Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Neighborhood Watch January 6, 2014

It’s been said more than once. Some have said it jokingly. Others have been more serious about it. Regardless of the reasons, the message is clear. I would make a terrible guard dog.

Watching the Angel SleepIn our neighborhood we are surrounded on either side by neighbor ladies who have been widowed, one of whom was especially enthusiastic about my impending ferocity when my people first brought me home from the humane society. It will be nice to have a dog guarding this neck of the neighborhood, she said.

Here I am, three and a half years later, and that could not be farther from the truth. My bark is rare, and every visitor to my forever home is greeted with fanfare and love. I do, after all, have a personal goal to share joy with whomever will take it, so why would I startle folks as they enter my home? It’s simply not in my bones.

Or so I thought. Then came baby Carter and suddenly everything has changed. Every little creak in the floor makes me jump, I find myself reacting to noises outside differently, and I have even uttered a protective bark or two at something other than the pig on the Geico commercials or the dogs with pretty teeth in the Pedigree commercials. I can’t describe the change other than that it feels instinctual, as natural as scratching an itch behind my ear.

“Follow your instincts,” American media mogul Oprah Winfrey suggested. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” Sometimes I think its all too easy to start believing what people say about us. Especially when it’s not necessarily complimentary. I’m not really sure which side of the fence a guard dog falls on, since it usually isn’t a good thing to assume the bad in everyone instead of the good. But I have developed some pretty keen instincts in my time on four paws, and I think its time I start employing them. It’s been said more than once that I could never be a guard dog. I’ve got new reasons to believe that doesn’t make it true.

 

 

 

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.

 

Cheering For The Team September 8, 2013

It’s easy for me to forget sometimes. I go about my days seeking good in all people, places and things so why on Earth would I ever prepare for the worst? Instead I always expect the best. I guess you could say I’ve come to a place in my optimistic philosophy of life where I take good things for granted.

Because it’s not always good news. Sometimes the worst is reality. Like when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. Or there was a car crash. Or there is something terribly wrong with the baby.

It didn’t even occur to me that something could be wrong with the baby. I know mom has been nervous enough about that for the lot of us, but I just assumed that all is well and in approximately 19 more weeks my little person will arrive home happy and healthy. Apparently that may not be the case.

The big ultrasound happened about a week and a half ago. The exciting one. You know, the one where they could find out the sex of the baby? But I’ve decided to continue withholding the results of that particular portion of the test. Because that’s not all it involved. From what I could tell from the conversation that followed the appointment, that wasn’t even the focus. Rather, the true purpose of the ultrasound was to see the baby. Measure the baby. Make sure the baby’s organs are developing in the right places inside the body.Hope

Hearing all of this shocked me to my little doggie core. Well of course the baby looks good, is growing at a healthy pace and has a heart inside its little baby body, I thought. Right? A technician named Steve did the procedure, and he calmly talked them through everything. He explained what he was looking for as he took various pictures, and alas I was right. Each and everything he checked looked perfectly healthy.

What a blessing! And to think I just assumed it to be so. Albeit fabulous news, this was somewhat of a sobering reminder of all of the things that could still go wrong. The worst could still happen. But I realized something today.

My parents were dressing up in their usual Packer Sunday football garb and my little doggie Packer jersey was thrown into the mix. I pictured this happening with my little person someday soon so we would be a happy family of Packer fans cheering on our team.

To cheer on our team. That’s why I think I function in my optimistic bubble of positivity. But like anything, I find myself reminded that we need balance. Because sometimes we get benched. Or injured. Or our career ends forever. Preparing for the worst while expecting the best doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us stronger. That’s easy for me to forget sometimes.

 

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.

