Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

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.

 

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

 

Seeing Through the Fog December 4, 2013

I can’t see a thing. This has been among my first thoughts of the day for three days in a row now. The days have begun like any other, except for when mom lets me outside in the morning. It’s been so unbelievably foggy, I feel completely blind. It’s a good thing I know my way around my backyard paradise so well.Seeing Through the Fog

Being encompassed by a dense fog like this reminds me of what it feels like to be overwhelmed. The fog can seem to close in from every direction. And you can’t see. You’re blinded by the realm of possibility. It doesn’t happen to me often as I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty simple life. From (albeit dreaded) regular visits to the veterinarian to the food in my bowl every day, my parents take really good care of me. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Thank goodness for that because I don’t think I’m much of a fighter. I’ve always thought of myself as more a peacekeeper than anything else. But when I think of the fighters I’ve known in my life, one face comes to mind every time. Tiger. Now he was a fighter. I remember watching in disgust as he violently fought with other dogs for anything from a bone to a loaf of bread. He was always one step ahead of me when it came to finding the best food scraps in the neighborhood and I hated him for it.

That was, until I found out what he was really fighting for. He was providing for a small litter of puppies after the family lost their birth mom. Just like I had lost mine, only my deadbeat dad had left long before I was born. Tiger wasn’t like that. He stood by his family and fought for them in every sense of the word.

He was away hunting for food one day when the fog closed in on me. He’d left me to watch over the little ones before, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was. That was the day one of the dogs Tiger had made an enemy decided to seek revenge. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my life. I was blinded by all the devastating ways I knew the story could end. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I needed to see through the fog. I needed to persevere.

So I used the only weapons I knew I had in my arsenal capable of defeating this strange dog with the crazy eyes. My brain and my heart. And (with a little help of a feline friend of mine), I won that particular battle. The puppies were safe. I was safe. Looking back I know it is because I decided to see through the fog to the heart of the matter. Maybe I’m more of a fighter than I thought I was.

 

Get Rich Quick November 29, 2013

Shopping isn’t for me. I’ve tried it a few times when mom was kind enough to let me accompany her to dog-friendly stores and farmer’s markets and pet fairs. While I very much enjoyed the company (and the attention I inevitably draw at these sorts of places), the actual concept of shopping doesn’t trip my proverbial trigger.

I enjoy new toys and treats and fresh bags of dog food as much as the next canine. But the actual process of hunting for it? Not so much. I get far too distracted by the people. So it sounds like I would have been very distracted today, on what my people call Black Friday. I’ve never cared much for black (also known as the color of darkness, sadness and death) and I can’t say I care much for this day either.

Talking MoneyYesterday people all over the country celebrated. They counted their blessings. They cherished time with their loved ones. Then as early as last night, all of that was abandoned for shopping. It doesn’t make any sense to me that people go out and spend so much money on things (that really are just things) so soon after celebrating what they already have. Especially when those little green bills known as money have the power to make people so blue.

This is why I chose to invest differently. Not in things, but in people. My biggest fears were realized in a doggie nightmare I had last night when suddenly, for no rational reason, my people were gone. It was just me, back in a cage, somewhere I didn’t recognize. No other cages surrounded me. I was completely alone. Thank heavens mom woke me up from that particular nightmare. Reality never looked so beautiful.

I know I have it pretty good. I am blessed, as my mom would say. But I know why I’m so rich with blessings – my fortune is not in those little green bills or in the Christmas presents that (at the very least) do seem to bring as much joy to the giver as the receiver. No sir. My fortune is in the people who make my life special. You can go shopping for a lot of things, but you can’t shop for those people. For friends. Or family. These are the true riches in my little doggie life.

 

Food for Thought November 28, 2013

I think it’s a survival of the fittest thing. Except I’m not that fit. I think about food. A lot. I just like a good sampling of whatever scraps I can get my paws on. I would have to considering my prized nickname as the doggie vacuum cleaner. If it’s on the floor, it’s mine.Are you hungry? Always.

So it probably comes as no surprise that Thanksgiving is among my favorite holidays. It’s the one day a year (almost) entirely dedicated to food. Hours of preparation go into preparing turkeys and potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce and rolls and pumpkin pies. Don’t even get me started about the smells. And the tastes…well, that’s the tricky part for us canines on a day like today.

