Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

On Being Incorrigable November 4, 2013

We all have our reasons. I realized this today as mom called me incorrigible for the millionth time. There I was (minding my own business) conducting my usual after-dinner scavenge all over her clothes and bam. There’s that word again. Incorrigible.

I figured its about time I gain a better understanding of this word, as it differs from most words (like cute, lovable, and adorable) that I’m more accustomed to being called. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Bing defines incorrigible as “impossible or very difficult to correct or reform…unruly and unmanageable.”Who are you calling incorrigable?

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this word being on the aforementioned list of adjectives with which I prefer to associate myself. I wouldn’t consider myself unruly or unmanageable. And I have my reasons. I’m not ashamed when my people call me a multipurpose vacuum cleaner/broom combination. It’s true – I do indeed seize even the teeny tiniest little scraps the moment they hit the floor. I won’t deny that I scavenge and beg even though I get scolded for it. Because I have my reasons.

I can remember when I was living on the streets and we ate whatever we could find. I know what hunger (to the point of starvation) feels like. When I close my eyes, I can still remember the words of the doggie doctors at the humane society when I was first taken in there. “He looks like he hasn’t eaten in days.” And I hadn’t. These memories have developed into habits I do indeed struggle to break.

I’m convinced this is probably why my people call me needy from time to time as well. Lately I’ve perfected the skill of pawing at dad’s feet when I want something. I don’t think he always fancies it (out comes that incorrigible word again), but I don’t let that bother me. My people get their fair share of snuggles, and I am not shy with showing affection with visitors.

If I recall correctly, Marley (a personal idol of mine of John Grogan’s Marley & Me) also earned the incorrigible nickname a great deal. Mr. Obedience-School-Drop-Out himself. The way I see it, I’m in good company. And like Marley, I have my reasons.

My incorrigible nature runs deep. It’s an ode to my past as I live my present. And that is something I refuse to change. If that makes me incorrigible, then so be it. Because I aspire to be like Marley, who was incorrigible in good ways that outweighed the bad.

“A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his,” Grogan wrote. “(Marley) taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it. Where there is that, most other pieces fall into place.” What do you know? Some things are worth being incorrigible about.

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Better Late Than Never August 27, 2013

Belated is not a favorite people word of mine. Literally speaking, it means late or overdue. But as us canines are in the habit of digging deeper, I have to admit the meaning behind the word is one I generally can’t stand behind. It implies something important has been missed, forgotten, or set aside.

I have been all of these things in my lifetime. Set aside. Forgotten. Missed. I know what these things feel like and I wouldn’t wish the resulting emotions on anyone. But I am also in the habit of seeing both sides to a story, I am a believer that it’s better late than never.

Yesterday was National Dog Day and I completely missed it. I missed the chance to wish all of my four-legged pals well on our day of honor. Moreover, I missed a chance to talk about what this day means to me. I was confused at first about what it was we were to celebrate on this fairly new holiday. Today I realized it is a day to celebrate unconditional love. Friendship. Rescue. And none of these things can ever happen too late in one’s life.

“In every heart, there is an empty space…in every shelter…there is love in which to fill it,” suggested National Dog Day Founder Colleen Paige. “Adopt some love this day and every day.”

Rescue means different things to different people. I was somewhat startled by the honesty in one of Bing’s definitions of the word, which defined rescue as saving something. “To prevent something from being discarded, rejected, or put out of operation,” the definition reads.

It’s not fun to think about. It doesn’t bring joy to anyone’s heart. Yet I know that dogs are discarded on the side of roads every day. I know that even dogs with homes can feel rejected by their owners. And I know that dogs die in shelters all over the world at a startling rate. But it’s not too late for them. And it’s not too late for you. In every heart there is an empty space and in every shelter there is love to fill it.

Belated is not a favorite people word of mine because to me it means something must first be missed or forgotten. But maybe it’s not such a bad word after all, because in order for something to be considered belated it must be remembered. It must be found. It must be rescued. And none of these things can ever happen to late in one’s life.Love.

This post is inspired by Rescue Pledge, an organization committed to encouraging people to pledge to adopt their next animal from a shelter. They are saving lives, two at a time. Please consider taking the pledge today.

 

Progress Is Perfection May 26, 2013

Like so many things, words are what we make them. And in my humble opinion, there are far too many nouns in this world. Too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today.

If a noun is lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Take the word journey, for example. Whether it was career-related, a physical trip somewhere, or purely emotion, we’ve all been on a number of journeys in life. How did the paths lead? What do you remember? What was the destination? Have you reached it yet?

Progress is PerfectionMerriam-Webster and Bing both cite “journey” first as a noun and then as a verb. To me, it should be the other way around. We ought journey onward rather than simply be on a journey. Sure, it might sound like semantics to some, but let me explain.

