Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Seeking Selflessness February 15, 2014

Her name was Olivia. And she was the most beautiful spaniel mix I’d ever seen. Granted, I only saw her on a computer screen and didn’t actually meet her in person. But mom did and she tells me she was pretty swell. At the tender age of two months old, she was a black and brown bundle of puppyhood joy. And she almost became part of my forever family today.

My dear aunt Morgan has been searching for her first fur baby of her own for more than a year. She has been through a lot on her search, from moments of heartbreak to moments of hope. She has fallen in love with dachshunds and terriers and bearded collies of all ages and sizes. She has considered buying a purebred of some kind, but would really prefer to rescue.

And today she thought for sure she had finally found her match. Olivia looked into her eyes and she just knew. That is, until she didn’t. Mom was there with her to help make this big decision and she tells me they were fetching the adoption paperwork when my dear aunt Morgan did a completely selfless thing. She changed her mind.

Ultimately she couldn’t live with knowing her challenging work schedule that (every now and then) keeps her away from home for 12 hours at a time would simply be too long to leave poor little Olivia alone. I know it was tough for her to leave Olivia’s big brown eyes behind. But that’s not where the story ends for her. She was indeed adopted today by a family who was waiting anxiously for Morgan to make a decision. And I bet she will be happy there.

Because rescue, from the ground up, is the real deal. I am a living breathing example of a rescue success story, and even mine wasn’t perfect. That’s the thing about situations like this. Life in itself is a big deal. It brings us twists and turns and ups and downs. It challenges us. It keeps us on our paws. And when it comes to making big decisions, it frankly sucks sometimes.

Her name was Olivia and she was a game changer. She didn’t join our forever family today but she taught us all a lesson in selflessness and patience. I’ll be the first to admit patience is not something I’m great at. That’s why I know Morgan will find her perfect match soon. Because today she made another tough decision. Today she confirmed she will not settle. And I’m proud of her.

 

Keeps On Giving December 29, 2013

It was dark. It was cold. And it was fun. That is, until it wasn’t. I ran away from grandma’s house tonight. I saw the back door open and I made a run for it. I love the way the brisk Wisconsin winter air ran through my fur as I ran around the block.

I followed two things: the scent of a nearby dog and the light from the main street nearby. I didn’t really hear dad and his brother Joe yelling after me at first. In fact, I figured they were simply joining in an especially exciting game of chase. But it wasn’t too long after that when my little adventure stopped being fun. Clearly Joe and dad misunderstood the rules of the game. Dad scooped me up and kept using several of my least favorite words.Sassy? Me?

Naughty. Bad. Sassy. I much prefer words like cute and cuddly, so you can imagine my dismay at hearing these words over and over as we made our way back to grandma’s house. There I was met with a whole host of emotions, the majority of which resembled the aftermath of minor heart attacks. Everyone had gathered in the kitchen. And everyone was concerned. Well, I guess you could say they were more than concerned. They were freaked. Especially mom, who kept saying something about a forecast with -25 degree wind chills tonight (whatever that means).

As I surveyed the rest of the faces of these people I’ve come to love, any of the residual wonderment I felt on my little jaunt lost its moxie and I felt nothing but remorse. It wasn’t that fun. And (now that they mention it) it was cold. And dark. And I’m not certain I would have known how to get back to grandma’s house without the help of dad and Joe. Maybe this whole adventure wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Because family offers its own kind of adventure you can’t find outside. We were all together to celebrate Christmas and there were all kinds of beautiful gifts for everyone. I made out like a bandit with treats and toys. But the best part of the night was the snuggles. I snuggled with whomever would let me, and in doing so I got the best gift of all in return. Love. The gift that keeps on giving.

 

On Being Incorrigable November 4, 2013

We all have our reasons. I realized this today as mom called me incorrigible for the millionth time. There I was (minding my own business) conducting my usual after-dinner scavenge all over her clothes and bam. There’s that word again. Incorrigible.