I don’t frequently get people food as a practice of my parents to keep me safe (or so they say). Not for doggies is a phrase I hear all too regularly. But let’s just say I know who to sit by (or under) on days like today. I have my people who sneak me little samples of turkey and mashed potatoes. And I love them.

I had at least one of these people at each of the stops on my Thanksgiving journey. Today I got to visit both grandma’s houses, which meant I got a lot of samples.

Today I was blessed to have these people at both stops on my Thanksgiving journey. I got to visit both grandma’s houses today. The table looked basically the same at each house, complete with a turkey and all of it’s trimmings. And I scored turkey and mashed potatoes from my accomplices (who shall remain unnamed).

Getting sleepy...But I noticed something other than the menu was the same at both the houses. It’s hard to believe, but it was something bigger than either of the turkeys. It was more prominent than the spicy pumpkin smell wafting through the air. After all of that preparation, the eating itself only lasted but a half hour or so. The leftovers were carefully divided up and stored away in the fridge. And that’s when real party started. Everyone was happy to be together. Thankful. Not necessarily for the food, but for the time together.

This occurred to me as I drifted off into my own sort of turkey coma. This day, Thanksgiving, is actually about so much more than food. (Which is a tough truth for someone as in love with food as myself to admit). Forget survival of the fittest. I could not survive if not for these people. I would much rather forgo my samples than be without them.

So (while I still appreciate the dedication to food that accompanies the day), I pause tonight to give thanks. To recognize the meaning behind the deliciousness. To embrace that today is actually about people coming together to celebrate each other. To tell stories (even if they’ve all been told before). To feed something other than our stomachs. For today we also feed our souls.

 

May The Force Be With You October 1, 2013

Some love it. Passionately. Others hate it. Fervently. Regardless of which side of the Star Wars opinion fence you fall on, I think we can all agree about one thing: the force? It’s pretty cool. Using your mind to control your surroundings? Believe me, in a dog’s life of silence that would be a game changer. Use The Force

I occasionally find myself wishing I could use the force for a variety of things. But no matter how hard I focus on that food on my mom’s plate, it does not make its way to my mouth as I will it to. The same can be said of doors. I frequently long to open doors with my mind. Most recently, I caught myself willing the car door to open and alas! It did! But it wasn’t my mind that did the opening – I looked up to discover it was my dad who opened the door so I could hop inside.

Since then, I’ve noticed he does this for my mom too, though I don’t understand why since she can do it herself. (I obviously don’t have this luxury). It wasn’t until yesterday when my dad’s friend Josh was visiting that I pieced together this mysterious puzzle. Mom, dad, and Josh were having a conversation in what will become the baby’s room. I was listening comfortably from the cozy new rug they put in there (which is my new favorite spot to think) when Josh said something that caught my attention.

He’s thinking of adopting a dog, and he’s looking specifically for a Beagle rescue. Apparently there aren’t very many nearby so he’s thinking of taking a day trip with his two-year-old nephew to one about two hours south of here in a place called Chicago. When mom mentioned it was cute he was thinking of bringing his nephew, I got my answer. “Well I want to make sure the puppy gets along with kids,” Josh replied.

Josh is currently single, but he is looking forward to meeting his future spouse and starting a family (I think people call it settling down, though I’m not quite sure what exactly they’re settling down from). Mom melted when he said this, and that’s when I realized something very important about the way “the force” can work in real life.

It’s no secret I’m a mama’s boy, so I’ve always been a proponent of treating a lady a certain way. It is probably no surprise that these feelings feed my belief that chivalry and romance are not dead. Little things (from opening a car door) to big things (like planning a future) all make a difference in both the development and maintenance of lasting relationships. It’s like the force of today. And even if you are not a fan of Yoda and his pals, you have to admit the force is a pretty neat idea. Idea it is. Reality it is not. Except when it’s used in ways I’ve come to understand as chivalry. And romance. Indeed there is a certain force a man can have, perhaps not with his mental will, but with his heart.

