Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Second Spring October 2, 2013

We see clearly but not in every color. We hear a pin drop from one hundred feet away. We can taste the difference between health food and people bacon. The more than 200 million receptor follicles in our noses can smell diseases. But (at least in my opinion) we canines are cut off at the proverbial knees if you take away our ability to feel. And today I feel blessed.

It happened suddenly on my twilight walk around the neighborhood with mom tonight. I had one of those overwhelming senses of peace. Happiness. Joy, from the ground up. And I have all of my senses to thank. That, and the true beauty that is fall in my tiny piece of the world.

The trees have begun turning all sorts of varying shades of gorgeous. Sure, I can’t see it nearly as vividly as my people, but I can tell something magical is happening. To me it’s all its own kind of sunshine. The leaves that fall are the rays that leave crunchy paths of novelty along my otherwise familiar route. It reminds me a little of the peace I hear when the snow falls. I don’t know whether people hear it or not, but I sure do.

And don’t even get me started on the smells. Though I do still catch a whiff of grilled goodness wafting through the air, it has mostly been replaced with burning wood and leaves. And candles that smell like cinnamon and caramel. And pies in the oven that smell like all kinds of delicious fruits of the season. (Did I mention my love for apples?)

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,” suggested French philosopher Albert Camus.

How special then that these sights, sounds and smells all align around this season of harvest. Just as crops are now ripened and gathered this time of year, we are blessed with a veritable pantheon of potential sources of joy, happiness and peace. Trusting in our senses is perhaps the most basic way to soak it all in, and (at least in my humble doggie opinion) may even be the most powerful.

So today I saw my second spring. I listened. I smelled. And I felt it. Joy from the ground up falling down around me amidst the leaves.

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Things I Don’t Understand July 10, 2013

People talk. Human emotion. Interpersonal relationships. There are a lot of things I think people think dogs don’t understand. I’ve got a little secret for you. We do. Sure, some of us understand people talk better than others. Certain breeds are especially gifted with understanding human emotion. And our own variety of social skills reflects our understanding the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done to you.

So you can imagine my confusion when people, my forever people no less, question my understanding. Occasionally dad comments to mom that it’s like I understood what he was saying. Today it went the other way around with mom suggesting it to dad. This surprised me, since she is definitely a firm believer in my understanding of all things human. It must have been the topic of conversation that threw her off the communicative scent, as dad made me the most disturbing (yet loving) promise.

“If you ever get cancer, we will do everything we can to save you little man,” he said. “Surgeries, treatments, even doggie chemo.”

Thinking HardWhere did that come from? Somehow the conversation that had been about what they were going to have for dinner evolved into something completely incomprehensible to me. How on Earth that happened, I will never understand. And while I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, I found it incredibly unsettling to think about. I know life is messy and these things happen sometimes, but I see negativity as a cancer of its own that I make a point to stay away from as best I can.

Sure, there is some validity to the idea of expecting the best while preparing for the worst. I’m a walking advertisement for living each day as if it could be our last. “The one fact I would cry from every housetop is this: The Good Life is waiting for us—here and now,” suggested behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Indeed today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and that also means it could be our last. But let us embrace the positive rather than fearing the negative. It never ceases to amaze me the power negativity has to spread like wildfire. It’s almost more contagious than positivity and that breaks my little doggie heart.

It wasn’t the case in this particular conversation, which reverted back to a the discussion about dinner moments later. And I opted to see dad’s random promise akin to a people expression of love. But it all got me to thinking about the things people think we dogs can’t understand and how different the world would be if they knew we understand so much more than they think we do.

Doggie Halloween costumes. The cancer that is negativity. People grooming habits. That place called work. Why bad things happen to good people. All canines are different, but let’s be clear. These are the things I don’t understand.

 

 

I’ll Be There July 9, 2013

I’m there to help them wake up in the morning. I’m there to keep them company in the bathroom while they ready for the day. I’m there to (albeit grudgingly) see them off to that place called work. And so it begins. The daily routine many of us canines with working parents adjust to over time. It may seem mundane to those without dogs, but I would argue our job as canine housekeeper is incredibly important.

It reminds me a bit of one of those people conversations that I occasionally overhear. My sensitive senses are finely tuned to human emotion, so I can usually tell something is going on with person one before person two knows to ask what’s wrong. And when person two does ask, I can’t say I condone the way the conversation unfolds. “I’m here for you,” person two says to person one, who is generally comforted by the statement.

Now and AlwaysMy issue is not with the statement itself, but in its aftermath. What does it mean to “be there” for someone anyway? As observers of people, we all know not all of our best intentions come to fruition. We also know that being with a person physically doesn’t always mean you’re with them mentally, emotionally, spiritually or in whatever way they need you in that particular moment. Being “there” sounds to me like a mighty tall emotional promise that shouldn’t really be made if it isn’t sincere.

