what it meant to love someone unconditionally.

Rusty comes to mind as well as a major influence on my decision to embrace the good in all people, places and things. My time with my birth mom and brothers, albeit far too brief, taught me the meaning of family. Katie from the humane society, who took extra time to play with me and make me feel loved when I had never felt more lonely. She showed me the impact of compassion. And my forever mom and dad share a seat at the head of the things, bringing me into a home where I get to exercise all of these emotional lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

I didn’t come across any new board members on my journey through the new dog park today. But I did enjoy meeting the new people and dogs and getting to know their unique personalities. In doing so I realized the powers that be only shared part of the picture when they claimed everything happens for a reason. We all know that part of the story. I fear too often we forget everyone happens for a reason too.

 

Far From Home July 16, 2013

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It wasn’t so bad. I knew where I was going and where I came from. But none of that matters. I’m in the emotional dog house tonight.

It all started so innocently. I was just doing my usual thing in the backyard when I realized I wasn’t properly attached to my lead. So I did what any dog would do – I went on an adventure. I figure I knew my way around from all of my walks with mom around the neighborhood. I said hello to the neighbor dogs, who were barking enviously from their yards. I stopped by more fire hydrants than usual to mark my territory. I even got all kinds of attention from the children at the neighborhood playground. That was my favorite part.

It was all downhill from there. I heard dad approaching and he didn’t sound happy. In fact, he sounded angry. More angry than I recall ever hearing him sound before. Wiley! Wiley WILEY!!!! He was yelling my name in a way that made me much prefer to stay and be petted more by the nice children. But I figured it would probably make things worse if I further extended my adventure, so I went to him and he took me home.

I estimate I made it a whopping four blocks away on my adventure, which is (by far) the farthest I’ve ever journeyed on my own. And I knew where I was the whole time (there’s a reason us canines were gifted with the amazing sense of smell).

So why was dad so angry? Why was mom crying when I got home? I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. But I also don’t particularly care for dad being angry or mom being sad. In fact, I realized as I watched them breathe what I think was a collective sigh of relief that dad was probably mad because mom was sad. And mom was sad because she doesn’t realize I was just on an adventure around a neighborhood I know like the back of my paw. She thought I was leaving her. Leaving them. Leaving my forever home, my dream home, forever.I'm Sorry Now

Why would I do such a thing? It’s not the first time I’ve seen them overreact, and I know its not the last. But maybe I will keep my adventures closer to home from now on. After all, there is a very important lesson to be learned from all of this. It’s not worth it to put people I love more than anything in the world through the apparent agony. Adventure may come at a price too high sometimes.

 

If You’re Happy And You Know It July 15, 2013

I don’t think I react like most dogs when I see my reflection in the mirror. Today I looked into the glass on the wall above one of my favorite spots on the living room couch and looking back at me was an image of something spectacular. And silly. Yes, it was definitely spectacularly silly. There I was, my normal self, smiling the biggest smile of square white teeth I’ve ever seen. I looked just like one of those spokesdogs for Pedigree’s dental bones.

Wag the Joy

I stared and stared, infatuated with the vivid expression of joy staring back at me. So you can imagine my disdain when the next time I blinked it was just regular ole me staring back. The humongous smile was replaced by the reality of my somewhat stained (but still in pretty good shape) canines. My teeth are definitely not my favorite physical attribute, but my little mental mirage got me to thinking about what I do like about myself. My tail.

It got me to thinking about a dog I saw at the dog park last week. His name was Scotty and he was as happy as the rest of us, running and playing and rolling around in the mud. He was the embodiment of joy, making people at the park smile and dogs at the park wag. You would never have guessed how awful his life was in the past. You would never have guessed how he lost his leg. And part of his tail. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was shocked when I overheard the story of how Scotty the three-legged-dog met his forever parents.

He was at a shelter (like me) because one of the employees found him limping on the side of the road. The angel picked him up and took him to the humane society, pausing along the way to also pick up the bloody baseball bat a few miles down the road. The on-site vet quickly put together that the dog had been beaten, and the resulting injuries would cost him one of his hind legs. Based on the infection in his tail, the vet also deduced the dog was likely the victim of a poorly executed tail “trimming” by the owner with the baseball bat. The vet fixed him up as best he could and his forever mom adopted him a few months later.

