Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Keepers of the Light January 27, 2014

Leadership. It’s a big word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask 100 people to define a leader and you’ll get at least 60 different responses. Words like strength, courage, integrity, honesty, and loyalty all come to mind. Ask a dog, and the response is pretty simple. Leader of the Pack

For us, its almost instinctual. We have a pack mentality, therefore there will always be a pack leader. And there will always be a pack leader because of our pack mentality. It is that simple. We look to our leader for everything, and do not mind doing so because we prefer to know where we stand. And if no pack leader steps forward, we will assert ourselves as the leader. Whether or not that is the best option is left for interpretation.

I’m not saying one way of thinking is better than another, but I do think there is something to be learned from especially the similarities between the two. At least from what I can tell, there is something almost instinctual about a person’s definition of leadership as well. It is personal, usually aligned in some way with one’s subjective experiences. Good leaders have a way of asserting their leadership in a way that guides rather than forces followers. A way of making them feel at home with their place in life while at the same time in control of it.

Late great American basketball coach John Wooden had a few things to say about leadership, one of them being that leaders make decisions while followers make suggestions. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement about something bothersome. It’s something completely different to actually do something about it.

That’s the thing about leadership. It means different things to different people. But in a way that is also the glue that binds its meaning together. Whether you have two legs or four, one thing in particular seems to ring true. The best leaders are those whose followers become leaders themselves.

So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the canine and the people way of thought. The way I see it, leaders are keepers of the light. They shine brightly for those in the darkness. They guide gently with even the smallest flickering flame. They help people see the way. And (perhaps most importantly) they pass the torch along so there is never a moment of darkness.

 

A Dog’s Tail Never Lies December 19, 2013

I know they can’t always be avoided. But I sure wish there was a safe way around them. From freshly cleaned floors to ice patches on the road, I simply do not care for all things slippery.

This came to mind tonight as I found myself skating across the patio portion of my backyard paradise. I wanted to come inside quickly because I heard my treat jar open when bam! My paws slipped and slid underneath me. And, for that (albeit brief) moment, I was completely out of control. I lost my balance. That’s when I knew for sure this icy stuff is certainly not my friend. It’s slippery. I don’t care for slippery.

Don't Slip!The same can be said of people, I suppose. Us canines are known for our accurate judgment of the character of those around us. We are natural born observers, which I think aids us in our assessments over time. I’ve only made one grave mistake in not trusting my best doggie friend from the streets Tiger. I felt pretty silly about getting that first impression wrong when I learned the reason he was so protective of his food was because he was a single dad caring for his pups.

I learned my lesson and haven’t made the same mistake twice. I knew right away I could trust Jo, and that her caretaker (if you can call him that) otherwise known as the man with the leather belt was bad news. His face came to mind tonight as I was slipping all over the place. I don’t like slippery people any more than I like slippery surface. And he was such a bad person. He made me feel completely out of control. He took away my balance. But he could not take away who I am.

Because who I am is pretty great. I know that now. And you can believe me when I say so since a dog’s tail never lies. Above anything else we are honest. We are who we are. I know this with the same certainty I know there are unfortunately plenty of slippery people out there. And there isn’t always a way around them. But life has taught me sometimes the best defense against a slippery slope is a good offense. And when it comes to fighting evil, mine wins every time.

 

Our Own Light September 30, 2013

The light turns on at the flip of a switch. The food in the fridge tonight will most likely be the same food in the fridge in the morning. My toys will not come alive and run away while I sleep. These are all pieces of life that seem obvious. Given. Understood. Yet under the right (or wrong) conditions, it could all change in a moment.

Life has taught me a very important lesson about this: don’t take a single thing for granted because you never know when electricity will fail, the food will spoil and the toys will wreak havoc on the world. All right, so the last one seems pretty impossible, but so does what is happening in our beloved United States of America tonight.Standing For What's Right

United we are not, at least right now. As I type, the possibility of a government shutdown looms on the minds of Americans. Something that seems so given, so understood, so basic – it could literally shut down tonight. I’d rather not get into the politics of the situation because I don’t believe in fighting for something one way or another that you don’t fully comprehend. Instead I find myself wishing I could somehow pause real life and spend some time living in the White House tonight. I’d get to know Bo (the First Dog) and we could brainstorm together on how to keep things light amidst a challenging situation.

I guess that’s what I think is important in times like this, at least in my humble doggie opinion. When the given becomes a question and the norm shifts, it’s how we persevere that defines what comes next. Sure, it would probably be pretty easy for Bo and I to get carried away playing chase and causing trouble, but that’s not what anyone needs right now. People need joy. Faith. Hope.

It’s all to easy to get swept away with the politics of it all, but the concept remains the same as if that switch doesn’t turn on. We must make our own light in these situations.  We must rise above and learn from our mistakes. Because sometimes our biggest challenges morph into fundamental building blocks of personal identity. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the American government in the next few days, but I know what not to take for granted. Character. Integrity. Honor. These titles are earned. Not given.