Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

To Give Is To Receive December 10, 2013

I wasn’t trying to be funny. It was all just part of my standard outside routine. But tonight it may as well been part of a stand-up comedy act. I assumed play stance to the left. And again to the right. To the front. And to the back. And so on, for about 2 minutes.

Do I have something on my face?Meanwhile I heard it from the other side of the screen door. A sound that warms my heart. My people were laughing together (rather hysterically I might add) at my antics. There are few things in the world I love more than that sound. I knew at an early age people laughter would be a favorite sound of mine, in situations not that unlike what occurred tonight.

The first time was the night my birth mom and brothers spent in a homeless shelter. It was a frigid Wisconsin winter night (just like it is tonight) and at the mercy of a little girl who saw us shivering outside the window we spent the night in warmth. But that wasn’t the highlight of my night. That happened later when I heard it for the first time. A little person laugh. The little girl was laughing at a movie we watched together that night called “An American Tail.” I didn’t know it at the time, but I would come to view that beautiful sound as my Christmas gift that year.

The same sort of thing happened the following holiday season, which I spent with Jo and the man with the leather belt. All I wanted for Christmas was to see her happy. And she was. It didn’t last long, but it didn’t have to. It was Christmas and she was laughing and that was gift enough for me.

This will be my third Christmas in my forever home, and I know in my heart what I am most looking forward to about it. I can’t wait for Christmas morning when mom and dad traditionally open their presents from each other. (And it’s not because there is inevitably a toy or treat for me under the Christmas tree).

Even more surprising, it’s not because of the gifts they receive. It’s because of the gifts they give. I don’t witness the shopping, but I do witness every other part of preparation that goes into their gifts for each other. That’s why I know it doesn’t really matter what’s inside the boxes.

Because they ultimately give each other the best gift of all. Joy. From the ground up, it happens in ways most people wouldn’t even find entertaining. Like my antics in the snow today for example. I didn’t mean for anything to come of that. But as laughter is the embodiment of joy, so the real gifts in life are those we give. Not those we receive.


Just One Thing November 22, 2013

Two years and three months. That’s how many people years I lived before I met my forever family. I had my time (albeit brief) with my birth mom and brothers. Then there was Tiger – the single doggie dad – and his puppies, who I lived with on the streets for a while. Next came Jo and the man with the leather belt. And finally the first family who adopted me but never loved me as one of their own.

Happiness Is...Looking back on all the homes I’ve had sometimes makes me wonder what life had been like if I had been one of those fancy breeder puppies that cost all kinds of money. Even my forever people first considered purebred West Highland or Norfolk terriers before deciding to adopt a rescue dog. So what would have happened if they had found me in puppyhood? How would life have been different? Would I be different?

I may not be able to travel through time and space to make such a thing a reality, but I can imagine it. And I’m not going to lie – it looks pretty swell. I picture dad picking me out from the litter and tying a big red ribbon around my neck. At eight weeks old, I could have been mom’s birthday present for her 23rd birthday.

I would never have known the pain of losing my birth mom and brothers the way I did. I would never have seen so many things I wish I could un-see while I lived with Jo and the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t know the rejection that accompanies being returned to the humane society. Sometimes you don’t even know you were lost until you are found.

But that time was not devoid of family. Quite the opposite in fact. I wouldn’t trade the time I had with my birth mom and brothers. She was home to me. I wouldn’t know the sincere compassion I learned from the time I spent helping Tiger support his family. I wouldn’t have the overwhelming desire to protect those I love without time with my beloved Jo.

Three years and two months. That’s how long I’ve lived with my forever family. Though there are a fair share of ups and downs here just as there is anywhere, joy has overwhelmed my time here. But I realized something today. If I could change just one thing I wouldn’t. Each of those pieces comes together into who I am. Past, present and future.


My Purpose-Driven Life August 28, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession). Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?Ground Up Thinking

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed something. Regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. And I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers.

I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again.

I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and opted to abandon me on the side of the road.

