Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

To Be Young Again December 22, 2014

American businessman, humanitarian and poet Samuel Ullman once wrote “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

I’ve come to believe this as truth in the six and a half people years I’ve been around. That youth is indeed a state of mind, something a person (or dog, in my case) is capable of choosing to embrace, regardless of the number of years they’ve walked the Earth. Still, there are times I admit to feeling old. Wiley and Joey

It happens sometimes when I spend time with dear aunt Morgan’s dog, Joey. He’s five years my junior, and you don’t have to be a dog person to see the difference in our personalities. I’ve mellowed over time, coming to enjoy my time to rest, reflect and enjoy a general sense of peace. Joey on the other hand is full of spirit all the time. He never stops. Moving, jumping, playing, spinning. He’s a bundle of energy.

I haven’t met him yet, but I’m sure the newest doggie member of my extended forever family is the exact same way. I’m happy to report that the family that recently lost 15-year-old Mocha to the Rainbow Bridge has adopted a new German Shorthair Pointer named Jackson.

Jackson

The parents were here at dear baby Carter’s Winter One-derland birthday party on Saturday, and when they got home arranged to have the new family dog wrapped up in its fancy new crate in what has become his forever home. He is only a few weeks old, and I am so incredibly happy for him to have found such a loving family so early in his life. Moreover, I’m overjoyed for the family to have found a special new doggie soul to fill the emptiness they felt after losing Mocha. And, after 15 very special years with the family, I know Mocha would feel the same way.

Because that’s the thing about getting older. Sure, there are days when I feel old. But I believe you can decide to be young at heart in spite of the inevitable creaks and cracks that accompany the aging process. You can dream about tomorrow in connection to yesterday. You can feel renewed in each day. Best of all, you can live the wisdom you’ve acquired.

 

Window to the Soul November 15, 2014

I’ve always wondered what it would be like. It certainly isn’t something I think I’ll ever be able to do. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed about that, since mostly I’m in appreciative awe of anyone who has done it.

My people did it when they adopted me on that hot summer day all those years ago. They didn’t just give me a safe place to live with a constant supply of food, water, and toys. They gave me love. They gave me a home. They gave me a life.

Me and my number one fanThat is what adoption does for us shelter dogs, after all. A life saver. This is not to say shelter life is all that bad. I was well tended to during my tenure at the Oshkosh Humane Society. But it’s not the same. It’s not the same as laying down your head each night knowing you are loved.

And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that as an adopted shelter dog, I know first paw it goes beyond that. A life without purpose is no life at all. I always thought I knew my life’s purpose. Then I was adopted and it was like everything came into focus.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can’t repay you,” suggested Christian writer John Bunyan.

 

I can never repay my people for giving me such a blessed forever home. But I can show my gratitude for finding meaning in my life. My purpose is to love my people with all my doggie heart. To bring them joy in all I do. To cheer them up when they are sad, and to snuggle them when they are cold. My purpose is to live my love for them. To fill an emptiness they didn’t even know they have. It’s a big job, but I’m honored they have chosen me to take it on. Especially since a labor of love is never work as far as I’m concerned. It’s life.

I don’t think I’ll ever know what it feels like to save a life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be an advocate for my fellow four-leggers out there in America’s shelters who need a good home. Take it from me. It’s more than a home. It’s a life.

 

To Be Rescued October 15, 2014

There are moments in life when you just don’t want to hear it. Moments when you would much rather stew in your misery or frustration or grief about whatever challenges you face. The dreaded words “everything happens for a reason” are the absolute last thing you want to hear. They offer you no peace in that moment. No rest. And they certainly don’t make the original problem go away. They are a line of garbage.

Except that they’re absolutely and completely 100 percent true. In spite of a few emotional battles, I’ve always known it. And, as I have followed a story of a two-legged friend of mine during the past week, I know it in my bones. Her name is Emily, and she is my hero.

A patriot for rescue dogs, she in the last several days has personally taken on the emotionally tasking job of reeling in two stray dogs near her neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. It hasn’t been easy, for Emily or the dogs, who she has since named Dallas and Cricket.

