Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Patience Is Virtue August 8, 2013

If there’s something us canines generally struggle with, it’s this people concept that patience is virtue. We’re not good at waiting. Stay is my least favorite trick. And don’t get me started on when dad challenges me to sit still until he says I can take my delicious rawhide. Patience is not my strong suit. But last night I got a glimpse at this virtue patience can bring. This sense of hope. Happiness. Light at the end of the tunnel.

I have been kind of a mess thinking about the story of Cabela, the dog who was blown up by a man in Washington a few days ago. I felt terrible when I finished blogging about it last night. I hate not being able to find a silver lining in any story. And it seems my negative feelings were contagious, based on the feedback I’ve gotten about the devastation, terror and grief this horrific story has sparked in people. Good News, All!

So you can imagine my relief when it happened, a mere fifteen minutes or so after I put my thoughts on this awful story out there for the world to read. I wanted to get involved somehow, to let someone know what happened is in no way acceptable. I wanted to do something. No, I had to do something.

On a whim, I sent a message to Cabela’s former owner Ty Freemantle all the way in Washington. I told him how sorry I was to hear the story, how scared I was that things like this are actually happening, and how helpless I felt to do anything about it. You see, there’s this thing about patience. It pays off. Granted, it didn’t take long so the employment of the waiting game wasn’t nearly as exhausting as it could have been.

Because I found my silver lining. Freemantle responded to my message almost instantly, sincerely thanking me for taking an interest in his story. Our conversation was brief, but the virtue was clear. The story broke a mere few days ago, and already Freemantle has been showered with thoughtfulness and prayers from people (and dogs in my case) all over the world. It’s no surprise to me that the animal lovers out there have united, as this is what we do. What did surprise me was what Freemantle said next.

He has decided to use his grief as fuel for positive change, which sounds an awful lot like a silver lining if you ask me.

“It scares me that maybe if I didn’t stand up he would have gotten away with it, and that someone else could do the same thing and walk free,” he said. “This set a fire inside me and I’m starting a organization to work on changing the animal cruelty law from such narrow specifications on what is and is not qualified.”

The ultimate goal would be to ensure that any act of aggression to an animal shall be punished by animal cruelty charges. As a survivor of animal abuse, I told him I am obviously a wholehearted supporter of his cause. I pledged to do anything I can to help. Because I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to happen overnight. And us canines are no good at being patient. But now that I know the good that waits at the end of the patience path, I’d say it’s worth the wait.

 

In An Instant August 7, 2013

It doesn’t sound real. It sounds a bit like one of those stories that show up next to the alien encounter reports in the tabloids. It’s just too terrible to be real.

Yet it seems it’s true (or at least allegedly true, per the legal jargon). A 45-year-old Washington man recently blew up his daughter’s dog because he believed it “had the devil in it.” The man, named Christopher Dillingham, is accused of strapping explosives to Cabela’s neck, which killed her immediately upon impact. As if that’s not bad enough, it took several days for animal cruelty charges to be added due to what I would argue is a technicality. Since the lab was killed instantly, state legislators claimed at first it technically couldn’t be considered cruelty.

Plenty of things happen instantly, but from what I can tell that never negates the severity. On the contrary, it is in these seemingly unimportant moments that lives change forever. Disaster rarely strikes when we’re expecting it, so I generally think preparing for the worst is a waste of emotional resources. Instead I hope for the best. In An Instant

But in this case I see no best. I am struggling to find a silver lining. Sure, the man is in jail on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, possession of explosives, and (a few days later) animal cruelty. And I don’t know a lot about people money but I do know $500,000 is a large amount for bail. But this man took a dog’s life. When a person takes another person’s life, it doesn’t matter how quickly it happens. Murder is murder. Cabela will bring joy to that little girl no more.

I have nothing positive to say about this. Truth be told, the whole thing breaks my little doggie heart. It doesn’t even sound like a real story. But it is real, to both the little girl left behind and Ty Freemantle, who gave Cabela to the family six months ago. To them, she was family.

To one who doesn’t cross over to this side of the thinking bridge very often, I’m finding this negativity thing exhausting. And I don’t plan to make a habit of it. Still I find some peace tonight in preparing for the worst. In embracing my family with all my heart. In counting my blessings and giving thanks for everyone I know. In breathing. Because at any instant it could all be gone.

 

Man’s Best Friend June 16, 2013

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood. I have been blessed with more than my fair share of loving motherly types in my life, but I’ve had somewhat a drought of father figures.

I never met my biological father. I hated him for it every day I watched mom struggle to provide and make such short ends meet. My time with her was a gift and I wouldn’t change a bit of it for myself. We had fun, we didn’t go hungry and we always had a (somewhat warm) place to sleep. But I hated him for leaving her to do so much all by herself. And I wonder sometimes if he would have been in the equation if we would have all gotten separated on that fateful day so many years ago.Dad and I

My path in life would never be the same after we got separated. And wow, can a change in scenery can change your perspective on things. I went from not having a dad to having a string of them who were terrible to me. The worst (by far) was the man with the leather belt. I shudder to think of all those times I tried to protect Jo (the man’s daughter) from him, and the chaos and pain that made up the aftermath. To this day, I have a somewhat obsessive fear of leather belts, baseball bats, power tools and laundry baskets.