I feared I would never know home again.

So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life.

I feared I never know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. And I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

It is a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and (in doing so) bring fear to purpose. What’s yours?


The Board of Life July 17, 2013

Personalities. Inside or outside, that’s the first thing I want to explore when I’m faced with an exciting new environment. My nose doesn’t always allow this to happen until after I have also run a perimeter check, marked some territory, and sniffed some butts (if there are other animals involved), but that doesn’t change what’s in my heart.

I realized it today when mom took me to a new dog park. It was a lot farther car ride (let’s face it, I didn’t mind that one bit) and when we got there I knew I had something pretty spectacular waiting for me inside that fence. Sure enough, there were all kinds of new smells, new dogs, and new people all just waiting for me to arrive. As I ventured around the novel space, my mind wandered to the characters I have been fortunate to meet in the various dog parks, homes, shelters, and streets I’ve had the pleasure to explore over the years.

Deep in Thought

I’ve come to think of these characters, these personalities, as those who make up my board of life. Influencers, decision-makers, and simple lovers of the present of presence make up my own personal board of directors With age and experience, the council grows and I understand more about who I am and what my purpose in life really is because of these people.

Granted, we all have characters we would probably prefer not to have met. The man with the leather belt probably tops that list for me. But even these weaker links are still very often links to something special. Without the man with the leather belt coming into my life, I would never have met Jo, a child who taught me by example what it meant to love someone unconditionally.

Rusty comes to mind as well as a major influence on my decision to embrace the good in all people, places and things. My time with my birth mom and brothers, albeit far too brief, taught me the meaning of family. Katie from the humane society, who took extra time to play with me and make me feel loved when I had never felt more lonely. She showed me the impact of compassion. And my forever mom and dad share a seat at the head of the things, bringing me into a home where I get to exercise all of these emotional lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

I didn’t come across any new board members on my journey through the new dog park today. But I did enjoy meeting the new people and dogs and getting to know their unique personalities. In doing so I realized the powers that be only shared part of the picture when they claimed everything happens for a reason. We all know that part of the story. I fear too often we forget everyone happens for a reason too.


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/


Man’s Best Friend June 16, 2013

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood. I have been blessed with more than my fair share of loving motherly types in my life, but I’ve had somewhat a drought of father figures.

I never met my biological father. I hated him for it every day I watched mom struggle to provide and make such short ends meet. My time with her was a gift and I wouldn’t change a bit of it for myself. We had fun, we didn’t go hungry and we always had a (somewhat warm) place to sleep. But I hated him for leaving her to do so much all by herself. And I wonder sometimes if he would have been in the equation if we would have all gotten separated on that fateful day so many years ago.Dad and I

My path in life would never be the same after we got separated. And wow, can a change in scenery can change your perspective on things. I went from not having a dad to having a string of them who were terrible to me. The worst (by far) was the man with the leather belt. I shudder to think of all those times I tried to protect Jo (the man’s daughter) from him, and the chaos and pain that made up the aftermath. To this day, I have a somewhat obsessive fear of leather belts, baseball bats, power tools and laundry baskets.

These pieces of my past remain in my present but that doesn’t change my current outlook on things. I’ve learned a lot along the way about the strength we have in perseverance through the tough times. Through each struggle we emerge stronger, better, and more equipped to take on the next mountain in life.

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood, but all that has changed now thanks to the current father figure in my life.

Today is Father’s Day in America, and for the first time in my life I have someone to celebrate. I know getting a dog was mom’s idea, but my forever dad is the one who found me online at the Oshkosh Humane Society. He’s the one I play with, wrestle around with and prefer to snuggle up to at night (mom gets too warm). He doesn’t say he loves me nearly as much as mom, but he doesn’t have to. I can set it in his eyes when we’re playing, when we have an epic love fest (usually when mom’s not around) and even when he talks nonsense to me. He loves me more than he’ll ever admit. And he has restored my faith in the concept of man’s best friend. I love you dad.