Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Our Own Light September 30, 2013

The light turns on at the flip of a switch. The food in the fridge tonight will most likely be the same food in the fridge in the morning. My toys will not come alive and run away while I sleep. These are all pieces of life that seem obvious. Given. Understood. Yet under the right (or wrong) conditions, it could all change in a moment.

Life has taught me a very important lesson about this: don’t take a single thing for granted because you never know when electricity will fail, the food will spoil and the toys will wreak havoc on the world. All right, so the last one seems pretty impossible, but so does what is happening in our beloved United States of America tonight.Standing For What's Right

United we are not, at least right now. As I type, the possibility of a government shutdown looms on the minds of Americans. Something that seems so given, so understood, so basic – it could literally shut down tonight. I’d rather not get into the politics of the situation because I don’t believe in fighting for something one way or another that you don’t fully comprehend. Instead I find myself wishing I could somehow pause real life and spend some time living in the White House tonight. I’d get to know Bo (the First Dog) and we could brainstorm together on how to keep things light amidst a challenging situation.

I guess that’s what I think is important in times like this, at least in my humble doggie opinion. When the given becomes a question and the norm shifts, it’s how we persevere that defines what comes next. Sure, it would probably be pretty easy for Bo and I to get carried away playing chase and causing trouble, but that’s not what anyone needs right now. People need joy. Faith. Hope.

It’s all to easy to get swept away with the politics of it all, but the concept remains the same as if that switch doesn’t turn on. We must make our own light in these situations.  We must rise above and learn from our mistakes. Because sometimes our biggest challenges morph into fundamental building blocks of personal identity. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the American government in the next few days, but I know what not to take for granted. Character. Integrity. Honor. These titles are earned. Not given.

 

Diamond In The Rough September 29, 2013

Garbage stinks.

Today the garbage in my forever home smells like a combination of pizza crusts, discarded stale bread, and onions. And I love it. I often gaze at it longingly, just dying to attack. To knock it over and feast on all the fabulously delicious samples inside. Sometimes I even get close enough to make my (albeit naughty) feasting fantasy come true. But I’ve never actually gone through with my malicious plan. Partially because I will admit I do eat a pretty well-balanced diet of dog food, treats, rawhides and people-approved people food throughout the day. Mostly because I don’t want to get scolded.

Recylce ThisSo you can imagine my confusion when my mom returns from a store called Goodwill every now and then with a variety of second-hand items. I can’t say she ever needs any of it (just as I don’t need more food), but I get the impression there’s a sense of fulfillment in finding treasures in someone else’s trash. And I can’t fault her for that.

I didn’t get into the garbage today. I don’t plan to do so any time soon either. But all this gets me to thinking about something pretty powerful. Finding treasures in someone else’s trash. Recycling it. Giving it new life. I am fortunate enough to say this has actually happened to me firsthand when my forever people found me at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

I was a diamond in the rough. The staff at the shelter were very protective of me since I had already been adopted and returned once before. I was deemed a “problem puppy.” I heard tell more than one person to “look past the cute and see the commitment” it would take to bring me home. Yet my people found me, believed in me, and the rest is history.

I don’t mean to glamorize garbage. Because let’s face it – it does stink. But (in one way or another) we all have it. Junk. Garbage that we might deem to stinky to properly address. Probably not in the form of pizza crusts and onions, but perhaps in our closets. Or maybe even in our hearts. Both literally and figuratively, we have the ability not just to find treasures in someone else’s trash, but in our own.

Just as I was recycled, I continue to recycle myself on a daily basis. It’s a choice I make in seeing the good in all people, places and things around me regardless of the junk I encountered in my past. It’s not always easy. It might even stink from time to time. But at its very core it’s joy from the ground up.

 

Worth The Wait September 28, 2013

I’m definitely with mom on this one. Pregnancy math sucks. Leave it to people to make something so simple into something so complicated.

The way I understand it, science dictates the pregnancy actually starts two weeks prior to conception and runs for forty weeks. So you get a two-week head start but (this is where I get confused) because of it you’re actually pregnant for 10 months instead of the nine months with which every woman is familiar? That seems cruel enough on its own.My Lamp Is Lit

Add to it the way us canines process time and it makes sense to me why dogs only carry puppies for a little more than two months. But (as I understand this is something I most definitely cannot control) I begrudgingly digress.