 

Penny For Your Thoughts April 13, 2013

I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those things I can’t help. I do it without thinking. I could probably even do it in my sleep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a towel, a messy pile of laundry being sorted or a tidy pile of clean laundry being put away. I instinctively (downright compulsively) rub myself all over anything and everything fabric that ends up on the floor. My adoptive parents are at a crossroads about this behavior: mom giggles and dad scowls. I don’t necessarily find joy in their disagreement, but (like I said) it isn’t something I can control.

Penny For Your ThoughtsExcept for today. Today, I overheard one of the most painfully sad conversations that made me pause. If I could speak human I would have audibly gasped. Dad asked mom what she was thinking about and that’s when she said it. “Do you ever regret marrying me?” My heart overpowered my head in that moment. I forgot all about all the clean clothes laying in their neat little piles all over the bed. I couldn’t believe my ears.

“What kind of a question is that?” Dad said.

“Well, do you or don’t you?” Mom said.

“I love you now as much as I did the day we were married,” dad said. “You are beautiful, inside and out.”

“Well said, dad!” I screamed at the top of my little doggie heart. They resumed folding laundry and I resumed my compulsive marking behavior with what I mistook for peace in my heart.

But after all the clothes were put away, I realized it wasn’t peace I felt at all. I can’t help but wonder what prompted mom to ask such a question in the first place. Certainly she doesn’t regret marrying my dad. I know they have experienced some extreme emotional ups and downs in their short five years of marriage, but I can see the purest of love in both of their eyes. And I generally don’t believe in having regrets. Everything happens for a reason, and no experience is without value if something is learned from it.

I’ll never know why mom’s head was in such a dark place today. Instead I will take a page from one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau and share with the world my opinion of the only way to view regret. “Make the most of your regrets,” Thoreau challenged, “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.”

I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those things I can’t help. I do it without thinking, just like my behavior with the clothes. Penny for my thoughts? I can’t stop myself from finding the silver lining. I suppose that’s a less embarrassing habit to have then my behavior with the clothes, but I digress.

 

Life in Slow Motion February 18, 2013

I’m a pretty simple dog. I have a fairly regular daily schedule that involves sleep, food, love, playtime, food, and more sleep. I can’t complain. But sometimes I do wonder what Rusty and other pals from my past would think of my life if they could somehow live it with me.Life in Slow Motion

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life, and all of my fur friends, yet sometimes I long for perspective from those I can no longer reach. This curious loneliness often takes me by surprise. I know what Rusty would say about this, which is oddly similar to what Sarah Ban Breathnach advises in Simple Abundance. So today I take in my life in slow motion as one of these distant loved ones might do from doggie heaven.

“Mary Kingsley was a hunter of a dream: the knowledge of who she really was and her place in the world. So are you,” Breathnach writes. “Yet even without encountering the daily dangers she faced…you have embarked on an adventure as exciting as that of any explorer. Uncovering the source of the Nile or charting the course of the Amazon are outward parallels to the inner journey you are on today – a safari of the self and spirit.”

On my safari, I have learned everyone we meet becomes as big a part of ourselves as we let them. Sometimes the more we take in though our interactions with others, the more we get to know our authentic selves. And we are more likely to let them in if we let our guard down and take a risk. That is where our journey to self discovery can take a challenging yet necessary turn toward the unexpected dangers of life’s adventures. But it is ultimately up to us to find the purpose behind our fears and make something of ourselves.

Every now and then, I’ll be caught in the middle while my people parents throw around one of my toys and I find myself wondering if Rusty is looking down on me from doggie heaven. Would he be proud of me? I know he would be very happy with my efforts to see the good in all people and things. And he would be absolutely ecstatic to find out I’m sharing my joy with whoever I meet in the world and in cyberspace. But would I make him proud?

Of that, I’m not so sure. I’m a pretty simple dog living a fairly scheduled life. So I stay the course on my safari of self and spirit and hope my life in slow motion does as much for others as it does for me.