She has worked diligently to earn their trust, leaving out food and water for them for several days and keeping her distance until they were ready. She unsuccessfully attempted to enlist help from neighbors. Sadly, she learned that the area where she found the dogs was a common dumping ground for strays. She was heartbroken to learn of this, not only for the dogs, but for the people who have become completely desensitized to the problem.

Beyond all of this, she cared. She cared enough to put her life (and the immediate needs of her beloved dog, Lupy) on hold. She cared enough to be patient. She cared enough to make a difference. Why? She had two touching reasons I believe are better shared in her words.

I believe God doesn’t give up on people, no matter how much they push away, or have doubts or are scared and my overwhelming sense of love toward this dog I don’t even know must be miniscule in comparison to the love God feels for his creation. The words ‘whatever you do unto the least of these’ and I don’t care if some people argue that that was only meant about people, I don’t think it was, I think God wants us to care for his creation dearly. So even when I start losing hope when she runs away from me, or when I’m not able to slip the leash over her head, I just keep thinking of those two things and how even if I can do good in my small corner of the world, it’s never futile even if the result isn’t the miraculous one I’m hoping for.

Everything happens for a reason. From the ground up, I’m guessing Dallas and Cricket didn’t want to hear it. For whatever reason, they had both lost all hope in people. For all we know, they had both lost all hope in life itself.

But now, thanks to the passionate persistence of one person, Dallas is set to be adopted. There is more work to be done for Cricket, who really likes cheese and peanut butter but still needs to work on her trust issues. The point is Emily hasn’t given up. And because of that, Dallas and Cricket will have forever homes. They will know what it’s like to be rescued. They will know what it’s like to feel the love of a person. Take it from me, there is no greater thing.

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But Do Not Say May 15, 2014

There are things we think. These things are precious and special and private. Then there are things we say, either by word (in the case of my people) or by action (in the case of canines). These are things that cannot be taken back, no matter how badly we sometimes wish they could me.

I find this sometimes happens with my beloved mom and dad. Sometimes, whether in an argument with each other or others they say things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment and there is no turning back once they are said. Words are a powerful thing, a tool to which I frequently wish I had access. Days like today? Not so much.

Because today I finally spent some quality time with my dear new friend Joey. He’s adorable. He makes me feel young again. We play and wrestle and growl and paw at each other just like I’d hoped I would do with my dear aunt’s new dog once she found him. Boys will be boys, so we got a little rough with each other. Such is to be expected of us, after all. Dogs will be dogs.

2014-05-15 17.54.04At one point or another I got hurt in all of it. Again, it was one of those misunderstandings I have with my people sometimes. I was chewing on a rawhide bone for the first time in a while and my gums started bleeding. My dear aunt Morgan assumed it was because of something that happened between Joey and I. I knew better, and wished I could say so. In reality I knew it was because of me and my own silliness I was hurting. Such is life that I was silenced yet again.

Instead my people and Morgan got into a bit of a fit about it and it didn’t seem to end well. Morgan left with Joey and that was that.

But that’s just it. There are things we think. And there are things we say. Frequently I am pretty sure the things I think never make it to the realm of nonverbal communication with my people. Today they would have been in trouble because of the misunderstanding that happened. It was my own fault my teeth were hurting. Not Joey’s or anyone but me.

That didn’t stop them from worrying about it yet I was powerless to say anything to clear up the confusion. Because we never know when we won’t be able to speak. Or (worse) when the words we speak will not be heard. Such is yet another example of the importance of being what we cannot say on a daily basis. So today I re-commit myself to being the words I cannot say. Instead I live by doing.

 

The Secret Ingredient February 9, 2014

For some people, it’s a choice. For others, it’s as simple as a bloodline. And for me, it happened the day my forever mom and dad brought me into their home. Because they did more than that. They brought me into a family.

I was reminded of this over the weekend as both sides of my forever family joined together to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It was the first time the families have been all together since baby Carter was born and I was prepared for anything. Well, to be honest, I was prepared to step aside and let Carter steal the show. And he did.FamilyNo Secrets

But (to my surprise) I also earned my fair share of attention. I got pets and hugs and play time and treats and amidst it all I got the best thing of all. Love. From the ground up, I am blessed to be loved by such wonderful family members. It happened when I was playing what likely is my hundredth game of pickle in the middle with some of my favorite little people this afternoon.

