Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Eye of the Beholder June 29, 2014

Apparently it’s not just me. It happens to other doggies all the time regardless of breed or upbringing. It’s common regardless of whether it is a rescue dog or a pup from a breeder. Good dogs fail (and subsequently) drop out of obedience school all the time. While I figured this had to be the case, I would be lying if I said the news of this did not allow me to breathe a measurable sigh of relief. All In the Eyes

Because I might not have a pretty piece of paper that says I graduated from puppy school. To this day, I struggle with basic commands like heel and down (I can’t help it that I get excited). But I would argue what I have is better than any of these things. I have the deepest and sincerest love in my heart. For my beloved forever people. For their families. For life. Joy. From the ground up, I have it in these things.

I was reminded of this today when I shared a special (albeit routine) glance with my beloved forever mom. We have an unspoken language of love, her and I, and it happened again today. Dear baby Carter has been doing this thing where he gets up on all fours like he’s going to crawl and then just sort of bounces there for several minutes at a time. If anything, he moves backward instead of forward. Nonetheless, it’s become somewhat of a sideshow around here lately and when it happened tonight, mom and dad dropped everything to live in the moment.

Meanwhile, I stood by watching this all unfold. I didn’t feel badly and certainly didn’t need any reassurance that I was part of the group. But I got it anyway. I stayed out of harm’s way several feet from the action but this I could not miss. She looked at me and smiled and I saw right through her eyes into her heart in that moment. She loves me as she always did.

It’s funny, I didn’t need obedience school to read my mom’s thoughts. Nor did she need the classes to communicate to me. It reminds me of the words of dog trainer Fred Jungclaus, who said “I used to look at my dog and think if you were a little smarter you could tell me what you’re thinking and he’d look at me like he was saying if you were a little smarter, I wouldn’t have to.” I don’t want to brag, but I think mom and I have it under control. I don’t need a pretty piece of paper to know this in my heart as truth.

 

The Truth About Garbage April 11, 2014

It didn’t end well. This afternoon I decided I was going to do something I’ve never done before. I’ve been plotting it for quite some time, but never had the guts to follow through. I’m not sure what it was in my mind that finally convinced me to do it. All I know is it happened. And the rest is history.

I knocked down the garbage can in the kitchen today. It smelled like ham and apples and cheese and rice and beans and corn and peas. I love peas. I don’t know what came over me. All of a sudden, I was overcome with this urge to get in there and pick out all of that goodness for myself. I never understand how my forever people can throw such gems away. I cringe when I see leftover bacon or any kind of bones go in there. Enough is enough, I thought to myself.Did I do that??

It was quite the feast, and I ate everything in a matter of minutes. Next came the aftermath. Not only was I in (really big) trouble, but I paid for it. Apparently garbage is garbage for a reason. It’s not good anymore. I’m not generally a trouble maker, so getting scolded was almost as bad as the tummy ache that followed. Almost.

I certainly learned my lesson. (At least until my nose overtakes my mind again). Philosophically speaking, I am still a believer in the theory that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. But when it comes to that garbage, it is a lesson I already knew. I just didn’t realize it. My instincts told me my people would not keep treasure from me on purpose. In the back of my mind, I knew there must have been a reason for every single time I’ve made a pass at the garbage can in the past, I was scolded.

I should have known I could trust my instincts. I thought my nose knew better. I was wrong. And it didn’t end well

“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry,” suggested Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, “but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.”

There is obviously no poetry in garbage. But there is wisdom in knowing the value of instinct. That is the lesson I learned today.

 

Riding in the Backseat March 14, 2014

This whole time I thought I had them both trained. Hoodwinked, if you will. In most respects, it is me they have trained, but not this one. This one was mine. This one I had in the bag. At least until today.

For almost four years, I have had my choice of seating on car rides. Front seat. Passenger seat. Back seat. They were all mine for the taking, regardless of what person of mine may be also occupying that spot. And it has been a variety of folks – from my great-grandparents to my new little person, it has been a variety of folks to share my place with. I just shove my cute little behind into the spot and give the person “the look” and they can’t say no.

That all changed today. Today I got in the car to discover some sort of seat contraption that appeared to be crafted in a way to limit my seating choices. The way it was installed communicated that I was to stay in the backseat regardless of my previous communication of appreciation for the front seat. I very much liked my spot with mom and/or dad in the commander seating that is the front seat and felt like I had been somehow disbarred.

That is until I remembered it isn’t just mom and dad anymore. Now it’s mom and dad and baby Carter. My little person. And he is safely secured in what I can only describe as an incredibly sturdy space shuttle of a car seat in the back seat I formerly despised.

