Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

To Be Rescued October 15, 2014

There are moments in life when you just don’t want to hear it. Moments when you would much rather stew in your misery or frustration or grief about whatever challenges you face. The dreaded words “everything happens for a reason” are the absolute last thing you want to hear. They offer you no peace in that moment. No rest. And they certainly don’t make the original problem go away. They are a line of garbage.

Except that they’re absolutely and completely 100 percent true. In spite of a few emotional battles, I’ve always known it. And, as I have followed a story of a two-legged friend of mine during the past week, I know it in my bones. Her name is Emily, and she is my hero.

A patriot for rescue dogs, she in the last several days has personally taken on the emotionally tasking job of reeling in two stray dogs near her neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. It hasn’t been easy, for Emily or the dogs, who she has since named Dallas and Cricket.

She has worked diligently to earn their trust, leaving out food and water for them for several days and keeping her distance until they were ready. She unsuccessfully attempted to enlist help from neighbors. Sadly, she learned that the area where she found the dogs was a common dumping ground for strays. She was heartbroken to learn of this, not only for the dogs, but for the people who have become completely desensitized to the problem.

Beyond all of this, she cared. She cared enough to put her life (and the immediate needs of her beloved dog, Lupy) on hold. She cared enough to be patient. She cared enough to make a difference. Why? She had two touching reasons I believe are better shared in her words.

I believe God doesn’t give up on people, no matter how much they push away, or have doubts or are scared and my overwhelming sense of love toward this dog I don’t even know must be miniscule in comparison to the love God feels for his creation. The words ‘whatever you do unto the least of these’ and I don’t care if some people argue that that was only meant about people, I don’t think it was, I think God wants us to care for his creation dearly. So even when I start losing hope when she runs away from me, or when I’m not able to slip the leash over her head, I just keep thinking of those two things and how even if I can do good in my small corner of the world, it’s never futile even if the result isn’t the miraculous one I’m hoping for.

Everything happens for a reason. From the ground up, I’m guessing Dallas and Cricket didn’t want to hear it. For whatever reason, they had both lost all hope in people. For all we know, they had both lost all hope in life itself.

But now, thanks to the passionate persistence of one person, Dallas is set to be adopted. There is more work to be done for Cricket, who really likes cheese and peanut butter but still needs to work on her trust issues. The point is Emily hasn’t given up. And because of that, Dallas and Cricket will have forever homes. They will know what it’s like to be rescued. They will know what it’s like to feel the love of a person. Take it from me, there is no greater thing.

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Look Up To The Sky May 29, 2014

It was a beautiful day around here. The perfect 70 degree sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I spent some time in my backyard paradise this afternoon soaking up the sun and thinking. This, I was reminded today, is one of my very most favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Especially when mom and baby Carter are around to keep me company. So there I was, finding myself drifting into a deep and happy sleep. It was one of those moments in life where you feel nothing but joy.

Treasure HuntingThen it happened. My dream became a nightmare as I saw my worst fears realized. The man with the leather belt somehow found me. Jo was not with him, which was somehow bothersome and happy at the same time. (I know in my heart she is happy and fulfilled and away from him somewhere). He found me, though. And dear baby Carter. It was just the two of us (for some crazy reason) and we were happy as could be until he came along. Fortunately mom woke me up (as she has a habit of doing when I’m barking or whining in my sleep) and I didn’t need to witness what happened next.

It made me afraid to nap the rest of the day, that’s for sure. But as time went on, so did life. From the ground up, I found joy in everything around me this afternoon. It was nothing out of the ordinary around here – Carter is still deeply attached to his eat, wake, sleep routines. That all happened as usual. And as it did I found myself finding peace in these moments. Finding joy in these moments. Embracing life in these moments.

As this happened I knew why I had that terrible nightmare. It was a beautiful day around here. It was one of those days that makes you thankful to be alive in the first place. But I’ve said before I think God throws us on our backs sometimes to force us to look up. Well, today I looked up at the beautiful sky and was reminded yet again of that poem “Footprints in the Sand.” In my case it’s paw prints, but that’s no matter. The message is the same. Sometimes we don’t know we are being carried through something until it’s already happened. Sometimes it’s not until we look back that we see how far we’ve come.

