Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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Get Rich Quick November 29, 2013

Shopping isn’t for me. I’ve tried it a few times when mom was kind enough to let me accompany her to dog-friendly stores and farmer’s markets and pet fairs. While I very much enjoyed the company (and the attention I inevitably draw at these sorts of places), the actual concept of shopping doesn’t trip my proverbial trigger.

I enjoy new toys and treats and fresh bags of dog food as much as the next canine. But the actual process of hunting for it? Not so much. I get far too distracted by the people. So it sounds like I would have been very distracted today, on what my people call Black Friday. I’ve never cared much for black (also known as the color of darkness, sadness and death) and I can’t say I care much for this day either.

Talking MoneyYesterday people all over the country celebrated. They counted their blessings. They cherished time with their loved ones. Then as early as last night, all of that was abandoned for shopping. It doesn’t make any sense to me that people go out and spend so much money on things (that really are just things) so soon after celebrating what they already have. Especially when those little green bills known as money have the power to make people so blue.

This is why I chose to invest differently. Not in things, but in people. My biggest fears were realized in a doggie nightmare I had last night when suddenly, for no rational reason, my people were gone. It was just me, back in a cage, somewhere I didn’t recognize. No other cages surrounded me. I was completely alone. Thank heavens mom woke me up from that particular nightmare. Reality never looked so beautiful.

I know I have it pretty good. I am blessed, as my mom would say. But I know why I’m so rich with blessings – my fortune is not in those little green bills or in the Christmas presents that (at the very least) do seem to bring as much joy to the giver as the receiver. No sir. My fortune is in the people who make my life special. You can go shopping for a lot of things, but you can’t shop for those people. For friends. Or family. These are the true riches in my little doggie life.

 

Back to Life November 11, 2013

I thought I was dead. I was sure that the bright light I was seeing was the pathway to the Rainbow Bridge that takes you to doggie heaven. I saw my life flash before my eyes in that moment. And it was beautiful.

All-the-while I cried. I cried that piercing awful doggie squeal that mom has said tears at her heart. And that’s when I felt the urge to fight back. I wasn’t done with my mom and dad yet. I loved them too much to give up this beautiful life they’ve brought me into. So I wiggled and squiggled and then bam. I fell to the ground.Second Chances

It all happened so fast, I didn’t even know what was happening until it was over. It was surreal listening to mom (somewhat hysterically) relaying the information to the veterinary clinic when we were on a car ride a few moments later.

It was just the dog and his people at the park that day. The dog was on a picnic table, which never stopped me before and certainly wouldn’t have stopped me that day. I hopped up to greet him but he didn’t want to greet me. Instead, he grabbed me by my neck and dangled me there, swinging me around from his teeth from his perch atop the table. And it hurt. It still did, I realized then, on my neck and by my left eye. It hurt a lot.

But I wasn’t afraid. I listened to mom finish recounting the story when we got to the veterinary clinic about how the people ran off with their dog immediately upon him releasing me and said nothing but “don’t worry, he has his shots.” She was a wreck. And yet I knew everything would be okay.

The doctor lady looked me over, paying special attention to my eye as she told mom that I was very lucky. “(That particular breed) has curved teeth that could have very easily taken out his eye today,” she told mom. Then she looked at me and said “you’re very lucky, little Wiley.”

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly lucky, but I suppose I was that day. But it wasn’t all luck. I realized that today, one year later, as mom and I spent some quality time together at that same park. It was because I am blessed. With a loving family and a beautiful life filled with second chances. I certainly got another chance at life that day, for which I will be forever grateful.

 

Remembering Wiley September 17, 2013

He kind of annoyed me at first. The people at the shelter called him Wiley and my first impression of him resonated perfectly with his name. He was small, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the noise he was making. Whining and pacing and scratching and whimpering. It was all too much. Worse than that, I’d seen it all before. These young pups come in here all anxious and adorable. I don’t understand what all the fussing is about. I don’t understand why they let themselves get so worked up.

Meanwhile I’ve come to the conclusion I will not be adopted. The Oshkosh Humane Society will be my final forever home. No one wants a 15-year-old golden retriever when they can have the puppies, or the anxiety attack two-year-old terrier mixes like my new neighbor. But I have made peace with that. I’ve lived a long and fulfilled life. I had a forever home with people who loved me. I had a family who loved me, played with me, and brought joy to my heart. I know what it means to be man’s best friend. I also know I’m not quite finished. I have something left to offer the world, and I am going to do it through this new neighbor of mine.Rusty

Because there is something different about this one. I can see it in his eyes. They are wide open to his soul, just like mine were at his age. And in that moment, his little soul was desperate for connection. For love. For hope. I could see it in his eyes. He was about to give up, and I was not about to let that happen.

