Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

No Freedom Without Love May 19, 2013

Shelter dogs long for it. Teenagers drool over it. Adults occasionally miss it. The way I see it, there is this thing about independence I can’t quite put my right paw on. It’s almost like its one of those things in the world that isn’t all it’s written up to be. But what exactly is it written up to be?

Well, you’d better believe I thought I knew the answer to that question while I was fending for myself on the streets all that time ago. After the initial anxiety I had about being separated from my mom and brothers wore off, I had a newfound and overwhelming surge of pride in my independence. I could do whatever I wanted wherever I wanted with whom ever I wanted. I didn’t have to report to anyone, rely on anyone or support anyone but myself. It was fabulous!

Feeling the LoveOh dog, did I have some growing up to do. I realized it a few days after I became an adjunct member of Tiger’s family. The dog (for whom I was previously uncertain whether to fear or despise) was my single most embarrassing misjudgment of character. It turned out he had four pretty good reasons to be protective of his food and shelter. Their names were Sam, Spike, Lucy and Lana, and they were only about eight weeks old when I met them for the first time. I wasn’t that much older than them myself, but upon meeting them I instantly felt protective like I would have been of my own brothers.

My moment of self-discovery happened a few days later when I had a rough day finding anything to bring home to share with Tiger and his pups. I scrounged harder than when I was on my own because I felt responsible somehow. I was so embarrassed to come home with empty paws that day, but Tiger didn’t mind one bit. He had a hidden stash of food for days like this. I was stubborn at first when he offered me some crumbs of a loaf of bread and a couple of almost-rotten carrots. I didn’t need his help. I could fend for myself. I was better than this. Stronger than this.

In that moment as Tiger’s earnest eyes held out to me my portion of the scraps I realized sometimes knowing when to ask for or accept help is wisdom at its core. There is more strength in those who ask for help than those who refuse it. Indeed, I was no longer the only dog who cared if I lived or died. I was no longer completely independent. And it wasn’t so bad. A few seconds later, I was scarfing down those precious little scraps with more joy in my heart than if I had returned home that day with a feast.

“Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

What a silly young dog I once was, thinking complete independence was the best thing since sliced bacon. Independence, at its skeletal core, is not all its written up to be. It’s not about being completely alone in all things, plotting through life to “figure things out.” It’s about understanding yourself well enough to know how you best relate to others. It’s about making the best of our moments of solitude and sharing the resulting joy with someone. It’s about asking for help when you think you need it least. There is no true independence, no freedom, without love.

Today’s post is lovingly dedicated to a four-legged blogosphere friend of mine named Claire.

She passed away a few days ago, and she will be sorely missed.

Claire and Frond


Love in Laughter February 22, 2013

It’s going to sound silly. I know it is. But my most favorite meal happened about a week ago, and it is another one of those days I will never forget. It was Valentine’s Day and my adoptive parents opted to cook together rather than go out to a fancy restaurant.

I savor these nights, because (obviously) they are home instead of leaving me, but also because they laugh. Oh, how they laugh. They talk about their day and they laugh together, and (every now and then) they even dance. They laughed that night, but it wasn’t necessarily about anything particularly funny. That’s the best kind of laughter in my opinion.

The steaks burned in the cast iron skillet enough that the house filled with smoke, and dad had to open all the windows and doors to be able to see through his glasses. I know because he cleaned his glasses, mom’s glasses, and the moving picture window while mom finished making their surf and turf dinner. And then they laughed. It’s February in Wisconsin, so it is far too cold to have doors and windows open. But they didn’t mind. They laughed instead.

The steak had a surprisingly happy crust on it according to both mom and dad while they ate, which made them both smile regardless of the haze that remained in the room well after dinnertime had passed. The lobster turned out perfectly, which they both found pride in since lobster that good at a restaurant would have cost at least three times what they spent on it. And, best of all, dad let me lick his plate clean.

This may sound like common practice in some doggie lives, but it was a first in mine. Even my mom (who breaks many of my doggie rules when dad isn’t looking) has never let me lick her plate clean. It was truly a landmark day in my life.

Dad used to say “I don’t love him, he’s a dog.” Now he’s let me lick his plate. He doesn’t have to say it. I know he loves me. And I love you too, dad. I just wanted you to know.Yummy Dinner Plate