I realized in those moments the answer to one of life’s most challenging questions. What is the secret ingredient in my recipe for joy? My family. It takes a village, as the proverb says, and I quite like mine. I had no idea that day I came home from the humane society just how blessed I would become.

Because that proverb is right – it does indeed take a village. We all need a good support system in place for those days when the ground shakes around us. For the times when we feel like its us against the world. And for the times we are overcome with joy and need to share it with someone special.

And that someone special may not always be a relative or family member. Sometimes the friends we make along the way become their own kind of family. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few of those in my life as well.

So to those who say you can’t choose your family, I disagree. Because in my case, they chose me.

 

The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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Not-So Little Luxuries September 7, 2013

It’s kind of like counting sheep. It’s my understanding people do this sometimes to calm their minds into falling asleep. This would never calm a canine mind (for obvious reasons) but my method sure does bring me peace. I count my blessings.

The list includes the obvious characters who make up daily life (like mom and dad), as well as the less obvious things (like my special spot under my favorite tree in my backyard). Today I noticed something about the list I couldn’t keep from sharing: it never seems to get shorter. Instead, it seems only to grow to include more of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) luxuries in life.

I recognize this in itself is a blessing, and yet it got me to thinking. What would happen if something fell off the list? What if one of life’s not-so-little luxuries went away for some reason? Which could I not live without?

My constant flow of healthy food and water came to mind, followed closely by their (slightly less necessary) tasty counterparts peanut butter and bacon. And Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. Losing them would be a major problem. But I know my people would never let me go hungry. And (as much as I hate to admit it) Mr. and Mrs. Prickles are indeed replaceable (exhibits A and B: Flea and Angry Bird).  My Comfort Circle of Characters

It wasn’t until later in the day I realized what ties the list together. I tend to think through these things around the same times each day. Morning and evening. Both times have something very important in common. My bed. And I’m not talking about the dog bed in the kitchen. Nor do I understand the appeal of a dog bed (which comes home smelling like a factory) compared to a people bed (which contains all of the smells of our people us dogs long to be near at all times).

My SpotIt was not an easy battle to conquer either. I took mom down first with what I fondly refer to as “the look” combined with my persuasive cuddling skills. Getting dad to agree to the arrangement was a whole other game entirely. I had to be strategic about it. And patient. Until one night (after more than two years of effort on my part) “the look” and my cuddling skills struck again.

Since then I’ve secured my spot in the bed and I will not let it go for all the dog treats in the world. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It smells heavenly. And it’s where I count my blessings at morning and at night. But the more I think about it, I suppose even the bed itself is replaceable at least to a certain extent. Because (as much as it is indeed the coziest bit of people-smelling cloud a dog could ask for) it’s so much more than a bed.

As American screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola reminds us “I like simplicity; I don’t need luxury.” I suppose I don’t need luxury either. I just need my people. It’s that simple. So as I count my blessings tonight from my perch on the bed, I give thanks not for the comfy cloud itself. Rather I give thanks for its representation of the love I have for my people, and their love for me. Ultimately I think that is the luxury I truly could not live without.

 

The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

Don’t Want To Miss A Thing August 25, 2013

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open. This was my mantra on August 25, 2010. All day long, it’s all I could think. I don’t know if it was pent up nervous energy, lack of sleep, or the overwhelming amount of activity all day long, but the day I was adopted was one to remember.

It started like most days at the humane society, except I could sense a bittersweet excitement in Katie (my favorite angel helper) when she let me out of my cage that day. Something was up, that much I knew, but I had no idea the adventure that day would hold. I got a bath, and a snazzy haircut, and my nails trimmed, and I felt like a million bucks. I got walked a whole bunch, and I swear Katie even snuck me an abundance of extra treats while we played outside. I didn’t realize it would be our last time playing together, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Sometimes it’s better that way.

As the day went on, Katie and the other angel helpers kept talking about me being adopted with mixed emotions. They were nervous for me going into a second home, hopeful this would be my forever home, and a bit sad to see me go. It was exhausting.

