Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

On Leather Belts and Baseball Bats July 17, 2014

It’s time to come clean about something. I have this thing with baseball bats. Mom and dad noticed it for the first time last year when dad started playing in a weekly softball league through our local recreation department. He would practice his swings and I would bark. It probably doesn’t sound like much, but for a dog who (literally) only barks at other animals when I see them on the television, this is a big deal. He would swing and I would bark. Coy Wiley

While my bark is certainly larger than my bite, I will be honest. I have my reasons. The man with the leather belt that causes me to run in fear at the sight of leather to this day (even though I know my dad would never hurt me) also liked to play baseball. He had a collection of bats, and one time when he was really (really) drunken, he whacked me with one of them. Or maybe two. I’ve tried very hard to push this out of my mind, but that’s the thing about cause and effect. Sometimes the cause has an effect whether we like it or not.

For me, that means I (to this day) fear leather belts and baseball bats. I know it’s funny, since I know in my heart no one in my current life would ever even consider the possibility of hurting me like that. But sadly that doesn’t erase the past. I see him, the man with the leather belt, with the baseball bat and I cringe inside. It doesn’t matter who might be swinging the bat, I simply can’t stand it.

So tonight when mom took dear baby Carter to dad’s softball game, I was relieved to be left behind. That never happens, mind you. I always (and I mean always) want to go wherever my people are going. Not tonight. Tonight I was happy to stay put, alone with my thoughts and reflections. It’s not such a bad thing to do from time to time, regardless of the reason.

For me, it was a reminder that everyone needs some time to reflect every now and then. Joy. From the ground up, it happens when life brings reality to moments, good or bad. In my case, I’ve learned from the unfortunate events of the past to embrace the exciting possibilities of the future. I’m no fortune teller, but I know there is fun in store.

 

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.

 

 

 

Try Try Again October 30, 2013

I had it out with the neighbor dog today. Twice. That’s right – Demon Dog and I had words. Well, I’m sure it sounded like barks to the outside observer. But I could no longer sit idly by and stare at him silently while he goes into his fits of rage from the other side of the fence. I had to do something.

Better to TrySo I walked myself (all right, okay, I ran myself) to the very end of the lead (about 30 feet from my backdoor, and about 20 feet from Demon Dog) and I said some things that needed to be said. I told him I don’t know why he’s so angry. I told him I wished we could be friends. That I would listen to whatever struggles he’d lived through and help him find some joy in new beginnings.

But it ended just like it started, with him pacing and panting and growling and snarling. He even digs around a bit at the hole he’s created underneath the fence that separates us. And his bark? Quite frankly it’s terrifying.

I tried again the next time I was outside, but it seemed to be in vain. Also, my people were very unhappy with my efforts as it is incredibly rare for me to bark at anything besides the animals that occasionally come into the living room via the television.

I don’t understand it. We canines don’t discriminate from one breed to another, but I guess people call his a bully breed. And my experiences have shown me why – not only with my neighbor, but also with the dog who attacked me at the dog park. I thought I was a goner that day when he had me by my collar dangling me around from his perch atop that picnic table.

Obviously I survived to tell the tale, but it bothers me that these dogs – these bullies – are out there making a bad name for others of their breed who are capable of love and compassion. Being known as a bully is not an excuse for bad behavior any more than it should be a label on others with a similar appearance.

So I won’t give up on Demon Dog. I had it out with him today and my message didn’t take. And I know I need to be honest with myself – it may never take. But as American actress Shay Mitchell put it “I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.”

He’s strong and confident (at least from what I can tell by his barking habits), but there must be something more there. A past. Some memories. A story that may explain where he came from and why he is the way he is. We all do. And in a world that frequently uses labels as excuses, I’m taking a stand for new beginnings. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.

 

The Mouse Will Play August 23, 2013

From sneaking people food right off the dinner table to jumping four-foot fences, I used to fancy myself a master of mischief. Somewhere along the line, I determined it was best to use my God-given brains to cause trouble because it triggered attention from people. Sometimes it was even the good kind of attention. Though they were few and far between, occasionally my behavior merited a “oh, that is so cute” comment in place of the dreaded “bad dog” nickname.

Me? Sassy? No...But something changed for me the day I escaped through the doggie door and jumped the fence of my first adoptive family. I remember feeling so disappointed when they found me and brought me home, and then (almost) relieved when they took me back to the humane society. (This ended up being a very positive thing because I met my forever people a few weeks later as a result). Forever changed for me that day as I wandered the streets of Port Washington exploring my newfound (short-lived) sense of freedom.

I’ve had it all wrong, I thought to myself when the people drove me home. “Bad dog, Zorro,” I remember the woman saying. In that moment, I realized was tired of being called a bad dog. And despite my best intentions at being bad, I was terrible at it. It was work. I don’t know why this came as such a surprise to me, since us canines tend to wear our hearts right outside our bodies for all the world to see. We can’t lie – our tails, our ears and our eyes give it away. No one is as mysterious as they think they are, especially when they have four legs and a tail. So I resolved that day to give up mischief forever. From that moment on, I would use my God-given brains to do only positive things for the world. No more bad dog. Naughty dog was a thing of the past.

But no one’s perfect. And experience has actually taught me we all need a little mischief in our lives every now and then. I know it’s happening with my people when my people call me a “little stinker” or “ball of sass.” I don’t mind – I know these are pet names, employed when just the right amount of mischief has been applied to a situation. Like when I make “the face” at mom when she’s eating a steak. Or when I paw at dad’s foot to let him know it’s time for our nightly game of fetch. And (let’s face it) I do my fair share of things that merit the occasional “bad dog” or “naughty dog” sentiment. (Barking madly at all variations of animal life on the television comes to mind). I might not be perfect, but I can say I no longer fancy myself a master of mischief. I’d much rather be the administrator of joy from the ground up.