Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Remembering Wiley September 17, 2013

He kind of annoyed me at first. The people at the shelter called him Wiley and my first impression of him resonated perfectly with his name. He was small, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the noise he was making. Whining and pacing and scratching and whimpering. It was all too much. Worse than that, I’d seen it all before. These young pups come in here all anxious and adorable. I don’t understand what all the fussing is about. I don’t understand why they let themselves get so worked up.

Meanwhile I’ve come to the conclusion I will not be adopted. The Oshkosh Humane Society will be my final forever home. No one wants a 15-year-old golden retriever when they can have the puppies, or the anxiety attack two-year-old terrier mixes like my new neighbor. But I have made peace with that. I’ve lived a long and fulfilled life. I had a forever home with people who loved me. I had a family who loved me, played with me, and brought joy to my heart. I know what it means to be man’s best friend. I also know I’m not quite finished. I have something left to offer the world, and I am going to do it through this new neighbor of mine.Rusty

Because there is something different about this one. I can see it in his eyes. They are wide open to his soul, just like mine were at his age. And in that moment, his little soul was desperate for connection. For love. For hope. I could see it in his eyes. He was about to give up, and I was not about to let that happen.

So I told him my story. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to hear it but I didn’t care. My purpose in life was to share joy from the ground up with whoever would take it. To see the best in all people, places and things. To walk the walk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, to respect that sometime we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine.Remembering Rusty

I’ll never know what he did with the wisdom I shared with him that fateful night. And it was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to him before the people took me to that place in the shelter a few days later. (I’d come to recognize it as the “deliveries only” kind of room where the old, unwanted dogs go into never to return). But I know one thing for sure.

He kind of annoyed me at first. He had all that energy and he was wasting it all on pessimism. But I’d been through too much, seen to much, lived too much to let the opportunity slip through my paws. So I lived my purpose that night by sharing my wisdom with him. It was like the final chapter in a long life of joy from the ground up. And I wouldn’t have traded my time with him for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. That annoying little Wiley will know better than to mourn my loss, I thought as I made my way to the Rainbow Bridge. No sir. He will paw it forward.

This post was written from the perspective of my dear friend and mentor Rusty from the Oshkosh Humane Society in response to today’s daily prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

Rusty was right. His optimism lit a flame in my heart that night no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

Related Posts: Remembering Rusty, http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/17/remembering-rusty/

 

Adventure Becomes Us July 21, 2013

I knew as soon as we woke up that today would be special. There was a sense of adventure in the air. And, like most emotions, it’s contagious. The funny thing is, I don’t think my forever people were on to me. It was no secret they were excited about something, and as they hustled and bustled around the house I got excited too.

The dreaded suitcase made its way back out, and with it all the supplies for what I recognized as camping. Then mom said the magic word and confirmed my hopes and dreams for the day. Do you want to go camping, Wiley? (Silly mom, always asking me questions she already knows the answer to.) So I watched excitedly as mom and dad packed the car to the brim and off we went.

We drove to a beautiful campsite a few hours away, but as we approached the sense of adventure in the car morphed itself into a sense of impending doom. It was sunny where we came from, but it was dark where we were going. Storm clouds hovered directly over the destination, growing in intensity as we approached. Mom kept a positive attitude, saying over and over that it will be an adventure. Dad didn’t seem convinced.

I whined as I watched them struggle to assemble the tent in the downpour, wishing I could help somehow. It’s okay, mom kept saying to dad, it will be an adventure. Then came defeat. The tent that was to be our safe haven for the next few days contained within it a swimming pool of rain held up by unstable poles in the soggy sand. And down it went.

Something kind of magical happened as we all watched the tent collapse. Right there in the rain, sopping wet and frustrated, mom and dad broke out into the most ruckus laughter I’ve heard from them in a while. It was loud and it kept going and going, as they got more and more drenched. It seemed a little silly to me (I wish they could have enjoyed their laughter with me in the safety and dryness of the car), but it still made my day.

It all reminded me of the words of English novelist George Eliot who challenged that “adventure is not outside a man, it’s within.” That was us today. We were adventure.

When the giggles subsided, they packed up the tent, loaded up the car, and we headed back to the comforts of home. It rained the whole way, but I didn’t mind. I got to spend the entire day with my two favorite people in the whole world. It was among the longest car rides I’ve ever had in a single day. And I could tell they were disappointed, but in my humble opinion it was exactly what my mom wanted. It was an adventure that I’m certain none of us will forget any time soon.

