Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Stranger Danger October 5, 2014

I’ve never been sure whether to take it as a compliment or a criticism. I’ve heard mom say it a bunch when she’s trying to wrangle me in at the end of a visit to the dog park. I’ve heard her say it when we’re walking around the neighborhood. And, I’m not too proud to say, I’ve heard her say it when I’ve run away. I’m a fickle dog. I’d go home with anyone.

Truth be told, I’ve always thought she was right. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I fear it has become one of those things that may or may not have been true that I have come to believe as truth because of how many times I’ve heard it.

That all changed today. I was on the floor with dear baby Carter. We were playing around with his big huge box my beloved people recently crafted into a discover fort. There are circles and triangles and squares and he loves it so much when he sees me through one of the “windows” even though I think he’s pretty silly since I’ve obviously been there all along. Deep thinking Wiles

But today as I enjoyed play time with him, I thought about him meeting strangers. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the idea of him going home with another doggie at the dog park. I didn’t like the thought of him living in some other forever home in my neighborhood. And I certainly don’t like thinking about what would happen to him (let alone my people) if he ever ran away.

So I guess you could say the tables have turned. I used to think maybe I could go home with anyone, just like mom always said. I never was sure whether to think of it as a compliment or a criticism. And I certainly love many, just as I always say I do. But while I may have thought all of these things were possible from myself, I learned an important lesson from Carter today. I find that’s been happening lately. Whether I like it or not, this little person who screeches and pulls my fur and says “doggie” now has started teaching me things. Who would have thought.

I learned to more carefully live the philosophy I’ve proclaimed as mine. Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe. Unless it’s with my forever family. I’d paddle them to wherever they want to go. Because there are things that make us uniquely us. There is a language that is uniquely ours. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

 

 

The Words Themselves August 17, 2014

There is this thing about words. In their way they make the world go round. And in other ways, they make the world come to a screeching halt. It’s the kind of parody that can only be in the paradox in itself that is language. Mind you, this is coming from your resident doggie optimist, who himself is incapable of anything other than nonverbal communication.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t witness every single day the power that is words. They can bring light or darkness into a room in an instant. They can bring laughter or joy, or tears and sadness. It really depends on the situation which emotion is evoked by which words. Happy Doggie

I think that is what makes poetry such a special and valuable part of human existence. I can’t necessarily say the same for us four-leggers, as we have much simpler lives with relatively less obstacles before us. The same cannot be said of most of the two-legged people with whom I have come into contact in my time in this life. They have good and bad and ugly things happen that all make poetry in both  brilliant and bittersweet ways.

It’s kind of funny in light of this book I come across every single day on the bookshelf in the living room of my forever home. It’s called “Inside of a Dog,” and I suppose the idea is to dissect the  brain of us four-legged best friends of men. The concept kind of makes me laugh inside, since it is one that sounds about as simple as me dissecting what is happening inside the mind of one of my forever people. They both keep me guessing on a daily basis and (if I’m being honest) it’s more fun that way.

This is why I know my perspective on words is the true and sincerest one you will come across. Because I know in my heart that words are powerful. They might be even more powerful than the emotions behind them. They can bring the world to an emotionally screeching halt, after all. But that is why the poetry behind the words is so valuable.

I think sometimes it can be all too easy to forget the meaning behind the things people say. I wouldn’t know since my only mode of communication is nonverbal. But I see it every single day. The words themselves don’t mean nearly as much as the meaning behind them. So mind what you say, dear friends. Because whether you know it or not, people are listening.

 

My American Dream July 7, 2014

It probably doesn’t look like anything you would think. Certainly it’s not nearly as shiny or adventurous or out of the ordinary as you might imagine. But it’s mine and I think it’s pretty great. The American Dream. From the ground up, it’s not that unlike joy. I know it looks different to different people, so today I pause to reflect on an article I read about a misconception regarding this otherwise innocent thing. Proud to be an American

Someone who shall remain unnamed and unreferenced (purely out of principal) put out an article in recent days that says it takes an average of $130,000 to live what is conceived as the American Dream. I’m not going to tell you the particulars as it pertains to my beloved family other than that is no where near reality for us.

Yet today as mom spent some time working at home over lunch I couldn’t help but pause to reflect on the beauty of the moment. There we were, together in my backyard paradise, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. There we were, in the moment listening as a wide variety of songbirds chirped us a song. There we were as baby Carter napped peacefully inside my beloved forever home. And in that moment I felt like the richest little mutt of a doggie known to man.

“For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day;” suggested ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, “and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.”

