Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Homeless and Hungry April 2, 2014

“Homeless and hungry.” That’s what I read on a cardboard sign being held by a person on the side of the road not far from my beloved dog park the other day. As we drove by, I was instantly overcome with empathy for the man.

He looked not that unlike myself when I was in his paws. He was scraggly. Dirty. Generally unkempt. And skinny. Goodness gracious, was he skinny. During my time on the streets, all of these things could have been said of me too. I’m not proud of it. It’s nothing I prefer to broadcast. But I was kind of a mess.

I’ve said before that home is where the heart is. Well, when you don’t have a home neither does your heart. It’s an awful place to be. I’m not going to lie – it was pretty easy to push it out of my mind as I explored my beloved park. It’s one of my happy places, after all.

But when I got home I was reminded. Not just because I was home and warm and enjoying a feast of delicious doggie kibble. It’s because of what happened next. I was enjoying some beautiful rays of sunshine and warmth in my backyard paradise on one of the first warmer days of the year when it happened.

My cat friend Penny came over. She had news. And it wasn’t good. Her person, the person that is home to her, is gone. Dear Rose took a turn for the worse that day and went to heaven, she told me. It’s not my first time hearing about this place called heaven that I frequently dream about. It’s my opinion (mostly because it’s mom’s opinion) that if it’s called heaven it is heaven to whoever goes there. Meaning there is most definitely a place for pets in this place, since I know I would be in mom’s version of heaven.

That’s when I realized dear Penny didn’t seem nearly as lost as I thought she would at the reality of her news. Because that’s when she said something truly profound.

Life is like an airport terminal on our way back home to heaven, she said. Now I’ve never been to an airport terminal, but it is certainly a concept I can wrap my little doggie mind (and heart) around. In that moment, I was overcome with empathy for Penny and her loss, but also for the homeless man.

It might be hard to remember sometimes. Especially when things get rough. But in those moments it is most important that we remember something I was reminded of by Penny today. We may go through bouts where we are hungry, but we are never truly homeless. We all do have a home to return to someday.

 

Circle of Love March 29, 2014

I don’t get out much. Between the never-ending frigidness that has been this winter and my forever people’s recent attachment to being home with my little person, it’s a reality of life lately. Walks around the neighborhood have been fairly nonexistent in this weather. Car rides are few and far between. And the dog park has been covered either in feet of snow or layers of ice for months. Such is life.Circle of Love

Every time I find myself feeling down about it something magical happens. This morning it happened during snuggle time. It’s always been part of Saturday morning in the Schmidt home in one way or another but its been different since baby Carter came home.

Until today. Today was special somehow because I was nestled between dad and Carter, and Carter was snuggled on mom, who was holding hands with dad. There we were. The four of us. Our own little circle of love. In that moment nothing outside that circle mattered.

The moment passed, the day went on, and I didn’t think it could get any better. But it did. Because today, after what feels like a very long time without leaving the house, I got to go on a car ride. Better yet, the car ride was to see extended members of the circle of love at Grandma Schmidt’s house.

My time there today more than made up for all of the time inside this winter. Not because I was the center of attention. That role obviously went to baby Carter. (It’s okay. I’m used to it.) Today I felt so much warmth, so much joy, it melted all that remains of winter away. It doesn’t matter whether it happens at my forever home or elsewhere. I was born to be with these people. From the ground up, such is life.

 

 

Dodging Bullets November 25, 2013

I’ve dodged my fair share of bullets in my five years of doggie life. Not literally (obviously) but figuratively. Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. I’ve been attacked in all of these ways and yet I have remained intact.

I made it safely out of a sticky situation in the road with some cars the day I got separated from my birth mom and brothers. I survived an attack by another dog at the dog park. My mom persevered through the struggle to adopt me (it wasn’t an easy process because I’d already been returned once before). These are all things I’ve lived through. I’d go as far as to call them my life’s biggest close calls.Dodging Bullets

But I’m not sure anything lived up to the moment I experienced today on the car trip to the groomer. Because today it wasn’t just my life in danger. It was my forever mom’s life. And the future little person’s life. And it was terrifying.

It was snowing – the first somewhat significant snowfall in Wisconsin this winter – and it was beautiful. I love everything about snow. I love the stillness it brings, and the method in which it is delivered. Except for today. Today it was danger personified. One minute we were safe. The next the car felt slippery and out of control. I thought for sure we were going to hit something.