I figured its about time I gain a better understanding of this word, as it differs from most words (like cute, lovable, and adorable) that I’m more accustomed to being called. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Bing defines incorrigible as “impossible or very difficult to correct or reform…unruly and unmanageable.”Who are you calling incorrigable?

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this word being on the aforementioned list of adjectives with which I prefer to associate myself. I wouldn’t consider myself unruly or unmanageable. And I have my reasons. I’m not ashamed when my people call me a multipurpose vacuum cleaner/broom combination. It’s true – I do indeed seize even the teeny tiniest little scraps the moment they hit the floor. I won’t deny that I scavenge and beg even though I get scolded for it. Because I have my reasons.

I can remember when I was living on the streets and we ate whatever we could find. I know what hunger (to the point of starvation) feels like. When I close my eyes, I can still remember the words of the doggie doctors at the humane society when I was first taken in there. “He looks like he hasn’t eaten in days.” And I hadn’t. These memories have developed into habits I do indeed struggle to break.

I’m convinced this is probably why my people call me needy from time to time as well. Lately I’ve perfected the skill of pawing at dad’s feet when I want something. I don’t think he always fancies it (out comes that incorrigible word again), but I don’t let that bother me. My people get their fair share of snuggles, and I am not shy with showing affection with visitors.

If I recall correctly, Marley (a personal idol of mine of John Grogan’s Marley & Me) also earned the incorrigible nickname a great deal. Mr. Obedience-School-Drop-Out himself. The way I see it, I’m in good company. And like Marley, I have my reasons.

My incorrigible nature runs deep. It’s an ode to my past as I live my present. And that is something I refuse to change. If that makes me incorrigible, then so be it. Because I aspire to be like Marley, who was incorrigible in good ways that outweighed the bad.

“A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his,” Grogan wrote. “(Marley) taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it. Where there is that, most other pieces fall into place.” What do you know? Some things are worth being incorrigible about.

 

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.

 

Keeps On Giving August 5, 2013

It all started with a gift. It was Christmas Day 1997 and my mom and her little sister only asked Santa Claus for one thing that year. A puppy. They wrote to Santa, talked to him at the mall (several times), and prayed together every night that their wish for a puppy would come true.

So you can imagine their disappointment when there was no puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. It didn’t matter that there was plenty of other shiny packages with pretty ribbons and bows. There was no puppy. But a surprise lurked under the tree that later proved to be even better than a puppy. It was a package with a promise inside. “This coupon is good for one rescue puppy.”

It wasn’t from Santa either. It was from mom’s parents. They wanted mom and her sister (who were 12- and 8-people-years-old at the time) to be part of the process of picking the perfect puppy. And they wanted the puppy to be a rescue dog from the local animal shelter. It didn’t take long before they found her. Pheobe. It was love at first sight. Pheobe was the one.Gratitude

Phoebe counseled mom and her little sister through their remaining years as little people as only us canines can do. She got dolled up in all sorts of clothes, learned most of the same tricks mom would later teach me (give kiss was a favorite of hers), and made mischief that brought joy to the hearts of the entire family. She was the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving.

Later in her life, she went to live with my mom’s great-grandma to keep her company after great-grandpa went to heaven. She’d grown a bit less spunky then, but had a gift for simply being there. She was an extra set of ears to listen. An extra set of eyes to see. An extra heart to love.

Sometimes it happens suddenly. Other times it happens over time. I’ve seen it happen both ways and I don’t think one is any easier than the other. Loss is loss. When it happens doesn’t fill the gaping hole left in the hearts of those left behind. It was a gradual decline for Phoebe, but that doesn’t negate the truth that the world lost another canine treasure today. Pheobe went to doggie heaven today, after 18 years of bringing all sorts of joy to the hearts of many.