But I also know being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is also one of the most priceless gifts we can give a person. And sometimes it is actually as easy as sitting with a person in complete silence. Or offering them a hug. Or, in a dog’s life, giving them a big sloppy slobbery (albeit unwelcome) kiss. Or nudging into the tiniest little space on the couch for a cuddle session.

“True friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient,” suggested Dutch-born Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, “it’s about being there when it it’s not.” Being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is arguably one of the best things I can think of about being a dog. It’s amongst our reasons for living, and helps define our purpose in life.

And so the days draw to an end. I’m there to greet my people when they return from the place called work. I’m there to make sure we get our playtime after dinner. I’m there to cuddle them to sleep at night. And as I drift to sleep I give thanks for the peace in my heart that tells me now — and always — I’ll be there.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend HuntMode, who shared with me a gem of a video today I’d like to share with you.

 

Let’s Start With Forever June 29, 2013

It has been suggested that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespans. At an alarming rate that runs roughly seven times faster than people time, I can’t say I entirely disagree. Man’s best friend shouldn’t get taken away from man any sooner than both parties are ready. But would we really ever be ready?

I wondered this today as I caught my mom indulging in what she admits is guilty pleasure entertainment. From witches and warlocks to dragons and vampires, all things supernatural have become very popular lately in literature, television, and movies. And while my mom tends to side with vampires (more often than not) on their seemingly endless mythical feud with werewolves, I can’t say I agree. This may not come as a surprise as I am obviously a (very distant) canine relative of sorts, but that is not my only rationale. Sure, vampires have immortality on their side, but from what I can tell living forever has its fair share of cons. I Choose Life

Artistic interpretations of vampire life continue to evolve over time, but the basics remain. And while it’s not always the case, many interpretations paint vivid portrayals of vampires who long for a chance to be human and live a normal human life. This leads me to believe immortality might not be all its cracked up to be. In contrast, werewolf life somehow strikes the perfect balance between natural and supernatural, allowing for a normal human life and (along with that) a susceptibility to death.

To me, death is just as important as life because it is our constant reminder to cherish what we have. I believe in the gift of each morning, living each day like it could be my last, and dancing like no one is watching. I believe in James Dean’s suggestion to “dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” None of that would remain a priority if I were miraculously granted immortality. And if it did, I can honestly say it would never be the same.

While I don’t necessarily disagree that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespan, I also can’t say I would change that if I was ever afforded the option. The truth is I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to lose a loved one. It doesn’t matter whether someone dies unexpectedly or inevitably loses a hard-fought battle with terminal illness. You’re never really ready. And neither way is easier on those left behind. But just as it is for people loved ones, the relationship between a person and his or her dog is priceless even after the dog moves on to doggie heaven. Just ask someone who has lost their best canine friend – those paw prints remain embedded on their heart forever. I’ll take that over immortality any day. That is my kind of forever.

 

 

If Dogs Could Talk April 7, 2013

I overheard this conversation between my mom and dad the other day that brought a smile to my face. There was something outside the bay window in our living room and I overreacted as I usually do.

“Calm down, it’s just a squirrel,” dad said. Well, you should have seen his face when I actually calmed down as opposed to freaking out like I usually do when animals outside threaten my territory.

“It’s like he understood me,” he said.

“I think it’s probably because he did,” mom said.

Thinking...“Well, of course I did,” I thought at the top of my doggie mind, “I understand everything you say!” It’s a pity I don’t speak human, because this was about the zillionth time I wished they could hear me and know that I know what they say.

What they don’t realize is that I understand a lot more than they think I do. Dogs didn’t earn the highly sought after title of man’s best friend by understanding nothing. We canines can read people. We have a paw on the pulse of human emotion that is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. It’s part of our undeniable and unmistakable charm. I wonder sometimes what would happen if dogs could talk. I wonder what would happen if we could speak from the hearts that love unconditionally to the people who need to hear and understand unconditional love.

I wonder sometimes what  I would say to them, my forever parents, if I were afforded the chance to cross that line between doggie and human communication. I can’t imagine it would last long, so I would want every word to count. Today I realized it matters less the words I would say than the emotions behind them.

“I love you. You are beautiful. Self-doubt has no home here. Believe in your instincts, love bigger than the sky, and please remember how special you are,” I would tell them. “You are everything to me. Please know that and know you can be that to another dog after I’m gone. You won’t be betraying me. You will be honoring me by finding another dog to rescue and shower with love.”

My emotions frequently overwhelm my little doggie heart. So you can only imagine what happens when I hear my parents talking about little ole me. They don’t even need to say it. I know they love me. Isn’t that the most powerful kind of communication?