My heart raced. My body shook. Time stood still. (Apparently it’s this way for people too). Then the moment passed. The car was back under control like nothing had happened. I didn’t stop shaking. My heart kept a steadily fast pace. But we were okay. We were safe. All three of us were safe.

I’ve had my fair share of what you could refer to as close calls. This one was different. Because it wasn’t about me. It was about my forever person and my future little person. I’ve got plans for us – big plans – and in that moment nothing was more important than that.

“It’s our challenges and obstacles that give us layers of depth and make us interesting,” suggested American actress and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres. ” Are they fun when they happen? No. But they are what make us unique.”

The snow taught me yet another beautiful lesson today. It’s one I’m sure I already knew, but I certainly welcome the reminder. My people are more important to me than myself. Their safety, their happiness, their joy comes before my own. I don’t care how many bullets I need to dodge to protect that truth.

 

Rear View Mirror November 15, 2013

It has many faces and wears many hats. But the faces scare me and (let’s be honest) hats are not a dog’s best friend. Evil. It’s become such a foreign concept to me in my forever home, that it’s commonplace for me to forget it exists altogether.

Then I see something like I did on the side of the road on the way to the dog park, and it all comes rushing back. I know mom saw it too, and neither of us knew what to do. It was startling. So we drove on, and I wondered whether that was really the right thing to do. A man and a woman were arguing by a car when it happened. The man took the woman by the neck and (rather violently) threw her toward the nearby ditch. I was relieved to see them both get in the car and drive away from the safety of the rear view mirror.

Rear View MirrorWe made it to the park a few minutes later and I found myself lost in my thoughts as mom and I walked together on the trail. I realized that’s kind of the embodiment of evil in my life. The rear view mirror. It’s in my past, behind me and forgotten. And for that I am so grateful. But it’s not that way for everyone. Seeing what happened to that poor woman on the side of the road today was proof enough of that.

Maybe I’ve been going about this concept of evil all wrong. Just because something is in the mirror doesn’t mean it’s not really there. It’s there, alive and real, and ready to take the wheel if we let it. It does no good to pretend it isn’t.

Evil. My journey through life has led me to believe it has many faces and wears many hats. It’s that man on the side of the road. It’s in the eyes of Demon Dog in my backyard. It was in the hands of the man with the leather belt. It’s in the worry currently consuming my people. The faces of evil scare me and (let’s be honest) hats are not a dog’s best friend. But that’s no reason to ignore it altogether.

“Wisdom we know is the knowledge of good and evil,” suggested American writer John Cheever, “not the strength to chose between the two.” It’s an easy choice to me. What’s more challenging is looking in that rear view mirror, acknowledging the evil that exists, and moving on. Make them wonder why you’re smiling. Because good ultimately wins that battle every time.

 

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.

 

From the Ground Up October 28, 2013

Scientists claim us canines can understand somewhere between 100 and 200 people words. I say that’s hogwash. What these calculations can’t account for is our keen awareness of human emotion, which so frequently is hard to encapsulate into a word.Gaining Perspective

Treat. Outside. Dog park. These are words a dog comes to know. Sit, lay down, roll over. These are tricks of the canine trade. But love, faith, forgiveness and loyalty? These are words to live by. In a constantly evolving language, these words remain steadfast.

I have never been a big supporter of the “less is more” philosophy, but perhaps there is some insight to be gained from it in the case of conversation. Sometimes less really is more, given the understanding is there to aid in translation. My favorite Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran challenged that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

I know mine certainly wouldn’t be treats, outside, dog park, sit, laydown and rollover. Mine would be the foundations from which all other language could be understood. Forgiveness. Compassion. Loyalty. Love. Laughter. Faith. Joy. From the ground up, these would be my seven words of choice because these are words us canines know inside and out.

We don’t hold grudges. We know when to be still and listen. We pause (in all our overwhelmed excitement) to welcome our loved ones home whether they’ve been gone five minutes or five days. We love unconditionally – and find creative ways to show it. We know how to bring fun to the party. We know who we are – and embrace it. We have faith in ourselves, which enables us to have faith in others. And, through it all, we know how to bring the light of joy into the darkest of situations.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life,” Gibran suggested, “not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Scientists have their theories. And maybe they’re right. But they didn’t account for the unique perspective we canines bring to human emotion. Literally and figuratively, there’s this thing about the attitude I chose to bring to life. When you see life from the ground up as I do, you are already on the ground. Regardless of how you got there, you are at ground zero. And there is no where to go but up.