The progress along the way, the scenery if you will, is often the highlight of the journey itself. And in a world encompassed by the constant pressure-cooker of perfection, progress is a pretty important part of every journey. Yet commercials showcasing the next revolutionary skincare regime, magazines with their airbrushed models, and high standards at school, work, and even at play, I’d say perfection is at a premium in modern society.

Meanwhile, great transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged that “a man is what he thinks about all day long.” Well then, it’s no wonder to me why progress has become synonymous with failure to so many in today’s world of bigger, better, brighter and faster. Instead, we need to recognize progress rather than focusing so much on destination perfection. We may as well give up on perfection without first finding joy in progress.

“Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection,” Lebanese-American writer and poet Khalil Gabrin said. Rightly so, advancing is the verb and perfection is the noun synonymous with the destination at the end of a long journey.

Like I said, words are what we make them. And (at least to me) there are far too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today. If a noun in your life is being lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Don’t simply go on a journey. Journey through life with courage enough to do more than seek happiness, joy, and fulfillment. Don’t seek these things. Seek progress by instead being these things. By being happiness, joy, and fulfillment and you’ve already reached your destination.

 

I’m No Angel April 10, 2013

I can’t say I’m that big a fan of people calling me a mutt. I know my mom was a purebred Norwich Terrier, and I never knew my father. But every now and then I hear my mom say it (on a walk or at the dog park or whatever) in response to someone asking what kind of dog I am, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a bit that she occasionally refers to me as a mutt.

By Bing’s definition, mutt is synonymous with a mongrel dog of a mixed or unknown breed (which I suppose I am), also known as an offensive term that insults someone’s intelligence. While I would argue the former makes me who I am, I also say the latter is a complete dissention on what it means to be man’s best friend.I'm No Angel

The way I see it, a lot of purebred dogs these days are encountering more and more problems because of careless (or in some cases intentional) breeding decisions that result in health problems that haunt the breeds for the rest of their lives. I know standards of the Westminster Kennel Club are at an all-time high for complete impossibility in terms of the expectations they place on certain breeds. Obviously, the breeders make changes to adhere to the ever-changing regulations, but I can’t say I believe the changes are for the best of the breeds, or their intelligence.

Meanwhile, genetic scientists who study dog breeds are more supportive of so-called imperfect mutts than ever before. Due, at least in part, to our genetic diversity, we tend to inherit the best of our parenting breeds. Furthermore, if our parenting breeds are mixed as well, we are even more likely to inherit the best of all the involved breeds.

All of that said and done, it may or may not come as a surprise to some of you that I am in complete support of genetic testing to determine one’s makeup as a breed. Please do not misunderstand: my qualifications for participation on a genetic test would not be to find out how high I might score in a dog show. Oh no. My intention would be to find out where I’ve come from, what makes me who I am, and what these so-called imperfections mean for my personality.

Many famous thinkers have commentated on the concept of imperfection, and its surprisingly positive impact on personality. One of my favorite empiricist thinkers Soren Kierkegaard once said “it belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.”

Imperfection indeed. Let us instead focus on opposites by exploring one’s “imperfections” and embracing them instead of focusing extra emotional energy on what comes unnaturally (or opposite) to them.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” said the late, great American actress Marilyn Monroe.

Imperfect, mad, and ridiculous as I may be, I don’t necessarily appreciate when my mom calls me a mutt. I’m no angel, but (as British singer Dido says) does that mean that I can’t fly? In fact, several human members of my family refers to imperfections in a surprisingly optimistic way. Rather than turn away from the attributes that make them who they are, they opt instead to embrace unique personality traits as those that make them who they are.

With that in mind, I honestly would rather be called these things (imperfect, mad, and ridiculous, for example) than any other adjectives because I know that with these words comes a certain sense of power and understanding of society that is unmatched by those who consider themselves to be perfect.

Perfection? No thank you. I would much rather embrace my inner mutt, regardless of the negative connotations of its definition. I would much rather be interesting. I would much rather be unique. I would much rather be imperfect in the best kind of way than be ordinary by anyone’s terms.

 

Do You Know the Muse-ic Man? March 10, 2013

I noticed something interesting about my blog posts this week: music is clearly one of my most reliable muses. It inspires me in ways that speak to my soul. So much of the music I enjoy is poetry that feeds my vocabulary set to brilliant chords and rhythms that spark my imagination. Six of the last eight of my blog posts incorporated music into either the title or the content. Let’s review:

1. Can’t Go Wrong, Phillip Phillips – I’ll take the best of what I can from my  mistakes/And now I know, now I  know I can’t go wrong, as long as I remember where I’m from/Hold  my head up just to keep it clear/I want a chance just to face my fear, face my fear

2. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette – Sometimes you wonder if this fight is worthwhile. The precious moments are all lost in the tide, yea. They’re swept away and nothing is what it seems, the feeling of belonging to your dreams. Listen to your heart when he’s calling for you.