 

Remembering Rusty February 17, 2013

I will never forget my first day at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

I remember being terrified at first when I was surrounded by people I didn’t know in this strange place. I watched in awe as a pool of dirty brown goo developed on the floor around me when they sprayed me down. And I couldn’t believe the size of the mangy matted pile of fur they trimmed off after I was cleaned. Then they fed me the most amazing kibble I’d ever tasted and shortly thereafter I emerged from the cleaning area a new (albeit horrified) dog. I could get used to all of this attention, I thought to myself.

Then it happened. They put me away in a cage where I remained for the rest of the day. A nice lady named Sarah came to feed me again and let me outside briefly, but that was it. Granted, the scenery indoors was a lot nicer than the garbage cans and cardboard boxes I was used to, but that first night was one of the most quiet, lonely and dark of my entire life.

This is it, I thought, this is where it’s all going to end. Little did I know that would also be the night that would change my life for the better in ways I could never have imagined.

That was the night I met Rusty. He was a 15-year-old golden retriever in the cage next to me. On this awful night when I had given up, Rusty reminded me that sometimes we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine. That night, he shared with me stories of the family he had been brought into as a puppy. A family who loved him, played with him, and brought to life a joy in his heart that I could see in his eyes. He told me about how sad the family was to give him up to the shelter when both of his people parents lost their job and had to move into an apartment where they didn’t allow dogs. They used to come visit, he said, but then I think it got too sad. They visited less and less frequently as time went on. Days turned into months, then years.

I was deeply devastated for him, but his perspective on the matter resonated with me on a level I didn’t realize at the time. He was incredibly optimistic, grateful even, for everything he’d lived through. He wouldn’t trade his time with his forever family for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. In his old age, he was wealthy with wisdom. He was joy: from the ground up.Remembering Rusty

I felt so blessed to find a comrade in this new place, but I had no idea how special Rusty really was until he was gone. It happened only a few days later, and I remember that day vividly too. I was kind of jealous of him, thinking he was going to the cleaning room where I got all the attention. Instead, he went down a different hallway, into a different room, from which he never emerged again.

But he wouldn’t have wanted me to mourn his loss. No sir. Remembering Rusty means living his legacy and pawing it forward. The day after I lost my mentor was the first day I awoke with my newfound commitment to seeing the good in all people and things.

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” English novelist George Eliot reasoned.

Rusty’s optimism lit a flame in my heart that no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

 

Love is Your Life to Live February 13, 2013

Most people know chocolate can kill dogs. Consequently I avoid the stuff like the plague. But that doesn’t mean I need to stay away from the adorable phrases on the aluminum foil packaging. My mom indulged in a chocolate tonight with packaging that read “Be your own valentine.”

This got me to pondering words like courage. Strength. Life.

Great thinkers throughout history have linked big ticket words like this to what is arguably one of the most fundamental words in the English language: love. There is great debate about whether this elementary English word should be classified in dictionaries as a noun, verb or adjective. Consider your source people. In the world of Wiley, love is most definitely a verb.

Like true and authentic joy, love is your life to live. But there is this thing about love that I could never quite put my paw on…and I know it is my own fault. Every day I make the conscious decision to see the best in people and things. And every day I overlook the best in myself.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,” said ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

It is not easy for most people to love their authentic selves deeply. It means accepting the unacceptable, letting go of grudges, and giving your soul a bear hug. It takes courage. It is something I should do, but don’t.

Melancholy

It is hard to love yourself when you get separated from your mom too young and no one will take you in. It is hard to love yourself when you sit at the shelter watching puppy after puppy get adopted while you pace hopelessly in your cage. It is hard to love yourself when you are returned to the shelter after being adopted by a family that didn’t have enough love to go around. I’ve always had an abundance of love to share with everyone but myself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into place,” actress Lucille Ball advised. “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So today I plead with you to join me in my newfound quest to literally take the words of Gandhi to heart.

“Where there is love there is life,” he said. My life has not always been easy to love, but that will no longer keep me from living an authentic life of love. As my own valentine, its my life to live.