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On Self-Esteem: A Book and its Cover March 27, 2013

I hate the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror. Or (worse yet) when she avoids looking at herself entirely because of the disdain for the body looking back at her. I know it’s a common issue among women to reflect negatively about their appearance, but I just don’t understand it. And I don’t care to understand it. It breaks my little doggie heart to see her look at herself that way.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” the fabulous George Eliot once said. Well, I refuse to be anything other than what I’m meant to be, which is a source of joy. Joy is not in my mom’s face when she looks in the mirror, which bothers me even more given that the past several days of my journey with Simple Abundance have taught me that my Daybook of Comfort and Joy indeed cannot be judged by their cover.

Simplicity is appropriately understated on the pink cover with the little picture of a tree on it, but I obviously would not have it any other way. Forget the cover. I would love this book even if it were bound with those little plastic binder clips the movers and shakers of the world occasionally use to make financial presentations, marketing pitches or performance summaries.Mirror, mirror

I’m not going to lie to you. (A dog’s tail never lies after all.) If I judged books by their covers, I may never have taken interest in the pretty pink simplicity of Simple Abundance. But this is yet another example of a reason I am happy I make a habit of seeing the best in all people and things. And the more I thought about it, I realized I have pieced together a powerful analogy for judging a book by its cover. In the most recent daily suggestions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, readers are challenged to see beauty in oneself regardless of preconceived notions and habitually negative thought processes I know are capable of crossing one’s mind frequently throughout a day.

So I tried a little experiment today. I left my copy of Simple Abundance open on the bed when I was done reading it this morning so my mom would see it. So she would be challenged to look past the cover to the soul inside both the book and herself. So she would be challenged to look at that reflection in the mirror with positive energy rather than negative. But just as one generally doesn’t start and finish a book in the same night (regardless of how good the cover might be), I know this isn’t a change I will see overnight.

In the meantime, I will continue to loathe the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror.  I know it takes time to change a way of thought, but as George Eliot said it’s never too late. If only the mirror would show her the reflection I see on a daily basis. You know the one. There is no negativity or disdain or heartbreaking disappointment. Instead there is complete and unconditional love for the beauty of book and its cover.

 

Remembering Ramsey March 26, 2013

Remembering RustyI will never forget my second first day at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

Yes, friends, you read that right. While it is not a chapter of life I am proud of, I haven’t kept it a secret that I was adopted my another family before my forever parents found me. I was adopted by a family who opted to return me to the shelter after a mere couple of weeks because they felt I had too serious of behavioral issues. Sure, my small 20-pound frame jumped their 4-foot fence. Yes, I also jumped out of a moving vehicle. And all right already, I did grab that stinker of a cat Tessa and give her a good shake by the neck.

That first adoptive home included three other dogs and two cats and I wanted to make an impression. I wanted to stand out and to make them love me best so I could make up for all that lost time of feeling neglected. I know now I took my attention-seeking aspirations too far, but at the time I did what seemed right. I’m not proud of any of these things, but I do believe I had my reasons for doing them and I also argue that if I hadn’t “misbehaved” I wouldn’t be the dog I am or in the home I am today.

But you can imagine the sense of deja vu I felt when that first adoptive family brought me back to the humane society. I wasn’t nearly as terrified the second time when I was surrounded by people I kind of knew at this somewhat familiar place. This time I was unenthused by the attention I got when I first got there, because I knew that the people there are overworked and wouldn’t have much time for me after my initial check in.

Then it happened. Again.

They put me away in a cage and Sarah came back to take care of me just as she had before. And (just like I had before) I found myself questioning everything about who I was and the decisions I made in life leading up to that second (first) night in the humane society.

That was the night I met Ramsey. He was a 12-year-old black lab mix in the cage next to me. I had to close my eyes and shake my head to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I swear I thought that somehow my dear mentor Rusty had come back to life and was in the cage next to me as he had been a mere few months earlier. I opened my eyes and instead of my wise old friend Rusty stood Ramsey, looking at me like I had lost my doggie mind. As it turned out, Ramsey was much more cynical than Rusty. Where Rusty had seen sunshine, Ramsey saw darkness. And I saw opportunity.