 

Not For Doggies September 12, 2013

I love you. You complete me. Eat pray love. When it comes to three-word phrases, less is more. And (uncharacteristically) I love that. Unless the sentence is “not for doggies,” in which case please keep your thoughts to yourself.

I hear it all the time in my house, and it breaks my little doggie heart every time. Grapes? Not for doggies. That delicious smelling melty stuff called chocolate? Not for doggies. Onions and garlic? Not for doggies.Yummy

Why (oh why?) must all of these things that (I think) would bring me happiness be off limits? Moreover, don’t people realize that they are even more attractive when I am told they aren’t for me? It’s not fair.

Perhaps that’s part of the problem. I am making up my mind about what is and is not fair without all the information. Sure, I think these things would bring me happiness, but would they really? My people generally provide me with all things joyful, so there must be another reason I can’t sneak a grape, lick up the chocolate frosting off the floor or swoop up one of those delicious-smelling garlic cloves when it occasionally flies off the cutting board.

Mmmm...Ice CreamThis occurred to me as I’ve noticed that for some time now there have been many things that are also not for mommies. That baked brie mom loves to serve at parties with apple wedges? Not for mommies. The glass of wine (or two) with dinner? Not for mommies. Those foul-smelling little seafood rollups (I think they’re called sushi)? Not for mommies.

At first I felt smug about it. Like she’s getting a taste of her own medicine. Not for pregnant ladies is her version of food-related torture. But that didn’t last long as it is not akin to my normally loving and optimistic way of thinking.

So I’ve come full circle to the only conclusion that makes sense. Not for mommies is a way of life right now because she’s putting the baby first. Who cares how much she loves brie, wine, and sushi if these things could harm the baby?

Finally I think I understand. Not for doggies is for my own good. There must be something about grapes, chocolate, garlic and onions that is bad for me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to gobble it up any chance I get, but at least now I know the reason for the madness. Maybe “not for doggies” is more akin to “I love you” than I thought. Because we don’t always know what’s good for us, so it’s a good thing someone does.

 

The Mouse Will Play August 23, 2013

From sneaking people food right off the dinner table to jumping four-foot fences, I used to fancy myself a master of mischief. Somewhere along the line, I determined it was best to use my God-given brains to cause trouble because it triggered attention from people. Sometimes it was even the good kind of attention. Though they were few and far between, occasionally my behavior merited a “oh, that is so cute” comment in place of the dreaded “bad dog” nickname.

Me? Sassy? No...But something changed for me the day I escaped through the doggie door and jumped the fence of my first adoptive family. I remember feeling so disappointed when they found me and brought me home, and then (almost) relieved when they took me back to the humane society. (This ended up being a very positive thing because I met my forever people a few weeks later as a result). Forever changed for me that day as I wandered the streets of Port Washington exploring my newfound (short-lived) sense of freedom.

I’ve had it all wrong, I thought to myself when the people drove me home. “Bad dog, Zorro,” I remember the woman saying. In that moment, I realized was tired of being called a bad dog. And despite my best intentions at being bad, I was terrible at it. It was work. I don’t know why this came as such a surprise to me, since us canines tend to wear our hearts right outside our bodies for all the world to see. We can’t lie – our tails, our ears and our eyes give it away. No one is as mysterious as they think they are, especially when they have four legs and a tail. So I resolved that day to give up mischief forever. From that moment on, I would use my God-given brains to do only positive things for the world. No more bad dog. Naughty dog was a thing of the past.

But no one’s perfect. And experience has actually taught me we all need a little mischief in our lives every now and then. I know it’s happening with my people when my people call me a “little stinker” or “ball of sass.” I don’t mind – I know these are pet names, employed when just the right amount of mischief has been applied to a situation. Like when I make “the face” at mom when she’s eating a steak. Or when I paw at dad’s foot to let him know it’s time for our nightly game of fetch. And (let’s face it) I do my fair share of things that merit the occasional “bad dog” or “naughty dog” sentiment. (Barking madly at all variations of animal life on the television comes to mind). I might not be perfect, but I can say I no longer fancy myself a master of mischief. I’d much rather be the administrator of joy from the ground up.

