Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Silly Little Games December 1, 2014

I feel like I should be a little hurt. Something has been happening pretty frequently around here lately, and I can’t say I particularly appreciate the implications. Mostly because it is complete and utter nonsense. I would never in a million years purposely hurt my dear little Carter. Yet I am fairly convinced my beloved forever people think I would.

There’s this game we play together that makes mom and dad uncharacteristically anxious about Carter’s physical proximity to me. I think it’s funny. Carter thinks it’s funny. My people? Not so much.Best Buddies

It all started when Carter began assimilating what toys are mine and what toys are his. He’s even taken to handing (or sometimes throwing) me toys he knows are mine. We have developed an unspoken truce between us to respect each other’s things. In general, I stay away from all of his noisy, lighted button-y things and he stays away from Mrs. Prickles. In general.

That is, with the exception of our game. He will give me a toy, I will play with it, I make playful noises as he tries to get it back, and he laughs. It’s all totally harmless. Except that I guess my noises sound intimidating to my people, which inevitably brings our fun to a sudden and dramatic halt.

Truth be told, I love that I have found another way to make Carter giggle. His laughter makes my people happy, which in turn brings me the sincerest kind of joy. And in my own little way, I feel like this game allows us to “talk” to each other. But my people don’t like it and today I stopped to contemplate why.

Mostly I feel like I should be a little hurt. Because I’m a believer in the words of Scottish poet George MacDonald, who once said “to be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” And, in most ways, I know without a doubt the trust they have in their hearts for me.

So I tried to put myself in their shoes. To see where they’re coming from. And, as much as I trust them with all of my heart, I realized exactly why they feel the way they do. Because that’s how I feel about them. If anything, or anyone, made a sound (or action) like I do when Carter and I are playing our game, I would probably attack them. I love my people too much to ask questions. That’s how they feel for Carter.

I suppose I could let myself feel hurt over this. Instead, I feel blessed. Because just as I know they feel that way about Carter, I believe they feel that way about me. Between that, and knowing I never would dream of hurting anyone in my forever family, I’d say I’m in pretty good shape.

 

Eyes on the Prize October 28, 2014

I know it’s totally my fault. I know it’s because I am not one of those four-leggers who finds pleasure in ripping my stuffed toys to shreds. I’ve done so by mistake a couple of times because I was overcome with excitement for some unknown reason, but the only feeling I had afterward was disappointment. Loss. It was too soon to lose that furry little squirrel.

I’ve spoken before about my beloved comfort circle of my favorite characters, like Mrs. Prickles and my Angry Bird. Both are cherished in my heart, and are therefore still around to tell the tale. They are not abused, but rather cared for and appreciated as best I know how.

Young at HeartSo it should be no surprise to me that my toy collection doesn’t grow too frequently. There is no need to replace anyone because they remain intact. Though this is for good reason (I’ve been known to cling to things I love), I do occasionally miss the early days in my forever home when I was showered with all kinds of new toys all the time. Just because I chose to keep my toys in good condition shouldn’t penalize me in the new toy department, should it?

I didn’t even realize I felt this way until this weekend when (alas!) my forever people returned home with a bag with something for me inside. This used to happen a lot more frequently before my little person came home, but I don’t mind. The point is that in this moment, I had a new toy. I could smell it before they even came into the house. And when they got inside, I could tell dad was probably almost as excited as I was to see it as he was to give it.

The contents of the bag were somewhat surprising, containing a plastic ball with holes everywhere, and a couple of large dental treats. Before I could snap the treat out of dad’s hands, he shoved it inside the ball and I’ll be darned if I haven’t spent the better part of the last three days trying to get it out. It smells so delicious, and a little shard I was able to chew off confirmed it is as tasty as it smells.

It didn’t take me long to realize this toy is masked. It may appear to offer instant gratification, but instead it is in it for the long haul. Just like the rest of my toy collection. I know it’s totally my fault that I don’t get new toys that frequently anymore. But today I realized that’s not such a bad thing. I do love my existing collection to pieces, partially due to the lessons they’ve taught me. I already know the lesson I am to learn from the new toy, in spite of my inherent desire to dislike it. Sometimes you have to work for the prize. It’s not always handed to you. And oftentimes these are the prizes most worth fighting for.

 

On Choosing Joy June 19, 2014

I don’t get out much. I mean no disrespect to my people in saying so either. It’s a simple truth that of the 365 days in a year, about half of those days are actually walkable by a dog who lives in Wisconsin. Especially when we have an epically cold winter like we did this year, followed by a freakishly chilly (almost non-existent spring) and now this. Tornadoes have taken over cities around here lately as thunderstorms make their presence known.

