Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Gift November 14, 2014

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was freezing cold outside, but snow was falling in the peaceful way it does in a snow storm. I was watching Jo watch the flakes fall from heaven from my favorite vantage point snuggled against the crook of her tiny legs. Carols were playing softly in the background, and the house smelled like hot chocolate and cinnamon.

It was Christmas Eve, and though Jo and the man with the leather belt didn’t have much, the man found it in his (usually stone cold) heart to make something special of the holiday. There were presents wrapped under the Christmas tree he helped Jo and I decorate, and as Jo opened them I was overcome with the purest sense of joy as I watched the giddy glee take over her usually very serious face.Wiley Schmidt: Blogger

It didn’t occur to me in the least that something under the tree was for me. I had never gotten an actual Christmas present. Joy had always been enough. Or so I thought.

If I thought Jo was joyful as she received her gifts, that was nothing compared to how she embodied happiness as she handed me my gift. It was wrapped with pretty paper and a ribbon, which I remember thinking was so silly since I obviously couldn’t unwrap it myself. “To Wiley, from your Jo” she read the tag to me before tearing into the box. Out she pulled one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. A collar she put together using things she had around the house (ribbons, broken head bands and the like) and a shiny tag that read “Wiley.”

If dogs could cry, I would have been bawling. But alas, all I could do was lick her and love her even more than usual, which was no hardship for me by any means. That was the very first collar I had and in many ways it remains my favorite to this day.

It wasn’t all that long after that blessed day that I remember feeling my heart break when the man with the leather belt ripped my precious collar off that day he left me on the side of the road. I loved being Jo’s Wiley. I was her protector, and she was mine. I will never forget her, or that beloved collar she gave me.

But I realized many (many) blessed days later that it’s not about the collar. It’s about belonging. It’s about knowing where I belong. Where home is.

I know there are dogs who nip and scratch and tear at their collars. I’ve never been one of them. My collar says who I am, but more importantly it says what I am. I am somebody’s. I belong. My people have changed the collars themselves up a few times since finding my forever home, but the one I’m wearing now says it all. “Rescued” it reads. Having a home, and having reminder of that to call my own is the best gift I could ever be given.

 

Reason for the Season November 6, 2014

I think we all have them. Certain phrases or cliches that make us cringe at the mere utterance of the words. For me, it’s you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I openly despise these words, mostly because I know in my heart they are completely false. It’s that simple.

The truth is, I think this is one of many realities that translates from the four-legged to the two-legged world. Ageism is a problem in society, and it is one of the things in life I just don’t understand. With age comes life. Wisdom. Memories. These are things to be honored and respected, not tarnished by a silly stereotype. Let Your Heart Be Light

I know some people don’t like it when mom asks them how young they are, but I also know she has her reasons. And she asks the question the same way, whether she’s talking to a six-year-old or a 67-year-old. I heard it again today, as she interviewed an older woman and her husband who make appearances in our area as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Santa’s helpers, they called themselves.

They too spoke of this societal problem with age, as they focus their emotional efforts on keeping the magic of Christmas alive regardless of who they visit. And it pays off, because from day cares to nursing homes, the result is the same. They inspire a joy deep within you can’t lose with age. I would dare go as far as to say it only gets better with age, but that’s just my humble doggie opinion.

I know we all have opinions about things, just like we all have phrases that make us emotionally cringe. But that’s also the reason I found this a fitting message to share as we are at the helm of the holiday season. I know random acts of kindness become a lot less random this time of year. I know its easier to be joyful and happy as planning gets underway for fun family festivities and holiday parties.

But I also know it’s not the same for everyone. For some people, these next couple of months are a torturous three month reminder of a loved one lost. A parent, a friend, or a family member who used to breathe life into the holiday has now left a gaping hole in the heart where joy used to be.

Young or old, these people need us this year. They need our love. They need our support. They need our joy to be contagious. Because ultimately that is what the holiday season is all about.