But it all ends with a gift. And, just like Phoebe, it’s not wrapped in pretty paper or tied up with ribbons. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, it’s about as simple as it gets. We never got to meet in person, but we didn’t have to for me to know the gift Pheobe granted me. My gift from Pheobe was the same as that one my mom opened all those years ago. It was a promise. This coupon is good for one rescue puppy. Thanks to the relationship my mom had with Phoebe growing up, it turns out that coupon was good for more than one rescue puppy. So far, it’s been good for two. I will always have Pheobe to thank for that.

Rest in peace, dear Pheobe. You will be missed.

 

I Chose Life July 2, 2013

What we know in our hearts we believe with our minds. It might sound simple, but this canine way of thought can also be incredibly complex. It’s also true regardless of what side of the doggie door we live on. If we’re on our own we are responsible for everything, in stark contrast to life in a forever home where the majority of decisions are made for us. Down to what we eat and when we eat it, we rely on our people to make the majority of life’s decisions for us.

But there is one thing we control regardless of whether we wear a collar with our names on it. We control how we feel about things. And I have to admit I didn’t always like the way I felt about people. Though I would argue puppies are born into this world with an innate connection to people, I learned not to trust them within the first few days of my life. My birth mom didn’t seem to trust them, so neither would I. I didn’t know the rationale behind her behavior, but it didn’t matter. It was decided. I too wouldn’t trust people. After I was separated from my mom, my belief remained intact for the most part. That is until various characters came in and out of my life that began to alter my perception. Maybe I was right all along, I remember thinking, we should trust people. My instincts were right! Yay Life!

It wasn’t long after that I met Jo and the man with the leather belt. Also known as the man with the baseball bat. And the man with the power drill. I didn’t make many decisions when I lived with them, except for the one I could control. I will never ever trust people again. What my heart knew was confirmed in my mind that day when the man left me on the side of the road. I remember Jo crying in the backseat, and I cringed thinking of her punishment when she got home and I wasn’t there to protect her anymore. The reality of that thought made me lose any shred of respect I still had for people.

It was a defining moment in my life. And the more I thought about my unconditional love for Jo, the more I realized I couldn’t give up all hope in people. I was faced with a decision, a fork in the road, and instead of doubt I chose hope. It made me too sad to think about a life without hope and trust and that unconditional love for a person. My purpose in life was not to be a scared little dog with no one to love.

That awful man may have scarred me emotionally, but he would not define the rest of my life. I knew in my heart that day I could trust people again, so I believed it. Complex as the journey was, it was actually surprisingly simple. Regardless of whether we wear a collar with our name on it, that is what we canines control. We control how we feel about things and no level of domestication can take that away from us.

I hate to think of what would have happened had I decided to stick to my decision not to trust people. I certainly wouldn’t have let that nice lady pick me up and take me to the Oshkosh Humane Society. Once I got there, I wouldn’t have tried my hardest to seem adorable and adoptable. I could have been that bitter dog who stays at the shelter until…well, they aren’t at the shelter anymore.

Instead I chose life. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Related Posts:

Hands: Heads or Tails? – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/24/hands-heads-or-tails/

Man’s Best Friend – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/06/16/mans-best-friend/

 

Obedience School Drop Out June 28, 2013

I’ve been called a lot of not-so-nice things in my relatively short doggie life. Obedience school drop out. Behaviorally challenged. Approved for homes with children ages 12 and above. Yet I find in life’s greatest contradictions lie some of the most intricate sources of wisdom.

Its true of animals and people alike if you ask me. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it as truth. In a dog’s life, words like stupid, naughty, and troubled haunted my puppyhood. In a person’s life, overuse of words like stupid, disabled, or challenged as a child can impact a person for the rest of their adult life. Truth becomes us. But can we become truth?

Becoming Truth

I’ve often wondered this as I think nostalgically back on my time before my people brought me into my forever home. I encountered a variety of characters in a myriad of settings who each taught me invaluable lessons along my journey. So how could I be so stupid? Why do they keep calling me naughty? What did the folks at the humane society say to my mom that almost made her give up fighting to adopt me?