Instead I focus on the real problem at hand. I simply cannot wait a moment longer to meet my little person. I have big ideas. Grand plans. Games I’ve developed in my head. None of which I can put into action until I meet the new addition to the family. We’re going to play chase around the house, and share food, and (obviously) become best friends.

Yet (at least from what I’m hearing around here) mom has 16 weeks to go. 16 weeks! That feels like a lifetime. But as I am in the habit of finding a silver lining I realized something today – it’s not a lifetime I intend to waste. Instead I shall continue scheming and dreaming.

The idea came to me today as I was feeling especially philosophical in the backyard. It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin and (as I rested my eyes) while lazing in the grass, my thoughts turned to the future. The backyard has this funny impact on me on days like today – like all of the stars align and it can somehow transport me through time. Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Nonetheless, my images of the future were all happy ones. My little person and I are playing together in the grass. There is giggling and wagging. There is nonsense conversation (as the little person is no more than two years old). There is friendship and love. There is joy from the ground up.

Frustrating as pregnancy math may be, it reminds me a bit of the words of Christian author Tertullian who once said “hope is patience with the lamp lit.” I certainly can’t wait for three years from now when all of these dreams come alive. Heck, I can barely wait three (or is it four?) more months to meet the little one. But my lamp is definitely lit. Hope is in my heart. These dreams will come alive. I know they will. We will be best friends. And it will be worth the wait.

 

Standing In A Moment September 27, 2013

There’s this thing about dogs. New breeds continue to emerge on a daily basis, both of the mutt and purebred variety. Some have pointy ears. Others have fluffy tails. Others weigh more than some humans. But underneath it all, we all have a few things in common. Most of us like to play. A lot of us have a crazy obsession with smelling whatever we can get our nose into. And the majority of us don’t always know what’s in our best interest. Beyond that, there are a couple of things that unite us all – including (but not limited to) our perception of time. Big Time Thinking

It’s kind of hard to explain in a context other than a story like what happened to me this week. My people left me at Grandma’s house with my cousin Buddy on Wednesday. I didn’t know how long I would be there, and at first I was downright miserable. That is, until Buddy’s contagious joy struck a cord with my little doggie heart. We chased around the house and I got lost in the moment with my friend and our silliness. In that moment, I decided to live it up at Grandma’s house. Why not?

It wasn’t long before my heart reminded me why not. Time. It’s a dog’s best and worst friend. I love it when it’s on my side, and despise it when it’s not. (I suppose this can’t be that different than the human perspective on the matter). Why is it that time seems to slow to a complete halt when we’re anxious or looking forward to something? And then when it happens it happens in the blink of an eye?

That was today for me. This morning Grandma kept teasing me about how my people were coming home today. One might think this made the day fly by as I waited for their return. Not so much. I paced. I whined. I sat and stared at Grandma. Where are they? Didn’t you say they’d be back soon? I asked her these things silently, hoping she could somehow read my mind and tell me not to worry. Time. My worst friend. I waited and waited and finally, it was time. Grandma had me outside when they arrived and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I showered them with doggie hugs and kisses. Time. My best friend.

“Time is the coin of your life,” suggested American poet Carl Sandburg. “It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.”

There’s this thing about dogs. We’re playful. We like to smell anything and everything. We don’t always know what’s good for us. But above all we love people. Much of our coins are spent loving people. Case and point: I love Grandma. Even though she told on me to my people about my whining by the door after they left the other day. And therein lies the one thing that (above all) ties all canines together regardless of our differences in appearance and personality. Sure, we all have a similar perception of time. But beyond that we love people. People are our universe. And our people — my forever people — they are the world.

 

A Dog’s Purpose September 26, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).Fear to Purpose

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession).

Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed that regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers. I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again. I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and solved that problem by leaving me on the side of the road. I feared I would never know home again. So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life. I feared I wouldn’t know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being,” analytical psychologist Carl Jung suggested.

It is a big deal to find one’s purpose. To kindle the light. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and bring fear to purpose for me and anyone who knows me. I know my purpose. What’s yours?

 

The Mouse Will Play September 25, 2013

I guess it’s called denial. That sense of refusal to acknowledge something we wish wasn’t happening. That’s how I started my day today. The dreaded suitcase was out and I could sense this would be a people-only adventure. In spite of my best efforts and employment of “the look,” my fears were realized when we made our first stop at grandma’s house. I was being left behind.Doggie Love

I should have seen it coming. All right, all right, I did see it coming. I just convinced myself it wasn’t happening. I was in denial. And I’ve got to say – that is not a very happy place to be. It was a couple hours after my people left me with grandma and my cousin (grandma’s dog) Buddy that I realized what was happening. I was sulking by the sliding patio door when it happened.