 

The Day I Met Myself January 9, 2014

Wiley C. Schmidt. That is the name engraved on the new tag I got from my forever mom and dad recently. It was my Christmas present, mom said, a replacement for the one they got me the day I went home with them from the Oshkosh Humane Society. That one had tarnished over time to the point where a stranger would no longer be able to read mom’s contact information. (Heaven forbid!)

Just call me WileyI was surprised at how bittersweet it was for me to see that old tag go (I think mom put it with a memory box or something with my name on it). It also said Wiley C. Schmidt, and to me it symbolized something. A fresh start. A second chance. A new life. It was all of these things and more. Because that day when I walked into my forever home I felt like I met myself for the first time.

I think this happens to all of us at one point or another in life. We continue along the path, sometimes veering off on our own, other times stopping entirely. Along that path we find out what challenges us, what brings us joy, and what we absolutely cannot handle. And, whether by our choice or the strong encouragement of others, we find out who we are somewhere along the line.

That’s what happened to me that first night in my forever home. I made up my mind this would be my new life, and while there were plenty negatives in my old one, there were lots of positives to incorporate into my new future. Take my name, for example.

That was part of my old life that brought me into my new life. My people opted not to change it when they adopted me, which I appreciate. Because on that day all those days ago I knew it. I was Wiley C. Schmidt. I knew who I was and I was not afraid of it. So while it will always have a very special place in my heart, I know now I don’t need that old tarnished tag to remind me of who I am. Because I have that on lockdown in my heart.

 

An Open Apology to the Mail Man January 7, 2014

Apparently it’s called a mailbox. To me, it’s another post to pee on during my walks through the neighborhood. And it marks the entry to the driveway to my forever home. But at least from what I can tell this thing called a mailbox must be pretty special. It gets a special visitor almost every afternoon, who delivers a variety of things.

Love/hate is how I would describe my relationship with this visitor, who is also referred to by my people as the mail man. He usually visits when my people are away at that place called work, so I feel it is my duty to at least pay close attention (if not bark and/or whine) when he stops by. Observation has informed me he is not a hazard, but one can never be too careful.One Big Card

In addition, it seems he brings both good and bad news to my people. I don’t know what bills are, but he seems to bring a lot of those. We also get a fair share of junk mail and credit card offers. But today it was good news this man delivered. In multitude.

To say my people have been the slightest bit preoccupied lately is an understatement. There’s also been a bit of sleep deprivation. (Baby Carter wakes us several times a night, and together we wander our tired family around the house to accommodate his hunger). I would say it has probably been at least a week since they last checked the mailbox for good news or bad.

So it was a big old pile that (miraculously) only contained one bill and a bit of junk mail. The rest was joy. Holiday cards and baby congratulation cards and gifts made up the majority of the contents. Congratulations cards from great grandma Fran and great aunt Kandi (including one the size of baby Carter himself). Messages of love from great aunt Lesleigh. A Christmas card from our blog friend in Ohio. A special delivery from our blog friend in the United Kingdom. Within it, each contained a personal message of love and encouragement. And each card made mom cry because to her that wasn’t all they contained. Joy. From the ground up, it was had in today’s mail.

Maybe I owe the mail man an apology.

 

The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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Keeps On Giving December 29, 2013

It was dark. It was cold. And it was fun. That is, until it wasn’t. I ran away from grandma’s house tonight. I saw the back door open and I made a run for it. I love the way the brisk Wisconsin winter air ran through my fur as I ran around the block.

I followed two things: the scent of a nearby dog and the light from the main street nearby. I didn’t really hear dad and his brother Joe yelling after me at first. In fact, I figured they were simply joining in an especially exciting game of chase. But it wasn’t too long after that when my little adventure stopped being fun. Clearly Joe and dad misunderstood the rules of the game. Dad scooped me up and kept using several of my least favorite words.Sassy? Me?

Naughty. Bad. Sassy. I much prefer words like cute and cuddly, so you can imagine my dismay at hearing these words over and over as we made our way back to grandma’s house. There I was met with a whole host of emotions, the majority of which resembled the aftermath of minor heart attacks. Everyone had gathered in the kitchen. And everyone was concerned. Well, I guess you could say they were more than concerned. They were freaked. Especially mom, who kept saying something about a forecast with -25 degree wind chills tonight (whatever that means).