 

The Time Wings October 27, 2013

I don’t think I’d call myself a morning doggie. Like many of my canine comrades, I like my sleep. Though I prefer to call my daytime naps daydreams, let’s be honest. I’m sleeping. I sleep a lot.

Not only that, but I have this whole sleepy morning routine. I snuggle my way into what I guess people call a spooning situation with either mom or dad until it’s time for them to wake up. Then I keep them company while they get ready to go to that place called work. I have a special spot in the bathroom (on the rug I’m certain they place on the tile especially for me) where I watch the chaos unfold.

JoyThen I usually sneak back on the bed and snuggle into the pillows until it’s time for them to leave. At that point, I move to my doggie bed in the kitchen where I get a treat. I think the treat is meant to neutralize my disappointment at their leaving, but obviously it’s just a treat. It’s not my people. So I daydream my mornings away where (in my mind at least) I’m running around the dog park or exploring new places with my people.

All of this takes a holiday on weekends. And while I am inexplicably motivated by routine, this is one routine I don’t mind veering away from. Because I wouldn’t say I’m a morning doggie, but there is one kind of morning I can’t get enough of. Weekend mornings are my favorite. Every weekend is different, and not all mornings are the same, but there is something that seems to happen regardless. Time stands still. For just a few moments, the outside world ceases to exist. We three (soon to be four) musketeers embrace the time together.

It doesn’t have to be in the morning. Or on the weekends. But I think it’s so important to take these moments every now and then to pause to embrace those you love. “Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs to slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings,” wrote French romanticist Victor Hugo.

I wouldn’t say I’m a morning doggie. But there is something about mornings I look forward to each day. Those precious moments, no matter how fleeting, are the wings with which we fly.

 

The Great Greek Yogurt Caper October 14, 2013

I’ve heard this song about how girls just want to have fun? Well let me tell you, I think this is true of dogs regardless of our sex. My tale of fun today began with mom’s container of Blueberry Acai Greek Yogurt.

I was really only after the yogurt. Needless to say, I got a lot more than I bargained for with that one. I did not get any yogurt (apparently it’s not for doggies); instead I got a bout of hysterical laughter right in my face. And I didn’t mind it one little bit.

You see, us canines have a way of getting what we want. I know I have mentioned it before. The look. And today my employment of the look involved the use of unexpected props. I put my adorably cute little face right in the crook of the book mom was reading while she snacked on her yogurt. The Happiness Project I think it’s called. Well I got right up in that happiness and donned my most sincerely loving face. It looked something like this:Please can I have some yogurt?

The laughter that followed (almost) made up for not getting any yogurt. And if that didn’t, what happened next most definitely did. “Do you want to go to the dog park Wiley?” she asked. Silly mom. Of course I do. The answer to that question is always yes.

A few minutes later we were in the car ride and I could barely contain my excitement. We haven’t been to the park in a while, ever since I overheard some of the people telling mom about a three-legged dog starting all kinds of fights there recently. I’d already had my run-in with death at that park (the time the scary dog swung me around by my neck atop a picnic table), and I’m not fixing for a rerun episode of that any time soon.

But after a quick survey of the people and dogs in attendance today, it was deemed safe to enter. In I went and instantly I came across a new friend named Belle. Also a rescue, she is about the same age as myself and we got along immediately. We wagged and wrestled and chased and wagged some more. Simply put, we had fun.

Girls just want to have fun? Certainly this was true of my new friend Belle. But it’s not just a girl thing. I may not have scored any yogurt today, but the look certainly got its money’s worth of fun. And perhaps more importantly, I got a reminder of how important it is to get silly and let loose from time to time.

“We are driven by five genetic needs,” suggested American psychiatrist William Glaser, “survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.” Sometimes I think it’s too easy for us to get caught up in the more obvious of the needs (like survival) that we forget to have a little fun every now and then. That certainly was not the case today. Fun. From the ground up, it was had today.

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Your Teacher Heart September 16, 2013

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. (Want to go …anywhere…is not the question, in case you were wondering). How did you get so smart? They ask. Even if I could speak people, I’m not sure what my answer would be.