So I told him my story. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to hear it but I didn’t care. My purpose in life was to share joy from the ground up with whoever would take it. To see the best in all people, places and things. To walk the walk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, to respect that sometime we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine.Remembering Rusty

I’ll never know what he did with the wisdom I shared with him that fateful night. And it was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to him before the people took me to that place in the shelter a few days later. (I’d come to recognize it as the “deliveries only” kind of room where the old, unwanted dogs go into never to return). But I know one thing for sure.

He kind of annoyed me at first. He had all that energy and he was wasting it all on pessimism. But I’d been through too much, seen to much, lived too much to let the opportunity slip through my paws. So I lived my purpose that night by sharing my wisdom with him. It was like the final chapter in a long life of joy from the ground up. And I wouldn’t have traded my time with him for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. That annoying little Wiley will know better than to mourn my loss, I thought as I made my way to the Rainbow Bridge. No sir. He will paw it forward.

This post was written from the perspective of my dear friend and mentor Rusty from the Oshkosh Humane Society in response to today’s daily prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

Rusty was right. His optimism lit a flame in my heart that night no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

Related Posts: Remembering Rusty, http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/17/remembering-rusty/

 

I Made My Bed September 15, 2013

I dont have many regrets in life. I generally make an effort not to regret even the most regrettable of things by finding a silver lining in any situation. But (as hard as it may be to admit) nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes.

Feeling ReflectiveI was reminded of one of mine today when my forever parents came home with a gift for me. I’ve come to expect that there is at least something for me in those goody-filled plastic bags they bring home after running errands. From treats to toys, I’m usually right. Today’s present didn’t come in a bag. It was a brand new fluffy blue cloud of a dog bed. This will be my third since being in my forever home, which I frankly find unnecessary.

If it were up to me I would still have my first one. I had just worn it in enough so that it had all the right smells and a nice layer of my fur atop the entirety of the plush surface. Something tells me the same factors that made it feel homey to me made it fall under the category of “nasty” to my people. The second was headed in the same direction as the first and (in mine and mom’s opinion) it could have been saved before it took its trip to the scary green garbage bin. Dad did not agree.

So alas I now have my third dog bed. All to myself. I wish I could have found a way to convince dad to donate those other beds to a local shelter instead of throwing them away. Like in some karmic way that would repay the wrong I did once. Because in reality this is actually my fourth dog bed. The New Digs

Shelter (let alone comfort) was not always so easy to come by while I lived on the streets so you can imagine my overwhelming sense of excitement when I found it. A discarded dog bed on the side of the road. It smelled like spoiled fish, rotten eggs and felines. I didn’t care. It may as well been the doggie Hilton compared to the cardboard box I’d been living in for the last few weeks. So of course I didn’t want to share it with the family of kittens that came my way that night. There were four of them and they were shivering. They were all alone. They kept trying to snuggle and I shooed them away. The bed was mine after all. Not theirs.

They eventually wandered off, but I will never forget the look of desperation in the eyes of the last kitten to leave. I’m reminded of that look today as I snuggle up in my cozy new bed. It’s a crisp one as fall is approaching and I feel so blessed to have such a comfortable place to keep warm. Thinking of those kittens reminds me of how lucky I am. I generally don’t need a reminder to count my blessings, but I got one today.

I don’t have many regrets in life. But nobody’s perfect. I made my bed and now I have to sleep in it. Fortunately for me, I do a lot of good thinking in my sleep. This is why I know for sure we all make mistakes. It’s what we learn from them that matters.

 

On Neighborly Physics September 9, 2013

We all have at least one in our lives. One character we wish we had never met. One friend gone bad. One neighbor we can’t stand.

For me, it’s Demon Dog in the backyard behind mine. He scares me, irritates my people, and I fear for the threat he could be to the safety of my future little person.

For my newest dog park pal Tucker, it’s the neighbor man who lives next door to his forever home. He sounds like an angry person always carries a strong chemical smell I’ve come to recognize as alcohol on his breath. I didn’t say anything, but (at least from what I hear) he sounds like the man with the leather belt I once knew. I shudder to think of Tucker being exposed to such things. And Tucker shudders to think of the influence this man could have on the little people he oversees.

Since being at my forever home, I don’t think I’ve come across too many proverbial bad seeds. But I’m also not sure what the best course of action is when we cross paths with these sorts of characters on our journey through life. Every situation is different, but I think what brings each one together is a commonality of understanding. Ultimately we all have at least one of these people in our lives.Love thy neighbor

But how lucky we are to have this be the exception rather than the rule. I was reminded of this recently when I finally got to offer my condolences (in the form of some kisses and cuddles) to the next-door neighbor whose husband went to heaven a couple months ago. I can tell she is still very sad, but I think my love helped (at least a little) to bring a little sunshine into her day.

Mom talked to her too, about how she’s doing and life in general. Mom told Mary (that’s her name) about the baby and how she’s been struggling to stay active during pregnancy. What happened next surprised us both. Mary said my mom is welcome to use her pool as often as she’d like, at least until she drains and covers it for the winter.