3. Forever Young, Rod Stewart – May the good lord be with you/Down every road you roam/And may sunshine and happiness/Surround you when you’re far from home/And may you grow to be proud/Dignified and true/And do unto others/As you’d have done to you/Be courageous and be brave/And in my heart you’ll always stay/Forever young, forever young Forever young, forever young

4. Fix You, Coldplay – When you try your best but you don’t succeed/When you get what you want but not what you need/When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep/Stuck in reverse/And the tears come streaming down your face/When you lose something you can’t replace/When you love someone but it goes to waste/Could it be worse?/Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones/And I will try to fix you

5. Beautiful Day, U2

You’re on the road/But you’ve got no destination/You’re in the mud/In the maze of her imagination/It’s a beautiful day/Don’t let it get away/It’s a beautiful day

6. Brighter Than Sunshine, Aqualung

What a feeling in my soul/Love burns brighter than sunshine/Brighter than sunshine/Let the rain fall, I don’t care

Musing the Day Away

Bing defines muse as a verb as the action of thinking “about something in a deep and serious or dreamy and abstracted way,” according to Bing. While some prefer to do their deep thinking in silence, I do mine with the muse that is music.

 

Fear to Purpose: My Restoration Movement March 3, 2013

I sometimes wonder what the people who took care of me at the humane society would think of me now. I know my doggie adoption profile highlighted my ability to “sit” on command, said that I would probably be best in a home with children older than ten people years, and referenced behavioral issues I had in my past adoptive home. But I’ve been with my forever family for two and a half years now, and I’ve come such a long way.

In addition to “sit,” I can now catch, shake, lay down, rollover, play dead and give high fives and kisses like they’re going out of style. I’ve always gotten along with the little people in my life, all of whom were under the age of ten when I met them. And I will never forget the day my adoptive parents took me to the behaviorist (a required stop for me in the adoption process) and the behaviorist said I was one of the smartest and most well-behaved dogs with whom she had ever worked.

I guess you could call me the life-size doggie representation of restoration. Defined by Bing as giving someone or something new strength or vigor, my restored perspective on life is in line with that of Walter Scott, a spiritual man whose name is synonymous with the Restoration Movement.Bringing Fear to Purpose

“Look back, and smile on perils past,” he once said. You see, my personal experience has taught me to find value in the unhappiest of times because it is in those moments we find the most powerful sources of strength and perseverance. Just because I would prefer not to return to the Oshkosh Humane Society doesn’t mean I don’t find value in my time there.

I did spend the majority of my time in a cage questioning everything about my purpose in life, but in the meantime I met Rusty and several other unique canine characters and the people there took good care of me. Every day I feared I would never get adopted because I was too old or too hard to train. But I have found that fear, in these dark moments, brings purpose to those who let it. Now I welcome opportunities to bring fear to purpose in my life. Like Phillip Phillips reflects in “Can’t Go Wrong:”

I’ll take the best of what I can from my  mistakes
And now I know, now I  know
I can’t go wrong, as long  as I remember where I’m from
Hold  my head up just to keep it clear
I  want a chance just to face my fear, face my fear

Forget that garbage about only being able to sit and needing behavioral training. I think the people at the humane society would be proud of me for facing my fears and bringing purpose to my life.

 

A Simply Spiritual Sanctuary February 21, 2013

I’m no stranger to feeling like an outcast. To feeling neglected and misunderstood. My misfit memories bring back visions of loneliness and hopelessness I often try to forget. But today is a day to remember. Today is a day to reflect and paw it forward to my fellow outcasts and misfits.

Today is the day because of a dream I had last night that I was gifted a plot of land and endless resources to do with it what I pleased. I know it sounds silly to afford a terrier like myself with such a gift, but I did not hesitate. The choice was simple. I had heard about a foundation that was raising money not just to provide a sanctuary for outcasts like I once was, but to offer them a second chance at emotional freedom from rejection.

“Through the art of compassion, the continuously devastating issue of bullying in our country could be approached in an intensely impactful manner that encourages healthy relationships,” the ISF web site reads. “We will bring the bruised together as a family to learn just how unique–and just very the same–we all are…and how if we unite…we are NOT the outcast, we ARE the UNSTOPPABLE. We believe in the understanding that all living creatures deserve dignity, love, compassion and the right to life.”

Bing defines sanctuary as “a safe place, especially for (those) being persecuted.” I was lucky. I found my refuge when my adoptive parents brought me into my forever home. I find my refuge every day when I have food, water, and the love that ties it all together. Not a day goes my that I don’t wish that for all of my brothers and sisters who have yet to find it.

It was that easy in my dream. I wished for my land to become the ISF sanctuary and it happened. I was there with them somehow, and we were all happy together, united in our misfit and outcast spirits. The grass was a beautiful green, the birds were singing and all was well with the world. I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed to wake up.

I don’t know how it was that the sanctuary came to life in my dream. I wished the it to be and it was. It was that simple in my dream. If only it could be that simple in real life.