Happiness IsJust the other day I was napping peacefully when alarms sounded to let my people and I know danger was potentially headed our way. Thankfully we were safe, save for a few tree branches in my backyard paradise that didn’t make the cut. But I was more upset about the interruption of my dream. As is the norm during nap time, I was in a very happy place. Except this time it surprised me to find that place was someplace other than my forever home.

It was everywhere else. There I was, on my own again, exploring the world. Except in this dream I knew I had a home to return to when it was all over. I knew because I (of course) had Mrs. Prickles with me to remind me of my forever people. But, more importantly than that, I had my joy. From the ground up, it is always with me reminding me of all things past, present and future for which I can be thankful.

I was reminded of this as the most simple of things came into question the other day. The rain fell down and the thunder and lightning were so strong they woke mom, dad and I all up in the night. Carter somehow slept through all of that (don’t ask me how). But as the rain fell and the winds shook the walls of my forever home I was reminded of what is really important in my life. It’s not my toys. Its not my plush doggie bed. It’s not even the photos of my dear forever family that scatter throughout the house.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t get out much. Our weather around here is harsh and unpredictable. But that’s okay, because it’s the joy I choose every single day that brings me strength. I think this is what is missing from so many lives, more than the possessions people seek. Joy. From the ground up, it’s yours for the taking.

 

Learning New Tricks January 25, 2014

The Time is NowWhoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks didn’t know what they were talking about. I’m five people years old and I learned a new trick today. Well, that’s not entirely true. But I thought about it. Does that count?

All kidding aside, my people talked tonight about teaching me to retrieve a specific toy based on its name. Flea. Mrs. Prickles. Mr. Prickles. Angry Bird. These are a few of the characters in question. What they don’t know is I definitely know who’s who amidst my toy clan. I just prefer to not play favorites.

But this whole trick misunderstanding is akin to something silly I heard my people say a while back. There’s no right time to have a baby, mom said. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a positive thing to say. Nor is it negative.

And, as I am in the habit of choosing optimism over pessimism, it got me to thinking about this idea of there being a “right” time to make a major life change. Like learning a new trick, regardless of your age. Or breaking a bad habit. Or starting a good one.

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go,” suggested American author and motivational speaker Nido Quebein, “they merely determine where you start.”

It doesn’t matter when you learn the new tricks, as long as you have an open mind. Because the “right” time is now.

 

A Snow Globe Life December 17, 2013

At first I thought for sure it was the snowflakes. It snowed again yesterday and I found myself in awe of the glittery magic all around me. It was like being in a snow globe. The flakes fell from the sky so peacefully. Once they lay to rest, they create a blanket of sparkling diamonds in my backyard paradise. So I thought maybe if I could collect anything in the world it would be snowflakes.

But today as the snow melted ever so slightly I realized how silly that would be. There are no lasting remnants of the snow after it’s gone. By summertime it’s like it never even existed. That is, until winter rolls around again and brings with it the frozen particles of joy.

So maybe if I could collect anything, I would collect toys. In all of their various shapes, colors and sizes, they are vessels of happiness for me. And, as demonstrated by my impressive skills in the games of pickle in the middle and tug of war, they often bring happiness to my people as well. I refer to my current collection as my comfort circle, which contains about a dozen different characters. But that’s enough to overflow an entire basket in the living room. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe I don’t need more.

ContentmentMaybe I don’t need more. This is not to say anything against collections of things, but I realized today there is strength in accepting what we have been blessed with in life. In being grateful for it. Because ultimately it’s not the things we collect that matter. It’s the details. It’s the moments.

As breathtaking as a fresh snow globe perspective can be, it’s not so much the snowflakes as the joy they bring that I hold close to my heart. Its the moments I share with mom and dad playing around in the aftermath of a big snowstorm. In the extra attention I get when we come inside from playing together and I need to get all cleaned off. In the cuddles we enjoy together to warm up.

The same goes for the toys. It’s not so much about having dozens of characters in my comfort circle as it is about making the moments with the ones I have mean something. And whether it’s just me and Mrs. Prickles, or my people are involved, I am blessed.

Perhaps that’s the bigger lesson I was to take from my observation of my snow globe life yesterday. Sure, the snowflakes are a sight to be seen. And my toys are deeply loved and appreciated. If I could collect anything, it wouldn’t be these things. It would be moments. Because they have something very important in common. Joy. From the ground up, it’s not the things that bring the joy. It’s in the moments joy is present that we truly live.