 

 

 

 

 

Elf on the Shelf December 6, 2013

The stare ahead. That’s what mom calls one of my most favorite moves I use to initiate play. And I suppose it’s pretty accurate whether my play mate has two legs or four. My head and eyes face straight ahead and I don’t make any eye contact. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but I’ve trained both mom and dad play along with me and act out similar behaviors. It’s my creative way of getting them to play chase with me. And it always works.

A Small SmileToday I got to thinking about this stare ahead and what it means for the power of the eyes. They seem to have just as much impact when they’re not looking at the subject as when they are. It reminds me a bit of this thing I’ve heard about lately called the elf on the shelf.

Apparently there is a large family of elves originally from the North Pole who, once adopted into a home, report back to Santa about the behavior of the children who live there. They leave at night to fulfill their mission, and return in a new spot each morning to resume observation duty. It sounds like a mighty important job if you ask me.

Almost as important as the original elf on the shelf. The Creator of watching without looking. The omnipresent and omnipotent “big guy” upstairs in that place called heaven. He is always watching us. And it’s no game for Him. Because (perhaps most importantly) He isn’t just seeing us. He is with us. He sees our good days and bad. He celebrates with us and cries with us. With no words at all, He crafts blessings s from teardrops. But because we can’t feel Him always looking directly at us, it can be easy to forget He’s there.

It’s very different from the stare ahead. And yet it brings me peace. Not only to know I’m always being looked after in every possible way, but in feeling empowered by that knowledge. I’ve always had my reasons for playing the stare ahead game. And while those won’t be changing any time soon, my perspective of my surroundings certainly will. Because just as I know the big guy in that place called heaven is watching over me, I know He would want me to watch over others in my own way very different from that of the elf on the shelf.
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“They might not need me, but they might,” wrote great American poet Emily Dickinson. “I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”

 

No Words November 14, 2013

I don’t have a choice. All I get is my eyes, my tail, and the occasional strategic placement of my head or paws. Any other methods of communication are hard to come by when you have four legs. So I have to admit, days like today take a toll on my emotions.

We canines may not be able to see the entirety of the color spectrum, but I know with certainty that I saw my fair share of blue today. Mom is feeling blue, which is apparently a people term used to explain her emotionally cloudy forecast. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that little person inside her is somehow bringing down her morale. No Words

Because she’s been talking a whole lot about worry. She’s worried about the baby’s health. And being a good parent. And labor. And the money. Especially the money. Last I checked, money is green so I don’t know how it could be making her feel so blue. I stand, sit or lay idly by, all-the-while wishing there would be something – anything – I could say to make it better.

Then I hear dad say exactly what I would be saying and suddenly I don’t mind being silent. He tells her to calm down. Relax. Everything will work out. These are the things I would be telling her, too, if I could. But this is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that there are no words. As I observed from dad’s attempt, it’s sometimes better not to say anything than to complicate the situation by throwing words in the mix. Sometimes a person just needs a hug.

I don’t have a choice. All I have is my eyes, my tail, and the strategic placement of my head or paws to communicate. And maybe that’s not so bad after all. Because as much words can help, they can also complicate things. Especially when it’s more a matter of faith than anything else. Faith takes no words. Faith is simply believing in the power that is contained in something so much more than words.

So tonight I keep quiet and instead silently pray for resolutions to come to some of mom’s worries. That peace come to her overwhelmed heart. But I can’t pray with my eyes, tail and paws any more than I can pray with words. Instead tonight I pray with my heart. “Prayer is not asking,” Mahatma Gandhi reflected, “It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of  one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

In God’s Hands November 2, 2013

It’s normal for leaves to fall from the sky in my part of the world this time of year. Especially in my backyard paradise, where we have a few exceptionally large trees. As a result, a blanket of gold and orange currently coats the grass (or so my people tell me – it’s kind of tough for me to decipher these colors). But the leaves weren’t the only thing to fall from the sky today.

I was ruffling around in my backyard (aka leaf blanket) this morning when I got a surprise visit from two of my favorite little people and their parents. Apparently it wasn’t a surprise to my people, but they hadn’t said anything about Sophie and Sam coming by to spend the day with us. I suppose this may have been a proactive decision, as the mention of their names may have sent me into an excited panic until they arrived. But that’s neither here nor there.