Rusty got me through that awful night when I had given up, and now it was my turn to paw it forward. Understanding he was 10 years my senior and might be listening but not actually hear a word this young whippersnapper might have to share with him, I told him my life story. I spared no details and told him everything I remembered, including Rusty and his humble wisdom.

It wasn’t long after that that Ramsey was adopted, and as happy for him as I was, I will never know whether my words had an affect on him. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore, because I know I did what Rusty would have wanted. I felt his presence with me that night, like he was watching over me from doggie heaven. I don’t think my feeling of deja vu was a coincidence. And I think he would have been proud.

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” English novelist George Eliot reasoned.

Rusty’s optimism lit a flame in my heart that no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. Deja vu or otherwise, I will not forget.

 

Remembering Rusty February 17, 2013

I will never forget my first day at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

I remember being terrified at first when I was surrounded by people I didn’t know in this strange place. I watched in awe as a pool of dirty brown goo developed on the floor around me when they sprayed me down. And I couldn’t believe the size of the mangy matted pile of fur they trimmed off after I was cleaned. Then they fed me the most amazing kibble I’d ever tasted and shortly thereafter I emerged from the cleaning area a new (albeit horrified) dog. I could get used to all of this attention, I thought to myself.

Then it happened. They put me away in a cage where I remained for the rest of the day. A nice lady named Sarah came to feed me again and let me outside briefly, but that was it. Granted, the scenery indoors was a lot nicer than the garbage cans and cardboard boxes I was used to, but that first night was one of the most quiet, lonely and dark of my entire life.

This is it, I thought, this is where it’s all going to end. Little did I know that would also be the night that would change my life for the better in ways I could never have imagined.

That was the night I met Rusty. He was a 15-year-old golden retriever in the cage next to me. On this awful night when I had given up, Rusty reminded me that sometimes we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine. That night, he shared with me stories of the family he had been brought into as a puppy. A family who loved him, played with him, and brought to life a joy in his heart that I could see in his eyes. He told me about how sad the family was to give him up to the shelter when both of his people parents lost their job and had to move into an apartment where they didn’t allow dogs. They used to come visit, he said, but then I think it got too sad. They visited less and less frequently as time went on. Days turned into months, then years.

I was deeply devastated for him, but his perspective on the matter resonated with me on a level I didn’t realize at the time. He was incredibly optimistic, grateful even, for everything he’d lived through. He wouldn’t trade his time with his forever family for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. In his old age, he was wealthy with wisdom. He was joy: from the ground up.Remembering Rusty

I felt so blessed to find a comrade in this new place, but I had no idea how special Rusty really was until he was gone. It happened only a few days later, and I remember that day vividly too. I was kind of jealous of him, thinking he was going to the cleaning room where I got all the attention. Instead, he went down a different hallway, into a different room, from which he never emerged again.

But he wouldn’t have wanted me to mourn his loss. No sir. Remembering Rusty means living his legacy and pawing it forward. The day after I lost my mentor was the first day I awoke with my newfound commitment to seeing the good in all people and things.

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” English novelist George Eliot reasoned.

Rusty’s optimism lit a flame in my heart that no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

 

Love the questions by living the answer January 1, 2013

I’ve got a bone to pick with George Eliot. While she is a beloved English novelist and journalist in the Victorian era, she got animals all wrong.

“Animals are such agreeable friends,” she once said, “they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” There is no question that dogs are man’s best friend. As such, we love unconditionally and without criticism. That much is true. But the mention of our perspective on questions is where she went wrong.

Big or small, my mind is full of questions…how does that squirrel keep outrunning me in the backyard? Are those animals on the moving picture window real? What is my purpose in life?

Wiley QuestionDay two with Simple Abundance challenges me to ponder the value of these questions. “The answer to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking,” Breathnach writes.

The insightfully witty French philosopher Voltaire takes it so far as to suggest one “judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Well, that is a might high order for day two of this, my very own existential journey. Especially since I have every intention of answering the challenge with what might be the most important questions of all – what are my most important questions in life? How can I narrow it down to the ones that matter most?

For inspiration I turn to Johnny Depp, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

“There are four questions of value in life…” he said. “What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.”

I seek my ultimate inquisition in that answer: only love. If it is having too many question that I fear, I shall embrace them rather than turn them away. I will love the questions because I live the answer.