Then it happened. The tides changed, and with them my life changed forever. Two distinctly similar moments come to mind when I think of the brilliance of contradictory wisdom. My first night at the humane society when I thought the world was coming to an end, Rusty the golden retriever showed me the light. Much like my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rusty believed we are not products of what the world tells us, but rather of what we tell ourselves. We are what we think, so of course if we believe the negative things that are said about us we indeed may become them.

The bookend to my understanding of this occurred only a few short months later, when my forever family took me to see an animal behaviorist for my alleged behavioral problems. (This was required by the humane society as a condition of my adoption.) I’ll never forget the first two sentences Jenny said when we began our session. “He’s got to be one of the most unique looking dogs I’ve ever met,” she said, “and so smart!”

It was the first time anyone had ever used the word smart to describe me. And in that moment I was both overwhelmed with joy and humbled. Rusty changed my interpretation of the world around me by changing my interpretation of myself, and here I was being praised for simply being me. I know it sounds contradictory, but in that moment I realized true wisdom is found through admission there is much yet to learn.

It is because of my personal admission of humility that I can say I honestly wouldn’t mind being called those negative names anymore. Sure, if we hear something repeated enough times we begin to believe it. But let us learn from the variety of characters life offers us. Let us choose to contradict the negative things with our positive thoughts. Let us become our own truth.

 

The Happiness Trinity May 30, 2013

Charlie. Milkbones. Home. A list of randomness to some, a daily happiness trinity to me.

It reminds me a bit of a bit I saw on “Sesame Street” many moons ago. I think I caught a couple episodes during my stint at my first adoptive home. The part I remember most is a song “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” I took the song at face value given my puppyhood at the time, but now I better understand the greater psychological implications of a the concept. One of these things doesn’t belong.Think Happy!

That was the story of me at the time. I know I didn’t belong on the streets. I didn’t belong at the humane society. I didn’t belong at my first adoptive home (with the people who adopted me and took me back to the humane society two weeks later). I’ve known it all along, but that didn’t necessarily make things easier. What did was changing my thought process to find a way to make myself belong, regardless of my surroundings. By using the tools I’d been blessed with at puppy birth, I was able to find my way to happiness even when the road was long and tough.

The secret equation that led me to where I am today? Finding three blessings to be thankful for on a daily basis, no matter how small. I find joy in all sorts of unusual places, and in doing so, I’m not like the others but at least I belong.

Today I met a dog named Charlie at the dog park. He is a five-month-old golden retriever, who reminded me a bit of my pals named Rusty. He was so full of life, and his playfulness was contagious. He had a personality that made you happy just because he was so happy. When I got home from the dog park, mom gave me two Milkbones (the joy involved is probably pretty self-explanatory on this one).

Then there’s that place called home. After all those places I didn’t belong, I now have a place called home. My happiness trinity is complete.

 

Lanterns of Love May 12, 2013

Every visitor to she Schmidt home is welcomed by the same message above the stairway as they walk in the door. “Home is where your story begins.” I see it every day, yet today it speaks to me and I see it in a different light. I think it’s because today is mother’s day in my neck of the woods; a day set aside to show gratitude and respect for everything one’s mother has done in his or her life. I’m blessed to have more than one of these characters as lanterns of love in my life, so today I take a moment’s paws to recognize each one.

Dear birth mom,

It’s Wiley. Your son. I know it’s been a while (almost five years now), and words can’t tell you how sorry I am that is the case. Our time together was short-lived, but I want you to know how special each moment was to me. Age and experience has taught me how challenging it must have been caring for my two brothers and I all by yourself. I’m so proud of you. And I want you to know I’m okay. Well, actually I’m better than okay. I’m spectacular. I’m happy. And I found a forever home with people who love me so much they sometimes squeeze me so hard I can’t breathe. They take really good care of me, mom. I wish you could meet them and they could take care of you too. Are you okay out there? I sure hope so. You deserve to live happiness like this. Wherever you are, please know I love you now as much as I ever did.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Jo,