Buddy bit my butt. That’s right. He came up behind me and nipped at me right by my tail. I was beside myself. I turned around, ready to make him regret it (why couldn’t he let me be sad?), and there he was – his tail was in the air wagging like crazy, begging me to chase him, and there was a playful sparkle in his eye. And so it began. We started what became an epic race in circles all around grandma’s house.

In those 15 minutes I forgot my people were gone. I was lost in the moment with my friend and our silliness. As my favorite transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson said “it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

And stupid we were. Buddy, my buddy, reminded me (amidst our ridiculous game of chase) to live in the moment. When we finally took a break, I paused to reflect on his life to this point. His struggles have been incredibly different than mine and yet we’ve ended up in the same position. We both bring joy from the ground up to the world in our own unique way.

Thanks to Buddy’s contagious joy, I’m not in denial anymore. I’m not sure how long my people will be gone, but I know they will come back. And until they do I’ve decided to live it up here at grandma’s house. What’s that they say about the cat being away? The mouse will play? Consider me the mouse for the next few days.

 

Pieces of You September 24, 2013

“Keep love in your heart,” suggested Irish writer Oscar Wilde. “A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

I’m never short on love. But lately I’ve been wondering about that thing people say about distance making the heart grow fonder. I’m not so sure that’s true.

Lady LucyIt’s been months and months (which feels like years in doggie time) since I last saw my dearest Taffy. My first love. And while I can’t say I will forget her, my heart has been wandering lately. More accurately my eyes have been wandering and taking my heart along for the ride. There is this lovely lady Lucy who moved in recently across the street. I gaze at her from my perch in the window when she’s out in the front yard.

As I watched her today I wondered what her life has been like, and what her dreams are. I pondered whether her forever people found her at a puppy store or rescued her from a shelter. I hoped she had never seen or experienced pain like I did before my forever people found me. Then it happened. Guilt. I felt guilty for thinking about Lucy when my heart belongs to Taffy. Or does it?Looking for Love

I don’t think so. I don’t know if our hearts really ever belong to anyone other than ourselves. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in true love. Or any other kind of love for that matter. But I do think its our choice how we distribute pieces of our heart. My life before I met my forever people taught me how precious our hearts really are. I’ve always had a big heart to offer the world, so I know what can happen when you entrust the wrong person with a precious breakable piece. It doesn’t end well.

This is not to say Taffy was the wrong dog for me to love any more than it means I shouldn’t have loved Tiger and his puppies or Jo and the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t change how I’ve distributed pieces of my heart so far in life. And Taffy will have a piece of mine with her name on it forever.

I’m not so sure about distance and matters of the heart, but I do know love can be tricky. We win some and we lose some, but (at least from what I can tell) it’s ultimately up to us what we do with the outcome. And I’d rather have too many characters to love than too few. The sun is always shining in the garden of my heart.

 

 

Car Ride To Nowhere September 23, 2013

I went on a car ride to nowhere today. Well, it wasn’t exactly nowhere. It was to a place called Best Buy to get some kind of gadget I don’t understand. Dogs aren’t allowed inside, so I can’t say it is one of my favorite people stores (like Petco and Pet World, for example). And I didn’t get out of the car at all. Loving Life

But that didn’t really matter to me. What mattered was the context of my outing to nowhere: the company I kept. It was a random car ride on what I’ve come to recognize as a weeknight and (gasp) it was dad’s idea to have me come along. This is normal for mom (who regularly brings me along on those things called errands) but not for dad.

Mom frequently brings me along as we make our way from parking lot to parking lot. Not dad. He gets anxious when I voice my excitement about wherever we’re going (usually in the context of a whine or whimper). Not tonight. Tonight he wanted me by his side. He wanted his little copilot as he occasionally calls me when mom’s not around.

To be honest, it didn’t really matter to me where we went. It never does. But tonight was special to me even though we didn’t go to the park. Or the pet store. Or to see Mary the groomer (even though I’m overdue for a trim). Tonight we didn’t go anywhere in particular as far as I’m concerned. Best Buy doesn’t count since I can’t go inside and they apparently don’t sell anything for dogs there. In spite of that, it was a pretty great ride. It occurred to me as I waited patiently in the driver’s seat while dad was in the store. Even when you’re going nowhere, you really are going somewhere if you’re with the right person.

