Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Try Try Again October 30, 2013

I had it out with the neighbor dog today. Twice. That’s right – Demon Dog and I had words. Well, I’m sure it sounded like barks to the outside observer. But I could no longer sit idly by and stare at him silently while he goes into his fits of rage from the other side of the fence. I had to do something.

Better to TrySo I walked myself (all right, okay, I ran myself) to the very end of the lead (about 30 feet from my backdoor, and about 20 feet from Demon Dog) and I said some things that needed to be said. I told him I don’t know why he’s so angry. I told him I wished we could be friends. That I would listen to whatever struggles he’d lived through and help him find some joy in new beginnings.

But it ended just like it started, with him pacing and panting and growling and snarling. He even digs around a bit at the hole he’s created underneath the fence that separates us. And his bark? Quite frankly it’s terrifying.

I tried again the next time I was outside, but it seemed to be in vain. Also, my people were very unhappy with my efforts as it is incredibly rare for me to bark at anything besides the animals that occasionally come into the living room via the television.

I don’t understand it. We canines don’t discriminate from one breed to another, but I guess people call his a bully breed. And my experiences have shown me why – not only with my neighbor, but also with the dog who attacked me at the dog park. I thought I was a goner that day when he had me by my collar dangling me around from his perch atop that picnic table.

Obviously I survived to tell the tale, but it bothers me that these dogs – these bullies – are out there making a bad name for others of their breed who are capable of love and compassion. Being known as a bully is not an excuse for bad behavior any more than it should be a label on others with a similar appearance.

So I won’t give up on Demon Dog. I had it out with him today and my message didn’t take. And I know I need to be honest with myself – it may never take. But as American actress Shay Mitchell put it “I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.”

He’s strong and confident (at least from what I can tell by his barking habits), but there must be something more there. A past. Some memories. A story that may explain where he came from and why he is the way he is. We all do. And in a world that frequently uses labels as excuses, I’m taking a stand for new beginnings. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.

 

Penny For Your Thoughts August 31, 2013

I did the unthinkable today. I made friends with a feline. And I’ve got to be honest. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Her name is Penny and she frequents my front doorstep, so I assumed she was homeless. She doesn’t wear a collar, so I assumed she wasn’t loved by a person. She’s one of the skinnier felines I’ve come across, so I assumed she doesn’t eat very frequently.

On Friendship

I assumed wrong. I learned today she has a forever home down the street where she is very well-loved by an older lady named Rose. Much like us canines think of our people, Penny considers Rose her best friend. So it hasn’t been easy for Penny to see her person struggling with health issues more frequently lately. She apparently sleeps a lot during the day (which is saying something coming from a cat), so she encourages Penny to seek adventure outside the confines of the house. She trusts that Penny will come home for her specially prepared meals (Penny has digestion issues), and for the love they share.

Penny looked especially downtrodden on my doorstep today, so I successfully pestered mom enough to take me outside to talk to her. It was the first time we’d spoken and I can honestly say I hope it’s not the last. Everything about her surprised me, and she seemed surprised to feel the same way about me.

She said from her perspective I always looked aloof, guarded, and the slightest bit snooty from my perch in the window. Like you think your poop doesn’t stink, she said. We laughed together at that, since we both know poop does indeed stink.

Amidst our laughter, I realized how unfair we had been to each other all this time. We both had these inaccurate pictures of each other’s personality painted in our heads. She had bad experiences with dogs, and I had bad experiences with cats. But in this (albeit strange) situation, we were able to move past those preconceived notions and (gasp!) actually like each other. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that stereotypes are definitely overrated. Other people should not be allowed to determine who you can and cannot befriend. Moreover, others should not determine what should and should not bring you joy.

“Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it,” suggested my favorite transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. “You will find you dance with everything.”

Today I found joy in the most unusual place. I found it in Penny. She makes it her purpose in life to bring joy (from the ground up) to her dearest person named Rose. So I don’t particularly care if she’s a cat and the world says we can’t be friends. Penny is rich with joy, which makes her pretty priceless in my book.

 

Won’t You Be A Neighbor? May 31, 2013

Sometimes the cattiness of people throws me off my game. Here I am, going about my life seeing the best in the people, places and things around me, and reality pulls the rug out from under me. Kind of like that day in the dog park when the pit bull attacked me. All I wanted to do was play chase around the park, and he (obviously) wanted nothing to do with that.

This story involves a different pit bull who lives in the home behind my backyard. He’s a terror of a dog, barking madly at nothing at all, jumping and panting by the fence close enough that I am often the slightest bit thankful my lead doesn’t allow me too close. Will You Be My Neighbor?

About a month ago, he was engaged in his usual crazed routine when his person came outside and spoke a bit to my forever mom and dad while they did yard work. Crazy Dog is her son’s dog, she explained, and she has a very difficult time containing or controlling him (she is an older woman who lives alone). The conversation unfolded to reveal that her son is in jail for an undisclosed amount of time, which explains why the yard he was responsible to tend has been left to grow into it’s own sort of weedy forest. (There are also big hunks of tree laying throughout the yard, in addition to random other things like a plastic dog bowl and a shoe.) Finally, the woman was able to wrangle the dog into the house, leaving mom and dad to finish their yard work in stunned disbelief.

A few minutes later, the woman’s neighbor (our neighbor to the back left kitty corner), came over because she saw us talking. We’d been neighbors for years but this was the first contact she made with my parents. She appealed to their apparent sense of generosity, suggesting we all chip in and offer to clean up this woman’s yard. It seemed fishy to me, since she also mentioned that Crazy Dog had recently caused permanent damage to the adorable face of their Boston Terrier Boondock and the woman didn’t offer to so much as help pay the vet bill. (A crime which wouldn’t be easily forgiven in my home, to be sure). Mom jumped at the opportunity to help, while dad seemed more cautious about it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help out, he told mom later that day, but something seemed weird about it.

Much to the she-grin of my mom, they opted to stay out of it, and made other plans the day they tentatively agreed to help. Sure enough, the neighbor man mowed the lawn and cut down weed city in the yard, leaving it looking the slightest bit better than before.

Fast-forward to today. As my parents and I enjoyed a game of catch in the backyard, dad noticed a moving truck in the driveway of the allegedly good-Samaritan neighbors. A quick Internet search confirmed the truth: the couple was moving, and likely wanted to enlist my parents to help clean our mutual neighbor’s yard simply to improve the appearance of their own home.

It had nothing to do with wanting to help a woman in need. That was just the story they used to manipulate my mom (successfully) and my dad (not-so-successfully) into helping for their own selfish reasons. None of this would have bothered me if they would have just told the truth. Neighbor to neighbor, they could have explained their real reasons for needing help. But nothing about this story is very neighborly if you ask me. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Is there no decency left in the world? What happened to the basic proverb to love thy neighbor as thyself?

Sure, some define neighbor as just a person who lives within close proximity, but I’ve always thought more of the word. Most of us are offered countless opportunities throughout our days to be a good neighbor to others. And I was admittedly thrown off my game to see such a contradiction of that today. Here I am, going about my life seeing the best in the people, places and things around me, and my own neighbor pulls the rug out from under me. But it’s no use dwelling on it. Today I instead choose take what happened with a grain (or three) of delicious proverbial salt. I turn the other cheek. I forget and forgive. Because that’s what neighbors do.