As I surveyed the rest of the faces of these people I’ve come to love, any of the residual wonderment I felt on my little jaunt lost its moxie and I felt nothing but remorse. It wasn’t that fun. And (now that they mention it) it was cold. And dark. And I’m not certain I would have known how to get back to grandma’s house without the help of dad and Joe. Maybe this whole adventure wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Because family offers its own kind of adventure you can’t find outside. We were all together to celebrate Christmas and there were all kinds of beautiful gifts for everyone. I made out like a bandit with treats and toys. But the best part of the night was the snuggles. I snuggled with whomever would let me, and in doing so I got the best gift of all in return. Love. The gift that keeps on giving.

 

A Spoonful of Sugar December 26, 2013

Apparently I have gotten a wee bit chubby. Maybe it was the tiny piece of leftover bacon I scored at brunch this morning. Or the doggie treats under any of the three Christmas trees I’ve visited in recent days. Whoever thought having a routine checkup the day after a major holiday clearly wasn’t giving me the benefit of the doubt.Do I look chubby?

Nonetheless, Dr. Morrison’s exact words to mom during today’s annual pilgrimage to the vet clinic echoed through the room. “We don’t want him to put on any more weight,” she said as she grabbed around by my hind quarters. Excuse me madam, I wanted to say, but I’d guess the majority of folks I know to be up a pound or two after the caloric splurge known as the holiday season.

Little did I know there were more stingers headed my way in the form of shots for things I don’t understand. Three shots, to be exact, each one a bit more painful than the last. That followed other poking and prodding, none of which was very pleasant. Overall, the experience was not my favorite thing in the world.

But it wasn’t the worst either. In spite of the aforementioned weight gain, I got all kinds of yummy treats. And the best part was when Dr. Morrison first came in to see me and asked how her “favorite terrier” has been doing. Or maybe it was when the veterinary nurse kept petting me and telling me how cute I am. Or when the doctor said she thinks I’m going to be a very good dog with my soon-to-be little person.

Either way, I realized something as I snuggled a little closer than usual into mom on the car ride home. We don’t always know what’s good for us. Like me, with my almost obsessive urge to sink my teeth into a piece of the apparent delicacy known as chocolate. Or my aversion to the vet clinic.

In reality, we all need checkups every now and then. Not just for our physical health, but also for our mental and spiritual well-being. And it’s not always easy to take the criticism and advice that comes along with these checkups. But we need them. And they’re definitely a little bit easier to take with a little sugar. Or compliments in my case (since I’m going to be watching my waistline more closely). That Mary Poppins was on to something. A spoonful of compliments makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.

 

Merry Little Christmas December 25, 2013

Tradition. It’s pretty important to especially my mom at this time of year. I’ve mentioned the traditions she’s put in place around wrapping Christmas presents and dancing like a ninny to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” There’s also certain movies we all cuddle up to watch together at given times throughout the season. (Tonight’s feature is “The Polar Express”). But amongst all of these, I think Christmas morning is my favorite.Let Your Heart Be Light

The best part is how simple it is. Mom and dad exchange their gifts to each other, I get a new toy, and we sit together listening to Christmas music. They snack on a special kind of chocolate they buy only for Christmas, and I feast on whatever treat shared a bag with the new toy. It’s a joyful moment in our home that I sincerely look forward to each year.

So you can imagine my surprise when tears made an appearance during the tradition this morning. I’ve become fairly attuned to these as my nine-month pregnant forever mom’s emotions have been a little unsteady lately. But these were truly challenging to decipher whether they were tears of joy or sadness. Bittersweet is the word I guess people use to describe what she was feeling.

This was confirmed as, about halfway through Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” she explained to dad that she was reveling in this last special Christmas morning with just the two of them while at the same time looking forward to the changes next year will bring with the little person around.

This has always been a favorite Christmas song of mine. I have my reasons, not the least of which is found in the soul of the lyrics of this beloved song. It celebrates everything I hold dear about the holidays, like time with loved ones and how we will always be together in spirit if not in person. But there is one line in particular that stood out to me within the context of this bittersweet moment with my mom this morning. “Let your hearts be light.”