His story made me simultaneously overcome with happiness and sadness. No one wanted him, the woman said, because of his missing leg. While I recognize the blessing that was his adoption, it breaks my heart to hear people making snap judgments like that. If anything everyone should have wanted him because his tail was so full of happiness that desperately needed to be shared. Instead he was cast aside and forgotten because he didn’t look quite right.

A bigger tail doesn’t make you a better dog. A missing limb or eye doesn’t either. And teeth that are not-quite-pearly-white anymore most definitely doesn’t. I’m glad I met Scotty and heard his story. It reminded me I don’t need the perfect white squares that are in those commercials to show how happy I am. I’m happy and I know it so I wag. And smile. And (best of all) my experiences in life have afforded me to share that happiness however I see fit.

 

Faith In the Future July 14, 2013

“Make the most of your regrets,” Henry David Thoreau once said. “Never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Yesterday, I wrote about five things I would attempt to save if my house was burning down. Reflecting on the contradictory definitions a “spark,” I focused more on the fire than its aftermath. Its so easy to do in the heat of the moment. Why is it that in so many cases we don’t appreciate what we have until its gone?

Today, I realized all of the precious things I left behind. Practical things came to mind like my warm doggie bed and my Packer jersey. But I know those are replaceable. They’re just things.

Far more devastating are the memories lost in the ashes. I’ll never forget the first day my parents brought me home and let me explore my new house. All those hours spent playing fetch with Mrs. Prickles in the hallway. The first day mom let me come up on the bed. Money can’t buy back these memories.

I take a two-fold lesson from this experiment in thought. (See, there is always a silver lining).

1) Savor the small things. There are so many ways to lose sight of the importance of special moments in our lives. But there is a reason money can’t buy memories. Moments are priceless. There are groundbreaking days when major milestones make things easy to remember, but as Sarah Ban Breathnach points out in Simple Abundance “there is a lot of drudgery in most days.” These are the days we need to seek out joy in the small things.

2) Respect the past as preparation for the future. It’s all too easy to take things for granted. If we surrender to life’s simplicities and appreciate what we have on a daily basis, the future will be that much brighter. “I never regret anything,” says actress Drew Barrymore, “because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.”

It is with my past in a special place in my heart that I find faith in the future. With faith as my fuel, I know my dreams will always be more exciting than my memories.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mandy Atkielski.

Eighteen-year-old Mandy entered doggie heaven yesterday. She will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Mandy

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Life is Love July 13, 2013

It wasn’t wrapped up in ribbons and bows. It didn’t cost any money to make. It all began very simply. Twenty-eight years ago today, one of my favorite gifts was presented to the world. Today my forever mom celebrates her 28th birthday, so today I celebrate her.

It’s not complicated. I know some people think it is, but I beg to differ. Whether we think of our own lives or the lives of those characters who make a difference in our lives, life as we know it is the best gift we could possibly be given. I realized it tonight as I basked in the glow of a very happy forever mom and dad feasting on something (that smelled ridiculously delicious) in the backyard. This is an infrequent event as the bugs often intrude on the enjoyment of such things, but tonight even the bugs cooperated. The bad ones stayed away and the good ones stayed close. Fireflies danced around them as they ate, and I was overcome with awe of the life in that moment.

It brought to mind the words of Indian philosopher Sai Baba who encouraged those he came into contact with to live life to the fullest in as many ways as possible. “Life is a song – sing it,” he once said. “Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.”Love You Mom

Life offers so many different choices, all beginning with our decision to live it to the fullest. It’s no secret I’m a believer in the contagion that is joy, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that gifts that keep on giving are my favorite. And I’m not talking jelly-of-the-month club gifts (though I would probably be open to a chew toy of the month club). I’m talking about the things we are grateful for each day. Gifts from within. Gifts from above.

These are my favorite gifts that keep on giving. So today as I reflect on the gift of life, I am grateful for the gift of my forever mom. It all started very simply twenty-eight years ago today. She may not have come into the world wrapped in pretty ribbons and bows, but she made up for that later in life. And some of the best things in life are free. To me her life is love, and I’m going to enjoy it as long as possible. I love you mom. Happy birthday.