Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

If It Wasn’t This July 31, 2013

I don’t get it. Car rides are joyous occasions. More often than not, the journey leads to exciting destinations. Not today.

Today I witnessed something terrible from my perch in the passenger seat. Today I witnessed death. There I was, safe and secure in my one of my happiest places, and there it was. I counted three mangled cars, and watched in horror as two people and a little person were carried away in beds with wheels. There was a Disney Princesses backpack in the road. Everything about the scene broke my little doggie heart.

As we pulled away, I listened as mom said a prayer for all those involved as well as their families. And we didn’t make it to the dog park. It took five times the normal amount of time to get there because of the accident (and no, it wasn’t just my perception of time moving at a snail’s pace) and mom had to get home to fix dinner.

Drive safely

I didn’t mind going home. I don’t recall ever seeing something like that before, and I was truthfully a little shook by it all. “It really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it Wiley?” mom said to me as she filled my bowl with kibble later. “Had I gotten home from work a few minutes sooner, that could have been us.”

It all reminded me of a line from a favorite flick of mine called Elizabethtown. “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.” Talk about perspective. It’s so easy for me to think the world is coming to an end when I can’t remember where I “buried” Mrs. Prickles for the night. Or when mom comes home an hour or two later than usual. But really it’s not. Really it could be so much worse.

And it was worse – a lot worse – for that little person whose backpack I saw in the street. Mom followed the news of the crash and told dad the whole story over dinner. The little girl died. She will never wear her Disney Princesses backpack again. It makes me want to cry people tears just thinking about it.

Instead I will remember that if it wasn’t this, it would be something else. Mom was incredibly frustrated when she got home from that place called work later than usual. But I’m happy it happened. If it wasn’t this it would be something else. I could have been in a car crash today. A few minutes earlier and I would have been. And my mom would have been too. I shudder to think of what could have happened.

I realize now that it isn’t (always) the destinations that make car rides such a happy thing for me. I don’t even mind waiting patiently in the car while mom runs errands (which sounds exhausting to me anyway). My people are my world, and when they take me with them on people adventures I get the impression the feeling is mutual.  Car rides are joyous for me because of who I’m with, not where I’m going. Today I’m grateful for this and nothing else.

 

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.

 

A Matter of Life and Death June 7, 2013

It’s remarkable to me how often life and death coincide. They seem cyclical, somehow thriving on each other through various moments that piece together the days of our lives. Life and death. Death and life. Forever entwined in their differences. I experienced this puzzle firstpaw today, when twice I saw my life flash before my eyes. Once in life and once in death.

Mom uses the word “sassy” to describe what happened when she let me outside this morning. Usually I wait outside the door while she hooks me to my lead, but there was no waiting period to be had this morning. Not with an entire family of bunnies within my reach! I chased after them, but their head start eluded me and I instead ended up exploring the back portion of the yard I so infrequently visit due to my lead.

And before I knew it, I was face to face with Crazy Dog. That’s right – the neighbor pit bull who has (unfortunately) never had any training (obedience or otherwise). The dog whose eyes terrify me to the bones. I didn’t have a moment to think before he came at me through the fence, panting and bearing his teeth. There he was, close enough I could feel his breath on my face, ready to attack me in my own backyard. An as I saw my life flash before my eyes, my instincts told me to ready for the fight. Yet in that same moment mom scooped me up and carried me inside before I could do anything about it.

Running FreeSuddenly I was thankful for that lead again, but even more so for my increasingly regular trips to the dog park. If I can’t explore my backyard, at least I can run freely there. So you can imagine my excitement today when mom and I discovered a new dog exercise area nearby. It’s more expansive than the other one I’ve been to with a lot more space to run and roam and explore. And run, roam and explore I did.

As I ran to mom when she called me across the field, it didn’t matter that I was a football field away from her. It didn’t matter that there were several humongous puddles of mud between me and her (which promptly soaked my recently groomed self to the bone with a mud bath). All that mattered in that moment was how alive I felt in it. It’s remarkable how moments in time can make us feel so alive. My life flashed before my eyes again, this time lit brilliantly with the glow of gratitude.

My experiences today reminded me a bit of the thoughts of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. “Life and death are one thread,” he said, “the same line viewed from different sides.” Today I saw the single line from both sides. Today I stared sudden (seemingly imminent) death in the eye and smiled. Today I felt alive in moments of life and death. It really is remarkable how often those two realities coincide.

 

Dear Future Me March 1, 2013

My neighborhood pal Sammy made an appearance in my backyard today. His parents let him wander around without a leash. I envy that about him. Family is at the core of his life too, with his parents and his grandparents both living in a couple of houses down the road from us.

He is one of the older and wiser dogs in the neighborhood, and I have come to respect him a great deal. We’ve had our fair share of playtime in the snow, wrestling in the mud, and moments when I’ve been able to learn from his mysteriously silent demeanor. I’m always surprised by what I learn from our sporadic moments of silence together. Like many, today’s lesson came as quite a surprise to me.

Unlike Sammy’s parents, mine make a point to leash me in our almost-completely-fenced-in backyard. My lead allows me to roam the majority of the yard, but no further. I know it is for my own protection, but I didn’t understand why until today. I overheard my parents discussing this issue and couldn’t help but pay close attention. If you put him on his leash, dad said, there is no reason we shouldn’t have at least 12-14 more years with him. What a morbidly awful thing to overhear. Yet it brings to the surface something I see in Sammy, who has had some serious health issues lately: I won’t be around forever. My days are numbered. And like Pope John Paul II said, “the future starts today, not tomorrow.”

My future starts today with reflections of my past and present. My adoptive parents are already so attached to me, I can’t say where their emotions will be after 12-14 more years. And I know part of their plan is to adopt another dog when I start to get older to ease with the unavoidable truth that they will most likely outlive me. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love them unconditionally and can say with all honesty that I will die happy knowing my successor is in place to make sure they keep smiling after I’m gone.

But my encounter with Sammy today reminded me there are some things the future me needs to know. Abraham Lincoln once said “the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” So today I make it a point to bring the future to life by penning a detailed letter to my future me.

Dear future me,

I know if you’re reading this, it means I am living the high life in doggie heaven. Sadly that means I have left the life of love and gratitude in my forever home, but fortunately for both of us you are there to fill my paw prints. I’m a simple dog, and I don’t have any reason to believe my paw prints will be too big for you to fill. But there are some things you need to know:

1) No doesn’t really mean no if you sit nicely and make a cute enough face.
2) Try not to pester dad too much at night. I know he secretly loves the interaction, but he needs his quiet alone time to reboot too.
3) Mom is pretty special. Don’t let her forget it.
4) Being “emotionally needy” is a compliment, not a criticism.
5) Barking at all sorts of animals on the moving picture window (animated, robotic, live, or otherwise) is not acceptable, whereas barking to protect from any kind of wrongdoing most definitely is acceptable.
6) Find something to be thankful for each day, then find a way to share the gratitude you feel.
7) Never turn down affection. It’s always a good time for a hug.
8) Dance like no one’s watching (this is one of mom’s favorite things to do).
9) Love with all your heart and life will never let you down.
10) Live each day like it were your last walk around the dog park.

You should know there is so much more I wish I could tell you. I am fortunate enough to have had many mentors in my days who have taught me so much either by their actions or their words. One of the most important things they taught me was to believe in myself and the power I have to share joy with the world. You share that same potential. Know that joy is yours to find and yours to share in all you do.Dear Future Me

Forever yours,
Wiles