Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Does That Make Me Bad? June 6, 2013

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:28 pm
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I did something kind of crazy today. It was one of those moments when my nature completely took over my mind. And in the blink of an eye, it was too late. I peed on my mom at the dog park this afternoon. There, I said it. (Even worse, I did it).

Proud of SelfThis, from the dog who has never (seriously, never) tinkled or pooped in my forever home. I don’t even like when I can’t help it and throw up by the back door on occasion. I know the rules, and don’t make a habit of breaking them. But I did today.

I can’t explain it. One minute I was wrestling with my golden retriever pal Boone, and the next minute he was peeing on my mom’s leg. Like a fire hose. On her surgery leg. The leg that has been to hell and back in the last year and has the scars to prove it. My reaction was instinctual: back up off it, dude! That’s my mom you’re marking! My mom? My MOM!?

That’s when it happened. Up went my leg, and the rest is dog park history. I knew as I was doing it I was in the wrong. I shouldn’t have made matters worse, and yet I couldn’t help myself.

Then I remembered something. It was like a memory coming full circle. It was the day my parents brought me home from the humane society, and we made a stop at Petco (where the pets go) for a crate. Right there in the middle of the store, I lifted my leg and peed on my dad’s leg. I was so excited and overwhelmed and happy and (I didn’t know it yet) in love.

So I did something kind of crazy today. I peed on my mom’s leg. I never do stuff like that. But the more I thought about why I did it, the less guilty I felt about it. It’s the same reason I marked my dad in the Petco that day. They are my people, I love them, and I’ve peed on both of them. I’m over it. I don’t plan on doing it again (unless provoked), but I don’t regret it. Does that make me bad?

 

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.