So when my people came to pick me up for my car ride to my forever home that afternoon, I was pooped. I was ready for an epic nap. Little did I know they lived an hour and a half away from the humane society. There I was, in the back seat of the Ford Escape with my new mom, happy and nervous and dog tired. I remember sitting there next to her doing all the things I associated with being a “good boy.” I sat. I stayed. I kept quiet.

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

A Younger Looking Me

My mission failed. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness in spite of my best attempts to stay awake. And yet I remember it all like it was yesterday. I remember it was incredibly hot and humid (not that unlike it is today) and mom didn’t let me sit in the seat I started in. She pulled me close and pet me and I could feel the love coming through her hands. I remember how skeptical dad seemed the whole time. I could tell he wasn’t as keen on this whole new arrangement as mom and I mentally committed that day to change that (this didn’t take long). I remember everything.

I’ve often wondered how it is I remember so much about a day so long ago (three people years is equal to about 21 doggie years depending on who you ask), considering I was struggling to stay awake the majority of that afternoon and evening. I think I got my answer today. I didn’t want to miss a thing about that special day in my life. So I didn’t. I kept the eyes of my heart open, even though the eyes on my face weren’t. So today, on the three-year anniversary of my adoption, I celebrate life. Past. Present. Future.

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

This was my mantra on August 25, 2010. Three years later, I share the same idea with one small alteration:

Must. Keep. Heart. Open.

It’s the only way to live.

 

From Rags to Riches August 17, 2013

It started with a collar. It had little candy corns on it, and my mom bought it at the Menomonee Falls Pet Fair three years ago today. She had yet to actually have a dog in her life, and she was told this was bad luck. It’s bad karma to buy things for a best friend you’ve yet to meet, people told her (as if she was going to somehow jinx the search).

Here’s the thing: she had already met her best friend. She had met me a few days earlier. She knew she loved me at first sight. But her and dad’s first visit to me was so late in the day the shelter wouldn’t allow them to take me home that same day. I knew she’d be back, but I didn’t learn until later that she almost wasn’t.

Since I had been previously returned, the people at Oshkosh Humane Society were particularly cautious throughout my adoption process to ensure this would be the right family. To ensure I wouldn’t be returned again. They didn’t like that mom and dad were a young couple who would likely be having children in the near future. They didn’t like that dad had never had a dog before. They said they feared my soon-to-be forever people were just falling in love with a cute face and weren’t prepared for the behavioral handful I could be.

Mom didn’t take any of this very well. She saw it as a direct attack on her ability to be a good doggie parent, and perhaps even a good little people parent. Apparently she and dad even resigned to the point they went to meet another terrier mix named Ariel at a different shelter.

The collar would have fit Ariel too. But dad wouldn’t have that. Meeting Ariel did nothing but prove to him that I was the one they were meant to rescue. So he called the people at the Oshkosh Humane Society, told them they were being harsh, and took me home about a week later. He fought for me and no amount of cuddles, kisses, or tail wags will ever thank him enough for that.

Sporting my new tieEver since I was adopted mom takes me to that fair every third Saturday in August. It’s kind of our thing. So you can imagine my disdain when she and dad left this morning to run errands (which must not be any fun at all since I’m almost never invited along for them) and didn’t return until mid-afternoon. I was certain she forgot by that point and (to be honest) I was the slightest bit heartbroken. I understand that forgetfulness can happen during pregnancy, but I didn’t want to believe it. She couldn’t possibly forget our tradition.

Thank goodness dad reminded her. It’s never been his cup of tea, but he knows it’s important to us and he didn’t want the day to go by without us honoring our tradition. He fought for me again, which I realized today he does so often in so many different ways.

It started with a collar. And it ends with a tie. (Thanks to dad’s gentle reminder), mom and I had a fabulous time as we always do, and (in addition to all sorts of dog treats) I got a couple of doggie neck ties. There was a time in my life I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, and now people love me enough to fight for me and take me to pet fairs and buy me neck ties (of all crazy things). Collars, neck ties, and dog treats aside, I would say that makes me one of the very richest doggies in the whole wide world.