It brought to mind the thoughts of American sideshow performer Elizabeth Green, who once suggested “sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.”

I’m blessed enough that regular car rides are a fairly routine luxury for me. It’s nice when we end up somewhere like the dog park or the groomer, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter where we end up. Even if its at that Best Buy place where they don’t even sell dog toys (what kind of store with that many gadgets doesn’t carry dog toys?). Even if I don’t get out of the car at all. It doesn’t matter where we’re going nearly as much as who we’re with along the way.

 

Life In The Fast Lane September 22, 2013

Today was loud. And fast. And I loved every minute of it.

I was the official unofficial race dog today at a place called Road America. It’s a well-known racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin about an hour away from my forever home. It has become a family tradition to go with my people and my grandparents right around this time every year. I look forward to the sights, the smells and the people love even more than the car ride to get there.

Joy. From the ground up, it happens throughout my time there when I get all kinds of attention from a wide variety of people from all over the country. I encounter smiles wherever my heart takes me and it doesn’t even bother me that they’re not just smiling because of me. They’re smiling because they love everything about race day. The sights. The smells. The speed.

The speed is what got me thinking today. I’ve never been on a car ride where the car was traveling 140 miles per hour. And I can’t say I would really like to try it. But I have gotten caught speeding in the fast lane once or twice. Not literally (as much as I would still love to learn) but figuratively. I think I have this in common with a lot of the people I met today. At one point or another we have all gotten a little carried away with life in the fast lane.

It gets loud. And flies by when you’re having fun. And we love every minute of it. But every now and then we need to slow down. I did this with mom and dad for a bit today as we took a walk around the track. Sure, the air still smelled like brats and motor fuel. And the cars kept doing their noisy thing on the track. But in those moments things were quiet. They paused to note the color in the trees and the simple beauty of the day.

The words of American musician Lindsey Buckingham came to life in these moments. “But by taking the time away, getting myself off the treadmill, and just slowing down and learning, I felt I had so much more to give back. And maybe that was something that needed to happen for all of us.”

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Til Death Does Us Part September 21, 2013

It’s not my fault. I’m a terrier. I’m programmed to stay alert. Sure, that means I tend to be easily distracted, but I hardly classify myself as having attention-deficit disorder.

It happened again today while dad and mom made dinner. They fired up the grill and made some steaks and lobster tails and asparagus and potatoes. It was quite the feast. All the grilled goodness wafted through the neighborhood air and made my little dog nose drool in hopes that I might receive some scraps after dinner (which I did, of course).

While the food cooked, dad and I played fetch as we usually do when the grill is going in the backyard. The game lasted about the normal amount of time for me – about three retrievals – before I spotted a squirrel in the far corner of the yard. I lost all interest in the game at hand (what game?) to begin pursuit of the squirrel. That too, was short-lived due partially to the squirrels grand escape up a tree and partially to a piece of grilled potato that hit the ground.

I found myself reflecting on all this as my people enjoyed dinner. I can tell it was special because they ate with dim lights and kept saying the word anniversary to each other and telling stories. They also exchanged cards and gifts. Joy. From the ground up, I saw it happen in my forever home tonight.

What Game?Tomorrow they celebrate six years of marriage,Love which followed four years of dating. I might be a bit biased due to my doggie perspective the passage of time, but that is a significant amount of years to me. In that time, they have been true to each other. Loved each other. And they haven’t strayed from their path together. All of this, in spite of the loss of a job. And the sudden loss of a parent a mere two weeks later. It’s yet another kind of love to which I am honored to bear witness, knowing its one of the only love languages I may never fully understand.

Initially I felt a bit left out of this particular celebration of love. There was no gift for me. There was no card. All I got was a bit of playtime in the backyard and a couple scraps of potato (and steak and asparagus). Then it happened. I realized this is my own personal version of ADD rearing its ugly head.

Because they have ultimately given each other the greatest gift of all. They’ve given each other their hearts. They have vowed to stay together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in heath. It’s a concept I may not be able to wrap my doggie mind around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace it with my heart. They love each other until death does them part, and I love them unconditionally in the meantime. Maybe I’m not so distracted after all.