The thing is, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly smart. I’m not (that) special. Perhaps that’s why people think I’m smart. Because I’ve noticed a trend in modern society that people generally are not as smart as they think they are. A concept I think can go both ways.

Psychology aside, I do sometimes wonder where “smart” comes from. It’s not among the list of qualities American author John Grogan said seem to come so effortlessly to dogs: “loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love.” Grogan hypothesizes these emotions that are second nature to canines can be “elusive to humans.”

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but it does spark a curiosity in my heart. And I beg to differ with the popular thought that curiosity killed the cat. First, because I think it’s a terrible thing to say even if it is theoretical. Second, because I think curiosity of the heart is the ultimate spark for learning.Love. Unplugged.

This occurred to me today as I dreamed of meeting my little person and all he or she has to learn about the world. I found myself both excited and overwhelmed by the insight of my dog park friend Tucker, who shared with me all about his little person Mason. They are best buddies, and they are constantly learning from each other. But Mason is 13 people years old now. My little person will be brand new to the world the same time he or she is brand new to me. Talk about pressure.

Then I took a deep sighing breath (the kind that catches the attention of my forever mom and inevitably merits a scratch behind the ears) as I realized something that gave me the sincerest form of peace. I don’t know what I’m so worried about. My heart is my teacher. That’s why things like loyalty and selflessness come so easy to me. It’s all rooted in the unconditional love in my heart.

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. How did you get so smart? Beyond the people/dog language barrier lies their answer. I’m not. Not in the conventional sense at least. But I do know where smart comes from. It comes from a curiosity of the heart. It stems from a desire to be loyal, devoted, selfless and optimistic. It is love.

This post is dedicated to my dear blog friend Utesmile, whose encouragement inspired these words.

 

On Neighborly Physics September 9, 2013

We all have at least one in our lives. One character we wish we had never met. One friend gone bad. One neighbor we can’t stand.

For me, it’s Demon Dog in the backyard behind mine. He scares me, irritates my people, and I fear for the threat he could be to the safety of my future little person.

For my newest dog park pal Tucker, it’s the neighbor man who lives next door to his forever home. He sounds like an angry person always carries a strong chemical smell I’ve come to recognize as alcohol on his breath. I didn’t say anything, but (at least from what I hear) he sounds like the man with the leather belt I once knew. I shudder to think of Tucker being exposed to such things. And Tucker shudders to think of the influence this man could have on the little people he oversees.

Since being at my forever home, I don’t think I’ve come across too many proverbial bad seeds. But I’m also not sure what the best course of action is when we cross paths with these sorts of characters on our journey through life. Every situation is different, but I think what brings each one together is a commonality of understanding. Ultimately we all have at least one of these people in our lives.Love thy neighbor

But how lucky we are to have this be the exception rather than the rule. I was reminded of this recently when I finally got to offer my condolences (in the form of some kisses and cuddles) to the next-door neighbor whose husband went to heaven a couple months ago. I can tell she is still very sad, but I think my love helped (at least a little) to bring a little sunshine into her day.

Mom talked to her too, about how she’s doing and life in general. Mom told Mary (that’s her name) about the baby and how she’s been struggling to stay active during pregnancy. What happened next surprised us both. Mary said my mom is welcome to use her pool as often as she’d like, at least until she drains and covers it for the winter.

It might sound like a small thing, but to my mom it was a pretty big deal. Ever since her knee surgery last November she’s wanted to get back into swimming. But something (I think it was fear) was holding her back. She used to swim competitively (a concept I’ll never understand – why would you intentionally spend all that time in the water?) and was afraid of how out of shape she’d be when she picked it up again. It turns out it wasn’t that bad at all, and she’s been going swimming a few times a week ever since.

We all have a few of them in our lives. A character we are so glad we met. A friend who will do anything for us. A neighbor who makes a difference. With all this good in our lives, what power is there in the bad? It reminds me of the scientific belief of English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he theorized.

I think there’s all kinds of ways we can choose to approach the negative people in our lives. I avoid Demon Dog at all costs. And I know Tucker will do whatever he can to protect his little people from the awful neighbor man. But all this thinking about neighbors served as a reminder that the negative influences are the exception not the rule. If anything, they make us appreciate the positive people in our lives that much more.