I know this to be truth in life. While there are many who could argue we live frugally and on the cheap, I would tell them I’m the richest doggie I know. I’m not ashamed to say it either. It doesn’t come encased in anything special. It’s not worth anything to anyone other than me. And I like it that way. Because to me, that is how joy (from the ground up) should look. I know it’s not anything like what you would think. It’s nothing special or shiny or adventurous like you might imagine. But to me it’s pretty great.

 

On Our Way April 23, 2014

It might sound like madness. And it doesn’t work with everyone. In fact, there are probably a lot more people it doesn’t work with than it does. But I have this trick. It’s kind of a signature move of mine, if I have such a thing. I jump until someone catches me.

I remember the first time it happened like it was yesterday. I was new to my forever home and I was in my backyard paradise with my new forever mom. She patted her legs with her hands and said “up” and I did it. Without a second thought, I jumped right into her arms.

It wasn’t long before I started responding to anyone who did that gesture with my signature move. My aunt Morgan. My mom’s friend Andi. Anyone who patted their legs in that certain way had a Wiley in their arms shortly thereafter.

I’m not sure who trained who when it comes to this particular behavior, if I’m being honest. But lately I have noticed it doesn’t work quite as well. Because lately when my forever mom and dad leave the house they do so with that big old car seat and a diaper bag and whatever other accessories are required for baby Carter. And without me.

At least most of the time when I know I would have otherwise been invited on whatever journey was about to ensue I now hear the dreaded “stay” word. At first it bothered me a little. At first I cursed the dreaded “stay” word. But today I realized that is silliness. Riding with the homies

I still have my fair share of adventures. In fact, I dreamed today of some places I would like to travel. I hear there is a camp for dogs and their people in Vermont where you can square dance. In San Diego, there are beaches that allow dogs to roam and swim freely. Austin Texas apparently has a bunch of dog parks to explore.

I can’t say for certain whether I will ever make it to these places. But I can confirm the madness. Because as my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson put it “though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

There is something special that happens when I make it into the arms of my forever mom before a journey. And it doesn’t matter if the extent of that journey is a car ride to the grocery store. Joy. From the ground up, it happens in those moments for my mom and I. We carry each other in those moments. Because it doesn’t matter where you’re going in life as much as who you’re going there with.

 

 

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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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.

 

Great Expectations November 3, 2013

I’m not sure what I expected. We are a little more than seven months into this journey of life change (otherwise known as pregnancy) and I’ve noticed some patterns.

Feeling the LoveAlmost every time mom comes home from wherever those errand places are, she has some baby things. Diapers or wipes or onesies or sleepers. It’s like an addiction. I hear it’s called nesting and it’s normal. Meanwhile I find myself wondering whether mom realizes she will indeed still be able to leave the house after the baby is born. It’s not like the birth of my little person is the baby apocalypse.

Then there is dad. He is nesting in his own unique way. Projects. It’s become a weekly thing around here. One after the next after the next. It started with the wood trim, which he insisted would look better white. So he made it happen. Then came the kitchen table switcheroo – the nine-piece table formerly in our kitchen has been resigned to storage and replaced with a smaller five-piece version that dad has overhauled. What was once an outdated table now looks like something you’d see on one of those shows on HGTV, complete with bright colors and trendy new fabric seats.

It happened again today. Mom went grocery shopping and came back with an extra bag of baby goodies. And dad finished painting the trim in the bedroom. So I did what any dog would do. I slept the day away.

But I can’t stop thinking about these patterns. Especially dad’s since mom has basically been wearing her (pregnancy hormone driven) emotions on her sleeve. Dad holds such things a lot closer to the vest. I thought this might change or develop somehow during the pregnancy process, but it seems I was wrong.

Frankly, I think he’s freaked. And these projects are his way of focusing at least some of that nervous energy on forward progress. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing, since most of what he’s working on he’s been talking about since I first came into my forever home. There’s no time like the present, as they say.

I don’t know what I expected but I do know one thing for sure. He shouldn’t be nervous. American writer Clarence Budington Kelland said it best. “He didn’t tell me how to live,” as American writer Clarence Budington Kelland said, “he lived, and let me watch him do it.” I’ve seen him with the nieces and nephews (otherwise known as my favorite little people). I’ve watched him take care of mom after her knee surgery. And I’ve lived it. Firsthand.

Sure, he was a little hesitant to let me into his heart (similar to him being nervous about having a baby in the house). But he’s a great dad. I couldn’t ask for someone more caring and fun and loving (even though he still won’t admit he loves me). He lives, and I am a better doggie because I watch him do it.