Cuddles with SophieAfter their parents left, we sat together – Sam, Sophie, my dad, my mom and I – in the living room for a bit. (All right, more like cuddled. I nuzzled my way into Sophie’s lap pretty much the second she sat down). The television was turned to the local news station (where I’m proud to say my aunt works) and they were interviewing season 8 American Idol finalist Danny Gokey.

“God’s written a beautiful story for people,” he told the interviewer, “you just have to walk into it and embrace it.” I was touched by this idea, as I am a believer in embracing the good in all people, places, and things that make up my life story. But then she said it and my heart really turned to mush.

“When I was little,” nine-year-old Sophie said, “I used to think God had the world in His hands.” She was sure to clarify that now that she’s grown up she knows God isn’t actually floating in space holding the world in His hands, “but He’s still got us all taken care of.”

The leaves weren’t the only thing falling from the sky today. So was joy. From above. Wherever I looked, it seemed determined to find me in its varied poignant messages. God may not be physically holding the world from his perch in space, but He was certainly present in my mind today. As well as in my heart.

 

Til Death Does Us Part September 21, 2013

It’s not my fault. I’m a terrier. I’m programmed to stay alert. Sure, that means I tend to be easily distracted, but I hardly classify myself as having attention-deficit disorder.

It happened again today while dad and mom made dinner. They fired up the grill and made some steaks and lobster tails and asparagus and potatoes. It was quite the feast. All the grilled goodness wafted through the neighborhood air and made my little dog nose drool in hopes that I might receive some scraps after dinner (which I did, of course).

While the food cooked, dad and I played fetch as we usually do when the grill is going in the backyard. The game lasted about the normal amount of time for me – about three retrievals – before I spotted a squirrel in the far corner of the yard. I lost all interest in the game at hand (what game?) to begin pursuit of the squirrel. That too, was short-lived due partially to the squirrels grand escape up a tree and partially to a piece of grilled potato that hit the ground.

I found myself reflecting on all this as my people enjoyed dinner. I can tell it was special because they ate with dim lights and kept saying the word anniversary to each other and telling stories. They also exchanged cards and gifts. Joy. From the ground up, I saw it happen in my forever home tonight.

What Game?Tomorrow they celebrate six years of marriage,Love which followed four years of dating. I might be a bit biased due to my doggie perspective the passage of time, but that is a significant amount of years to me. In that time, they have been true to each other. Loved each other. And they haven’t strayed from their path together. All of this, in spite of the loss of a job. And the sudden loss of a parent a mere two weeks later. It’s yet another kind of love to which I am honored to bear witness, knowing its one of the only love languages I may never fully understand.

Initially I felt a bit left out of this particular celebration of love. There was no gift for me. There was no card. All I got was a bit of playtime in the backyard and a couple scraps of potato (and steak and asparagus). Then it happened. I realized this is my own personal version of ADD rearing its ugly head.

Because they have ultimately given each other the greatest gift of all. They’ve given each other their hearts. They have vowed to stay together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in heath. It’s a concept I may not be able to wrap my doggie mind around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace it with my heart. They love each other until death does them part, and I love them unconditionally in the meantime. Maybe I’m not so distracted after all.

 

Just Call Me Blessed September 2, 2013

Swell. Good. Great. Peachy. These are all common responses to what I think is likely the most frequently asked conversational question. How are you? As I am a believer in responding to this question with nothing but sincere honesty, I time to time find myself cooking up creative responses in my mind. Super duper. Splendid. Or (again in support of honesty)  crappy.

Perspective has taught me a lot about the power contained in identifying with such words, or putting labels and names on things. Words are powerful tools to begin with, but names take the conversation to another level.

This struck me today as I found myself feeling particularly happy. It is Labor Day in America, which (for some reason I don’t fully understand) means my people stayed home from that place called work. I’ve never been shy about my love for the weekends, so I suppose it’s not too far a stretch that a three-day weekend is in a land of happiness all its own. Especially since they spent the majority of the day with me at home.