I will be honest – I still prefer the front seat with my forever mom and dad. But at least the silver lining of this newly enforced regulation seems to be two fold. First, that dad insists its safer for me than if I were in front in the case there would be a crash. And second, that I get to be with my little person.

He’s not very aware yet, but he’s getting there. He’s started smiling responsively to my people, which makes them happy, which makes me happy. And I hope someday soon he responds to me like baby Alexis who smiles and giggles with glee in my presence.

Until then, I’m still happy to be sharing the backseat with him because I know there is more to it than that. From the backseat I can be his buddy. From the backseat I can be his friend. Really that is what matters in the long run. Amidst all that I can’t even remember why I cared about the front seat so much anyway.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed February 1, 2014

The way I see it, they don’t exist. And yet, every now and then, mom says something that seems so strange. It’s such a foreign idea to me, and yet it must be true. Not everyone is a dog person Wiley, she says, usually in response to me doing something she deems intrusive to one of our visitors. (Jumping into their arms the second they sit on the couch, for example).

How can that be? We are so great. We protect. We love unconditionally with all of our being. We never judge. We listen better than most people I know. There is a reason we are called man’s best friend. And yet, if mom says it, I suppose there might be some truth to this idea that perhaps not everyone who comes to my forever home is a dog person.

Most recently, it happened when mom’s friend was over for dinner. I have this habit of scavenging for any bits of crumbs that may have made their way onto the clothes of people when they are done eating. This, of course, follows another habit I’ve been trying to kick (and failing miserably) known as begging throughout the people eating process. I blame my starved puppyhood for my instinct to sniff out any lost bits of delicious smelling food I can. But I digress as apparently these are not behaviors of a “well-mannered” canine.Selfie with the non-dog lover

Regardless of my reasons, I’m definitely a cuddle bug. (At least that is what mom calls me). I snuggle and burrow into places I barely fit all the time just to be close to people. To show them my love. So when mom says this about not everyone being a dog person (therein apologizing for my bad manners) I can’t help but take offense. I do not apologize for the way I chose to share joy with people.

This may sound forward, but I would much rather be the dog who tries to convert even the non-dog-lovers than one who doesn’t bother trying. And it would seem I have my first convert. Her name is Dorian and she was pretty tense around me when I first met her. She and mom have been friends for 14 years so this was something mom knew about her friend – she was not a dog person. She would pet me hello but that’s about it. Well I have managed to change that. Now the two of us snuggle like the best of them. And I know it to be true because the last time she was here, she told me so.

She was in the process of cooing over Carter (something I’ve come quite accustomed to) when she said it. I love you too Wiles, she said, and I think you’ve changed my mind about four-legged friends. Well that was just about one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. It just goes to show you, you will never know if you don’t try.

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try,” American author Stephen King suggested. I guess it’s possible that there are non-dog lovers out there. And they are definitely missing out. But if all of this has taught me something its that you can’t take these things at face value. Because it’s always worth it to try.

 

Keepers of the Light January 27, 2014

Leadership. It’s a big word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask 100 people to define a leader and you’ll get at least 60 different responses. Words like strength, courage, integrity, honesty, and loyalty all come to mind. Ask a dog, and the response is pretty simple. Leader of the Pack

For us, its almost instinctual. We have a pack mentality, therefore there will always be a pack leader. And there will always be a pack leader because of our pack mentality. It is that simple. We look to our leader for everything, and do not mind doing so because we prefer to know where we stand. And if no pack leader steps forward, we will assert ourselves as the leader. Whether or not that is the best option is left for interpretation.

I’m not saying one way of thinking is better than another, but I do think there is something to be learned from especially the similarities between the two. At least from what I can tell, there is something almost instinctual about a person’s definition of leadership as well. It is personal, usually aligned in some way with one’s subjective experiences. Good leaders have a way of asserting their leadership in a way that guides rather than forces followers. A way of making them feel at home with their place in life while at the same time in control of it.

Late great American basketball coach John Wooden had a few things to say about leadership, one of them being that leaders make decisions while followers make suggestions. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement about something bothersome. It’s something completely different to actually do something about it.

That’s the thing about leadership. It means different things to different people. But in a way that is also the glue that binds its meaning together. Whether you have two legs or four, one thing in particular seems to ring true. The best leaders are those whose followers become leaders themselves.

So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the canine and the people way of thought. The way I see it, leaders are keepers of the light. They shine brightly for those in the darkness. They guide gently with even the smallest flickering flame. They help people see the way. And (perhaps most importantly) they pass the torch along so there is never a moment of darkness.