 

A (Sun)day In The Life October 6, 2013

There is simply no excuse for me. I have no good reason for not attending the Out of the Darkness Paws for Prevention walk as promised today. Granted, it would have been tough to do without my driver (aka mom) deciding to go. Which she didn’t.

Instead I was incredibly lazy. Let’s be honest – my days are generally fairly laid back. But today I felt particularly lazy as my people hustled and bustled all over the house. The windows were open to let the beautiful fall air in and dad worked on something stinky in the baby’s room. That paint stuff is for the dogs. I don’t like it.

So I stayed close to mom in the kitchen. Boy, she was busy in there today. First, it smelled spicy with what I heard her call chili. Then the meaty goodness mixed with a sweetness she called apple pumpkin soup. (There was bacon involved with this because I scored a few nibbles when dad wasn’t looking). Finally, jambalaya joined the mix. It was definitely better than the paint smell, but I was basically hungry all day long thanks to the delicious odors wafting through the air.

Outside was busy too. The hum of leaf blowers was prominent throughout the day as this is the price my people and their neighbors pay for the beautiful trees that line the street. And then I got a visit from two little boys from down the street. I tried to hug them, but I don’t think they cared too much for that. They were focused on collecting orders for Christmas wreaths. In early October.

Here I was appreciating the fabulousness of all things fall and apparently we are fast-tracking to Christmas already. I didn’t expect mom to buy one because the season is so far away. But she has been in the habit of surprising me lately, and today she did not disappoint.

So we are all set for Christmas now, at least as it pertains to the wreath for the front door. And at first I felt kind of irritated about it. What about Halloween? And Thanksgiving (which might just be my favorite people holiday)? Then I remembered that thing I like to find in all situations. The silver lining.

December may seem far away. But it’s not. Which means all of the joy of the holidays is not far away. While I am a believer in living in the joy of the season year-round, Christmas is a time when joy abounds all around me. It’s one thing to believe something on the inside. It’s another thing to be completely enveloped with it on the outside.

I didn’t have to go to the Paws for Prevention walk today to know that. To know the importance of sharing my joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. I do feel badly about breaking my promise to attend the important event. But I know I was where I was supposed to be today. Soaking it all in. Life. From the ground up. It looks pretty good to me.

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The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

Don’t Want To Miss A Thing August 25, 2013

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open. This was my mantra on August 25, 2010. All day long, it’s all I could think. I don’t know if it was pent up nervous energy, lack of sleep, or the overwhelming amount of activity all day long, but the day I was adopted was one to remember.

It started like most days at the humane society, except I could sense a bittersweet excitement in Katie (my favorite angel helper) when she let me out of my cage that day. Something was up, that much I knew, but I had no idea the adventure that day would hold. I got a bath, and a snazzy haircut, and my nails trimmed, and I felt like a million bucks. I got walked a whole bunch, and I swear Katie even snuck me an abundance of extra treats while we played outside. I didn’t realize it would be our last time playing together, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Sometimes it’s better that way.

As the day went on, Katie and the other angel helpers kept talking about me being adopted with mixed emotions. They were nervous for me going into a second home, hopeful this would be my forever home, and a bit sad to see me go. It was exhausting.

So when my people came to pick me up for my car ride to my forever home that afternoon, I was pooped. I was ready for an epic nap. Little did I know they lived an hour and a half away from the humane society. There I was, in the back seat of the Ford Escape with my new mom, happy and nervous and dog tired. I remember sitting there next to her doing all the things I associated with being a “good boy.” I sat. I stayed. I kept quiet.

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

A Younger Looking Me

My mission failed. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness in spite of my best attempts to stay awake. And yet I remember it all like it was yesterday. I remember it was incredibly hot and humid (not that unlike it is today) and mom didn’t let me sit in the seat I started in. She pulled me close and pet me and I could feel the love coming through her hands. I remember how skeptical dad seemed the whole time. I could tell he wasn’t as keen on this whole new arrangement as mom and I mentally committed that day to change that (this didn’t take long). I remember everything.

I’ve often wondered how it is I remember so much about a day so long ago (three people years is equal to about 21 doggie years depending on who you ask), considering I was struggling to stay awake the majority of that afternoon and evening. I think I got my answer today. I didn’t want to miss a thing about that special day in my life. So I didn’t. I kept the eyes of my heart open, even though the eyes on my face weren’t. So today, on the three-year anniversary of my adoption, I celebrate life. Past. Present. Future.

Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

This was my mantra on August 25, 2010. Three years later, I share the same idea with one small alteration:

Must. Keep. Heart. Open.

It’s the only way to live.