In turn, I enjoyed an unordinary amount of time lounging outside (where I do some of my best thinking). Today as I contemplated these words with which we identify, I searched my memory for something and came up blank. Before I was Wiley (and briefly Zorro), I didn’t have a name. I was just another dog living out my life on the streets. Characters I came across while I was nameless either had given names I picked up or names I assigned them.Peaceful Gratitude

Like Tiger, the lab mix I once misjudged as manipulative and catty because he had a sneaky selfish way about him. It turned out Tiger was sly because he had to be. He was always stealing the best scraps before I could get to them because he was feeding his puppies, not because he was vindictive. But in addition to mystery, tigers are known for their strength and Tiger was one of the strongest dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

His name (the name I assigned him) was true to who he was. And I would say mine is true to who I am as well, though I know another name would not change my identity. So today as I let the breeze sweep over me and took in all the delicious smells of the neighborhood, I developed a new name for myself.

How am I? I’m blessed. Who am I? Just call me blessed. My days are not always perfect, but this simple truth remains. From the moment I wake to the moment my head hits the proverbial hay I am grateful to be alive. I am, indeed, blessed.

 

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.

 

 

A Piece of Art August 18, 2013

It’s a big question with a big answer. Which is funny to me because it’s coming in such a little package. But I’ve been hearing a lot about it around here lately, so I can say with some authority that it is very important to my parents to make the right decision. There’s just one thing I’m not understanding. Call me a simpleton, but hasn’t the sex of the baby pretty much been figured out since he or she was conceived? Sure, the identifiable organs only formed recently, but it’s been a little person boy or little person girl all along. Decisions, Decisions

So what’s the big deal? They cannot seem to decide whether or not to find out the sex of the baby at the upcoming ultrasound. The funny thing is, I sometimes think I know them better than they know themselves and I think deep down they both wan to know. I feel like they’re both mentally counting down the days until they can find out. There will be no waiting until January 16 for these two.

Meanwhile, as the (allegedly) unbiased observer, I hear the points on either side of the decision. Mom doesn’t really like calling their future little person an it. Dad has thought from the beginning that it’s going to be a girl (mom’s not so sure). It would be nice for them to buy gender specific clothes and things for the nursery (formerly known as Wiley’s room, but I’ve made peace with this). Then there’s that one thing. That one little word that means so much. Surprise. This is the word that (I think) has (almost) won my mom over to the waiting side. God only gives us so many happy surprises in life, and this is one of them, as dad’s aunt told them.

Well, I’ve got a bone to pick with that. It’s a big question with a big answer. And it’s going to be a blessed surprise either way. But the way I see it, so many times the “right thing” is what is in our hearts, not in what people tell us. Besides, my (albeit romantic) little doggie heart has this theory about surprises. Sometimes life’s greatest gifts are a surprise regardless of the timing of delivery.

As French playwright Francoise Sagan said “art must take reality by surprise.” Well, I love surprises. And whether I found out soon or later – whether it is a boy or girl – this little person will be a piece of art to me.

 

More or Less August 12, 2013

I don’t think dogs are wired to understand the people concept that less is more. I’m sure I don’t speak for all of us, but I certainly don’t leave spare kibbles in my bowl. Not a single scrap of people food hits the floor that I don’t scoop up. One toy is just never enough. But I suppose this all makes sense because we live with our whole honest selves. We wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves. And we love with all our hearts.

2013-06-28 21.17.47I was reminded of this today when I heard a familiar phrase on television. “Amateurs built the ark; experts built the Titanic.” I’m not certain of the origin of this philosophical commentary, but I’m drawn to it for obvious reasons. Not only does it challenge us to try something new, to challenge conventional wisdom, but it aligns with another truth I hold dear about judging a book by its cover.

Don’t do it. Easy as that.

It is in contradictions such as these that I find myself pondering things on a more philosophical level. In general more is more to me, yet I believe in extracting joy from the simple things in life. I believe in giving that book with a seemingly boring cover a read simply out of principal. I believe in second chances. These are not declarations of someone who doesn’t understand how less can possibly be more.

Maybe that’s the amateur in me. It’s the same part of me that can’t leave any food and prefers the company of all my entire comfort circle of toys rather than a simple representation. But just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean I push an idea aside. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the point that I want to learn something from everything. I would much rather build something on faith and understanding than on vanity and luxury anyway.

So perhaps I’ve been going about this whole less is more concept the wrong way. It’s not one way or the highway. When we love with our whole selves, down to our core, whether we have more or less of something doesn’t matter.