It might sound like a small thing, but to my mom it was a pretty big deal. Ever since her knee surgery last November she’s wanted to get back into swimming. But something (I think it was fear) was holding her back. She used to swim competitively (a concept I’ll never understand – why would you intentionally spend all that time in the water?) and was afraid of how out of shape she’d be when she picked it up again. It turns out it wasn’t that bad at all, and she’s been going swimming a few times a week ever since.

We all have a few of them in our lives. A character we are so glad we met. A friend who will do anything for us. A neighbor who makes a difference. With all this good in our lives, what power is there in the bad? It reminds me of the scientific belief of English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he theorized.

I think there’s all kinds of ways we can choose to approach the negative people in our lives. I avoid Demon Dog at all costs. And I know Tucker will do whatever he can to protect his little people from the awful neighbor man. But all this thinking about neighbors served as a reminder that the negative influences are the exception not the rule. If anything, they make us appreciate the positive people in our lives that much more.

 

Getting to Know You September 5, 2013

It’s embarrassing to the wrong person. Not to me.

My mom has this habit of making friends wherever she goes. She looks them in the eye. She asks about their families. She gets to know them. Lana the customer service representative from Walgreens. Linda the administrative professional at the local school district. Mary the librarian. Georgia the checkout clerk at the grocery store.

Lana. Linda. Mary. Georgia. And that’s not all. I think dad finds it kind of silly, but I kind of like it. It stems from her belief in respecting the person behind the people you encounter every day.

And it happened again at the dog park today when we encountered familiar faces attached to both two-legged and four-legged personalities. She chatted with some of the other owners while I roughhoused with Luke (the Marmaduke), chased Lilly (the Carin Terrier mix), and (ahem) did some unspeakable things to an unprepared Beagle mix named Daisy.Giggles

Amidst the chaos of all of my usual dog park mischief, I heard her laughing with the other ladies and paused. I wondered in that moment what could happen if I too adopted this philosophy of putting myself in the stranger’s shoes. Being present with others, no matter how small a role they play in my life.

I took a long look at Luke, who (at the age of 12) has become somewhat of a legend at my dog park. He is wise in his older age, and is kind enough to humor little stinkers like me nipping at his heels. Lilly the Carin Terrier mix has a similar background to me, coming from a rescue. She is a big sister to two little people and (from what I can tell when we play chase) I’m sure she takes very good care of them. And Daisy. Well, she is beautiful. She reminds me of my dearest long lost (somewhat girlfriend) Taffy who lives far away now.

Luke. Lilly. Daisy. These are characters in my life, each with their own story making up their unique journey. I think that’s easy to forget sometimes, amidst the roughhousing, chasing and other distractions in our day. Sure, life is busy, but every now and then I need a reminder that life is busy for everyone. Every character we come across in our day has his or her own family and friends, stressors and joys.

It’s an interesting cycle really. The characters bring joy to my mom who brings joy to them. Because taking time to indulge in these little conversations can be just that. An indulgence in interpersonal relationships. And that’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you ask me.

 

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.

 

Better Late Than Never August 27, 2013

Belated is not a favorite people word of mine. Literally speaking, it means late or overdue. But as us canines are in the habit of digging deeper, I have to admit the meaning behind the word is one I generally can’t stand behind. It implies something important has been missed, forgotten, or set aside.

I have been all of these things in my lifetime. Set aside. Forgotten. Missed. I know what these things feel like and I wouldn’t wish the resulting emotions on anyone. But I am also in the habit of seeing both sides to a story, I am a believer that it’s better late than never.

Yesterday was National Dog Day and I completely missed it. I missed the chance to wish all of my four-legged pals well on our day of honor. Moreover, I missed a chance to talk about what this day means to me. I was confused at first about what it was we were to celebrate on this fairly new holiday. Today I realized it is a day to celebrate unconditional love. Friendship. Rescue. And none of these things can ever happen too late in one’s life.

“In every heart, there is an empty space…in every shelter…there is love in which to fill it,” suggested National Dog Day Founder Colleen Paige. “Adopt some love this day and every day.”

Rescue means different things to different people. I was somewhat startled by the honesty in one of Bing’s definitions of the word, which defined rescue as saving something. “To prevent something from being discarded, rejected, or put out of operation,” the definition reads.

It’s not fun to think about. It doesn’t bring joy to anyone’s heart. Yet I know that dogs are discarded on the side of roads every day. I know that even dogs with homes can feel rejected by their owners. And I know that dogs die in shelters all over the world at a startling rate. But it’s not too late for them. And it’s not too late for you. In every heart there is an empty space and in every shelter there is love to fill it.

Belated is not a favorite people word of mine because to me it means something must first be missed or forgotten. But maybe it’s not such a bad word after all, because in order for something to be considered belated it must be remembered. It must be found. It must be rescued. And none of these things can ever happen to late in one’s life.Love.

This post is inspired by Rescue Pledge, an organization committed to encouraging people to pledge to adopt their next animal from a shelter. They are saving lives, two at a time. Please consider taking the pledge today.

 

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.