These pieces of my past remain in my present but that doesn’t change my current outlook on things. I’ve learned a lot along the way about the strength we have in perseverance through the tough times. Through each struggle we emerge stronger, better, and more equipped to take on the next mountain in life.

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood, but all that has changed now thanks to the current father figure in my life.

Today is Father’s Day in America, and for the first time in my life I have someone to celebrate. I know getting a dog was mom’s idea, but my forever dad is the one who found me online at the Oshkosh Humane Society. He’s the one I play with, wrestle around with and prefer to snuggle up to at night (mom gets too warm). He doesn’t say he loves me nearly as much as mom, but he doesn’t have to. I can set it in his eyes when we’re playing, when we have an epic love fest (usually when mom’s not around) and even when he talks nonsense to me. He loves me more than he’ll ever admit. And he has restored my faith in the concept of man’s best friend. I love you dad.

 

Hands: Heads or Tails? February 24, 2013

Mr. Prickles slipped his little hedgehog self under the couch again today. Darned slippery hardwood floors. No matter how hard I try, I always struggle trying to dig my little pals out from under there. And it is almost always to no avail. Inevitably I end up pestering mom or dad to use their long arms to dig out whatever misfit toy I’ve lost that day.

It’s an almost daily occurrence in the Schmidt house, so I generally don’t think anything of it. Today was different. Today my mom also grabbed out a little silver nickel stamped with the year 2010 on it. As I watched her fingers wrap around the token, I found myself pondering where I was at this time in 2010.

I closed my eyes and it happened. It’s like I was there again.

I saw him, the man who made me fear leather belts. The man whose hands made me crumple into the smallest version of myself. It wasn’t just me his hands hurt. I shudder to my core when I remember watching in horror as he lashed out at Jo. At the tender people age of six, Jo was my only friend in the world at that point in time. And her little people hands were my favorite. When she pet me, I felt her love through her hands. She was always so gentle; such a happy contrast from the awful man who abused us both. I loved her so.

You can imagine how I reacted the first time I saw what the man was doing to my poor innocent little Jo. I had heard about it on the streets, but I never thought I would see it firsthand. So I did like anyone would do – I interceded, and as a result I became the brunt of the beating that time. I don’t regret it.

It happened a few more times before the last time. I caught that man’s ugly hand with my mouth and I bit down as hard as I could. Well, that was the end of that. The next day, the man left me on the side of the road in the bitterly frigid February of 2010. It took me a while after that to see hands the same way. It wasn’t probably until I adopted my mission statement of joy that I started to trust people hands again. And I’m so glad I did.

It’s like American singer-songwriter Jewel says in “Hands.”

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

Hands can do so many things. They play musical instruments in the most beautiful of symphonies. They can piece together the most unbelievably delicious delicacies. They can radiate love through a delicate touch. They can retrieve beloved toys from underneath couches. They can love. And they can hate.

My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken

I think of Jo often, praying she is okay without me there to protect her. I remember the loving twinkle in her eye and somehow that gives me peace. Love almost always conquers hate. Of that much I am certain. Now when I see people hands I pause to respect the love they give instead of the hate.

 

My answer? I sleep smiling December 29, 2012

I saw one of those humane society commercials on the moving picture window today. You know the one…melancholy melodies, forlorn faces, and tear-jerking thoughts illustrating the unfortunate struggles of beaten, abused and neglected animals. If dogs could cry, I would have been bawling like a baby (my mom sure did).

Instead, I did what I always do when animals make an appearance on what my mom calls the television…I whined my most heartfelt of whines and even barked a little bit. (I don’t ever bark, except when animals show up on the television). “I will be the answer at the end of the line. I will be there for you while you take the time,” Sarah McLachlan swoons in the background of the commercial, “…Cast me gently into morning for the night has been unkind. Take me to a place so holy that I can wash this from my mind…”

I’m no stranger to beatings, abuse and neglect. I’ve endured the pain of being kicked to the side and whipped with a leather belt for going outside inside…even though I tried my hardest to hold it for four days without being let out. I’ve felt the misery of being discarded on the side of the road with no place to go, and more importantly no one to love me. I’ve wandered the streets in the freezing cold Wisconsin winters searching for shelter.  I’ve served time behind bars and cages. I know beatings, abuse and neglect. And it breaks my heart to see such a stark reminder that there are so many animals starving, without homes, or worse – in abusive, unloving or neglectful homes.

Its the kind of thing that I occasionally have nightmares about…images of my past haunt me, but thinking about those who live that horror in the present makes me realized how blessed I am. After everything I’ve lived through…the lyrics of the song in that commercial… “the memory of choosing not to fight”… .I sleep smiling because my parents gave me the best gift I could ever have asked for – a loving home. I found my answer. What’s yours?