Remember me? I was your little buddy in the house with the man and the leather belt. I hate that he took me away from you that day all those people years ago. I miss you every day and pray you are living a the life you deserve to live, with any luck separate from that awful dad of yours. Even though you were only a little girl, I know you would have done everything you could to keep me from harm’s way. You were a hero to me, a mother in your own rite. If there is one thing I’d want you to know above all else, it is that you will be a fantastic mother one day. Never doubt yourself.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Katie,

You probably don’t remember me. I am one of so very many doggies you help at the Oshkosh Humane Society, and it’s been almost three years now since you last saw me. But sometimes it is those who we meet in passing that make some of the most distinguished impacts on our life, and this is true of you. You didn’t do it for praise or adoration, and that’s why every little thing you did for me meant so very much. You are a living example of a servant leader. Thank you.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear forever mom,

Thank YOUI know you haven’t always been dealt the easiest hands of cards to play in life. I know you struggle with some things more than you let on.

More than once I’ve seen you stop and look away from yourself in the mirror, just like Sarah Ban Breathnach talks about in the early pages of Simple Abundance. I’ve seen you cry, and heard you question you direction in life. Sometimes you talk to me about your feelings and I wish more than anything I could tell you I understand (at least the majority) of what you’re saying. I’d start with telling you to see yourself the way the world sees you. You are beautiful, strong, and confident (even if you doubt it). You are more special to me than you will ever possibly know. As my number one fan, I know you are reading my blog, so I will share with you a sample of Breathnach’s words that speak to me.

“Turn away from the world this year and begin to listen,” she writes. “Listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Your silent companion has lit lanterns of love to illuminate the path to Wholeness. At long last, the journey you were destined to take has begun.”

I love you mom. Let me be a lantern of love for you.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Home is where your story begins, and I can honestly say each of these women has been home to me. Lanterns of love for me. They are all important characters that define chapters of my life, and I would not be who I am without each and every one of them. Today I say thank you these women. And today I say thank you to all the women who are these characters to people (and pets) in your lives. You know who you are. Thank you.

 

This Time Around April 9, 2013

I wonder sometimes if I can really call myself an optimist if I believe in second chances. Heck, what if I believe in third, fourth and fifth chances? Doesn’t that afford a certain negativity in the underlying reality that a second, third or fourth chance means admitting failure at some point? Today I realized it is (in fact) the opposite.

“Today, declare to the Universe that you are open to receiving all the abundance it’s patiently waiting to bestow,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.”

Like most things, opportunities are all about perspective. Just as the glass can look half empty to one person What Do You Say To Second Chances?and half full to another, a second chance on something can be a blessing instead of an admission of failure. April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, so what better opportunity to root for second chances for animals all over the world? Beaten, abused, and neglected animals deserve a second chance too, and believe me – they don’t see it as an admission of failure.

There is this thing about being a rescue dog. Like many, I was beaten, abused and neglected before I learned how to turn fear to purpose in my life.

I found rescue in the shelter of the humane society. I would call that my second chance. I was adopted and the family decided I wasn’t a good fit for their situation, so I found rescue in the shelter of the humane society. Again. I would call that my third and fourth chance. It wasn’t until my fifth chance with my forever family that I found my true purpose in life. Time with my forever parents has made me realize how much more powerful my joy is when shared with others, and to bring purpose to some of the things in life that used to frighten me.

But I wouldn’t say those first few chances were completely for naught. Indeed I would argue the opposite. I learned valuable lessons in each of the paths I’ve taken in life, and I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for all the dog treats in the world.

A second chance is a blessing, not a disappointment. As such, I think an optimist would believe in second chances, not because of the inherent understanding of failure in the first opportunity, but because the glass doesn’t get emptier with each try. That’s the point of optimism, isn’t it? To see the glass half full (of potential, happiness, and all other good things) regardless of how full it might actually be?