 

Young at Heart February 9, 2013

Every now and then I will be at the dog park or on a walk through the neighborhood and I hear it. Four seemingly unimportant people words strung together in a beautiful sentence that makes my heart smile. “What a cute puppy!” It goes the same way every time: mom corrects the person by telling him or her that I’m actually full grown and I wag my tail incessantly until the person kneels down to pet me. The truth is, I love the attention almost as much as the compliment. I may be a mutt to some people, but what is in a name?

You see, there is something about us canines you need to know. From Pomeranian to Great Dane, that playful puppy we once were is always a part of us. Puppyhood wasn’t always easy for my two brothers and I, but my birth mom always had a way of making even the littlest events seem special. I remember our one-month birthday like it was yesterday.

A dog's tail never lies

My birth mom had made a pretty nice home for us with decent shelter from the elements and I was so worried because she was gone for a really long time that day. Boy, did she have a surprise for us when she got home! She had spent the day relentlessly scavenging through garbage can after garbage can to find us the perfect dinner, and she did not disappoint. She finally returned to us (after finding what I can only assume must have been the garbage can of a very upscale restaurant) holding in her mouth the most beautiful steak we had ever seen. Sure, it was not that great for our puppy diets eating whole food like that, but it made us all feel special sharing such decadence.

I look back on that night often, as it wasn’t long after that when we all got separated and I found myself longing for family. Longing for home. It would be another two people years before my people brought me into my forever home, and it may as well have been a lifetime. But my puppy-like state of mind helped carry me through the hardest of times. Life through a puppy’s eyes is scary, but I prefer to see it as exciting. Everything looks and smells new, and the world is such a big place yet to be explored. When you’re a puppy, you spend your time primarily playing, eating and sleeping. What could be better than that?Playing "dead"

I can’t say I completely agree with Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who claimed “youth is wasted on the young.” No sir. I’m much more in line with former American president Theodore Roosevelt. “Old age is like everything else,” Roosevelt said. “To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

That’s why I feel such a sense of joy when people mistake me for a puppy. The best thing about childhood is making the early decision to never grow up.

 

Home is Where the Heart Is January 28, 2013

I’ve lived a lot of different places in my relatively short life.

When I was a little pup, my birth mom and my two brothers moved around a lot, finding shelter under garbage cans, in alley ways, and in cardboard boxes (if we were lucky). Times were pretty tough and food was scarce, but one thing brought me comfort like nothing else: cuddling with my mom. I would scrunch myself as small as I could, inhale her motherly smell, and listen for her heartbeat. It was warm, and with each beat of her heart, I could somehow feel her loving me just a little bit more. More than anything, I miss that about her. She was home to me.

Later when I was fending for myself, it brought me the most powerful sense of relief to picture myself back there snuggling myself into serenity. I could be shivering cold in the icy cold rain, and the memory of being in my mom’s arms brought me warmth.

As time went on, her smell became more a distant memory and her image became the slightest bit blurry, but her warmth somehow remained a source of solace in my heart.

People at the humane society (fondly?) referred to me as needy, and perhaps that’s what I am. I never passed up the opportunity to nudge myself into the hands or arms of the workers and especially of visitors who asked to see me outside of my room. I know that’s why I struggled in the first adoptive home with all of those other cats and dogs. There was simply not enough cuddle time to go around in that house.

That has never been a problem in my forever home. My mom and dad (and various people visitors) seem to enjoy my cuddly nature (for the most part).

The other day, it was bedtime in the Schmidt household and (as has become customary), I snuggled myself in between mom and dad on the bed. I closed my eyes, let out a deep grunting sigh and realized something. While my birth mother’s warmth is irreplaceable, I have found not just one but two new hearts to lull me to sleep with their love. And with that, I realized I am truly blessed.

If its true that home is where the heart is, my heart has found its forever home.

Smiles for Cuddles