 

 

It’s That Time Again August 9, 2013

Hot dogs. You’d think as a dog I would love them. You’d think as a lover of all things people food and meat related it would be one of my most favorite things. You’d be wrong.

I was reminded of it today while I kept mom company at the grill. I was in a very happy place and lost myself in the moment as I deeply inhaled the fabulous smell of people food cooking on the grill. She was grilling steak, chicken, corn and potatoes, but she wasn’t the only one grilling in our neighborhood. Somewhere nearby I smelled them. Hot dogs.

That’s when it happened. I closed my eyes and I saw him. The man with the leather belt. I flashed back to his idea of an ideal Friday night in. I’ll never forget how he would completely ignore his daughter Jo (my person at the time, and one of my most favorite little people ever). He would make a whole package of hot dogs for dinner and eat the majority of them while drinking a six-pack of beer and watching baseball on the television in the living room. I would keep poor Jo company, since he wanted nothing to do with her during his manly time.

I’ve never cared much for baseball. I’ve been known to bark at the television when people swing the bats (which is unusual for my typically silent self). I’ve even barked at dad when he practices with his bat in the backyard. I don’t like baseball bats, and I don’t like baseball. And I have my reasons.

But I kind of love American football. More specifically, I love Green Bay Packers football. Not particularly because I like watching it on the television, but because of everything it involves in my forever family. That’s why mom was grilling all of that delicious food (which you’ll note did not include hot dogs). She was going overboard, as dad says she always does, to prepare for a big night of Packer football. (Which I noted was incredibly unusual since it’s a Friday night rather than a Sunday. But I’m not complaining).

The thing I love most about it is it wasn’t that big a night to be fussing about. It is the first pre-season game. My man Aaron Rodgers only played for one drive for crying out loud. But it didn’t matter. We all got gussied up in our Packer jerseys, I got a couple samples of mom’s steak, and we watched the game together as a family. Go Pack Go!

I think that’s why I love football so much. It brings the people I love together (plus I get yummy treats). There’s so much joy in our home during those three hours. And, in case you’re curious, we lost. 17-0. It was kind of brutal. But that didn’t scare the joy away.

 

Mind Over Matter July 7, 2013

I won an argument with a fly today. It was buzzing around the house all day driving me crazy with its zigs and zags. The more it buzzed, the more I felt like it was taunting me. You can’t catch me! You can’t catch me! Oh yes I can, Mr. Fly. And (after yet another epic battle of the minds) I did. I caught you and all of your incessant buzzing, Mr. Fly!

It was a very different ending than a similar battle I had about two weeks ago. I lost the argument that day, after what seemed like an eternity of jumping, twisting, chasing and growling. Victory evaded me that day. But not today. Today I trade feelings of defeat for feelings of regret as I now feel like the buzzing continues in my tummy.

Not Feeling My Best

If there is something us canines don’t all fully understand it’s the people practice known as moderation. Our misunderstanding is probably at its worst when we’re puppies and have yet to learn the dos and don’ts of living with people. Do eat your food when it is provided to you. Don’t get so excited about your food that you spill it all over the floor. Do accept treats in reward for tricks. Do not beg for people food at the table. (Or, better yet, do not attempt to jump onto the table to retrieve the people food yourself). You get the idea.

Generally speaking, I don’t struggle with the concept. All good things in moderation. Understood. But I blame my nomadic lifestyle as a puppy for one area I lack control. I ate what I could when I could. There was no picking and choosing, and (when I was living with other street dogs) if you didn’t eat fast you didn’t eat. I know this is different in my forever home, where there is never short supply of dog food, treats, rawhides and various other chew toys. I would prefer this life to my previous time as a puppy nomad any day. Yet my mind always seems to beat my stomach in the ultimate battle royale in self control.

In the meantime, I seriously need to learn my lesson when it comes to eating live things. No matter how small, the pursuit is always more exciting than the finale. It makes me wonder about this mind over matter thing. It’s another one of those people practices that occasionally leaves us canines stupefied. But experience has taught me things that confuse us are often those most important for us to seek to understand. As American evangelist Charles Swindoll suggests, “the secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.” I suppose he’s right. I’d much rather have freedom in excellence than win a battle that leaves my tummy feeling funny.