 

Not-So Little Luxuries September 7, 2013

It’s kind of like counting sheep. It’s my understanding people do this sometimes to calm their minds into falling asleep. This would never calm a canine mind (for obvious reasons) but my method sure does bring me peace. I count my blessings.

The list includes the obvious characters who make up daily life (like mom and dad), as well as the less obvious things (like my special spot under my favorite tree in my backyard). Today I noticed something about the list I couldn’t keep from sharing: it never seems to get shorter. Instead, it seems only to grow to include more of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) luxuries in life.

I recognize this in itself is a blessing, and yet it got me to thinking. What would happen if something fell off the list? What if one of life’s not-so-little luxuries went away for some reason? Which could I not live without?

My constant flow of healthy food and water came to mind, followed closely by their (slightly less necessary) tasty counterparts peanut butter and bacon. And Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. Losing them would be a major problem. But I know my people would never let me go hungry. And (as much as I hate to admit it) Mr. and Mrs. Prickles are indeed replaceable (exhibits A and B: Flea and Angry Bird).  My Comfort Circle of Characters

It wasn’t until later in the day I realized what ties the list together. I tend to think through these things around the same times each day. Morning and evening. Both times have something very important in common. My bed. And I’m not talking about the dog bed in the kitchen. Nor do I understand the appeal of a dog bed (which comes home smelling like a factory) compared to a people bed (which contains all of the smells of our people us dogs long to be near at all times).

My SpotIt was not an easy battle to conquer either. I took mom down first with what I fondly refer to as “the look” combined with my persuasive cuddling skills. Getting dad to agree to the arrangement was a whole other game entirely. I had to be strategic about it. And patient. Until one night (after more than two years of effort on my part) “the look” and my cuddling skills struck again.

Since then I’ve secured my spot in the bed and I will not let it go for all the dog treats in the world. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It smells heavenly. And it’s where I count my blessings at morning and at night. But the more I think about it, I suppose even the bed itself is replaceable at least to a certain extent. Because (as much as it is indeed the coziest bit of people-smelling cloud a dog could ask for) it’s so much more than a bed.

As American screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola reminds us “I like simplicity; I don’t need luxury.” I suppose I don’t need luxury either. I just need my people. It’s that simple. So as I count my blessings tonight from my perch on the bed, I give thanks not for the comfy cloud itself. Rather I give thanks for its representation of the love I have for my people, and their love for me. Ultimately I think that is the luxury I truly could not live without.

 

How Are You Really? July 30, 2013

I’m not proud to admit this but I sent Mrs. Prickles to the emergency room recently.

One minute I was nursing on her as usual, and the next minute I couldn’t keep myself from tearing the little white fluff balls out of her. Both are instinctual behaviors for me, yet I was surprised to find myself enjoying the task of removing fluff balls. Several of the other members who make up my comfort circle have similar holes in them that I leave alone. So why now did I find myself losing control?

Truth be told, I don’t know what happened. And I think that happens sometimes. We get so caught up in something it kind of takes over our motor functions until someone brings us back to reality. I didn’t want to hurt Mrs. Prickles. I didn’t mean to. But I did.

 

It makes me stop and think about how I see people interacting with one another. With everything going on in people’s lives it can be so easy to get caught up in things and not pay attention to what is happening around you. It brings to mind a commonplace people conversation I have overheard one too many times. Person one asks person two how they are. Person two responds with a generally generic answer like super, swell, good or (on occasion) terrible. Person two then turns the question back to person one. How are you? Sometimes the conversation continues, sometimes not.Thinking of You

What bothers me about this interaction is that it always seems to me to be on autopilot. Just like me and Mrs. Prickles. The people are (more often than not) just having the conversation to be polite and really neither person cares all that much about how the other person is doing. Not really. So why do we ask the question?

Why did I start uncontrollably taking fluff balls out of one of my favorite toys? It’s in our nature. Something in my nature (that I don’t particularly care to embrace or understand) encouraged me to rip Mrs. Prickles (who I happen to love) to pieces. Something in people nature makes them feel the need to start conversations in which their heart isn’t invested.

And I’m not saying these are bad things. Without our nature we wouldn’t be who we are, after all. But I am in the business of challenging what’s easy. Mrs. Prickles is all fixed now, no thanks to me. (I’m going to do what I can to keep it that way). I have, after all, also seen the polite “how are you” question develop into much deeper people conversations. So maybe its worth it to take life off autopilot every once in a while.