Her heart seemed to be anything but light. And yet it was. Just as mine is and will continue to be regardless of the season. The light of joy burns in my heart and that glow is one that nothing can burn out. I’m not sure Mr. Sinatra meant it this way, but that’s my take.

Who knows what will happen with all of these beloved traditions next year when we are no longer two people and a dog. But that’s okay. Because things change. Families grow. And, if anything, that light burns even brighter than before.

 

To Keep Me Warm December 24, 2013

It was 2 a.m. when it occurred to me. This whole mom being nine months pregnant thing is disrupting my sleep schedule almost as much as it is for her and dad. I’m up every time she’s up (which is more and more frequent lately). Certainly she can’t go wherever she’s going alone. Someone has to watch over her to make sure she’s safe wandering the house in the dark.

Loving the Treats!So I follow her wherever she wanders off to, regardless of the time and frequency. Today during our 2 a.m. rendezvous I was overcome with two very impactful pieces of information. First, that it is Christmas Eve. Day one of two of mom’s most favorite days of year. And second, it is freezing outside. Literally. It was 2 degrees at 2 a.m. in our part of the world today. Even when you’re used to it as us Wisconsinites are, weather this brisk still has a way of taking your breath away.

Showing Some LoveBut then again, so does this emotion that seems to overwhelm all members of my forever family at this special time called Christmas. Love. From the ground up, it is all around this time of year. I know because I show it in my extra cuddles. And my doggie kisses. And my tail wags. I share it in every way I know how. And it inevitably comes back to me in droves. It seems to be another one of those emotions that comes alive in its contagiousness.

And it’s not really something we even think about. Real love does. It radiates from us in everything we do, and in doing so creates a distinctive warmth that is sure to spread to the next person ready to receive its glow. Real love is. It becomes us to the point where we aren’t sure which came first – the love of the giver or the receiver.

It was 2 p.m. when things came full circle in my heart. I welcomed mom’s side of the family into my forever home for an afternoon and evening of joy and love. Sure, there were presents. And pretty ribbons. And treats. But none of that mattered as much as the love I felt in the room. At 9 degrees, it was still incredibly brisk outside. But that was outside. Inside it was warm, not just from the heat we are blessed to have but through the love in the air. Tonight I rest easy because (as Frank Sinatra croons in the age-old Christmas carol) I’ve got my love to keep me warm.Love Is

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Dive On In December 20, 2013

I don’t know why she does this to herself. Last year with a bum knee. This year nine months pregnant. It seems nothing will cause mom to so much as reconsider hosting her annual Christmas party. Both times I listened as she assured her guests beforehand that it would be “low key” given “her condition.” And both times I watched as that is far from what happened.

She inevitably hustles around the kitchen up until the very last minute when the first guest arrives, regardless of her “condition.” Sure, there are the staples that grace the table of deliciousness that is strategically placed just beyond my reach. There are the chips and dips and cheese trays. But there are also the extras like the ham and cheese puffs and cranberry bliss bars. And then the guests come.

It started with Jess and Rich and baby Alexis. One by one, the group grew to include several people I’ve come to know and love. It wasn’t long before everyone was sitting together enjoying samples of the variety of delicacies. And that’s when I saw it. Joy. From the ground up, it was radiating from mom.

It was subtle. I don’t think anyone else even noticed. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Her sigh wasn’t one of stress or exhaustion. It was a sound that somehow embodied everything about the spirit of the season. She was sitting in the living room surrounded by people she holds dear to her heart. All was well in her world in that moment.

So I think I get it now. I understand why mom does this to herself, with the bustling around the kitchen and the ham and cheese puffs. It’s the same reason I choose to share my unique perspective on joy with the world. It’s a reason that has not changed in all 365 days of my blogging journey. True joy, like what I saw in mom tonight, is meant to be shared. “Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle,” as English novelist Terry Pratchet once wrote. “It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” It’s a feeling to embrace this time of year. More importantly, it’s a feeling to share. So dive on in. The water is warm.A Few of My Favorite Things