Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Defeat Meets Victory December 9, 2013

I looked into the eyes of evil today. It wasn’t pretty. There I was, face to face, nose to nose, with my arch nemesis otherwise known as Demon Dog. I could feel his breath on my face as his terrifying bark tore through the air. Worst of all, I could see the look in his eyes. It chilled me to my core. (Or maybe that was the frigid -10 degree wind chill).

What do you think?I’m not sure how it happened actually. One minute I was on my lead (which generally separates us by at least 20 feet) and the next I was not. So I seized the opportunity and ran myself right back to that fence. I don’t know what took over me. It’s like I lost all sense of self control. I shamelessly ignored the voices in my heart that cautioned me to stay. Instead I got close. I looked danger in the eye and gave it a good talking to.

It lasted only about as long as it took dad to run barefoot through the snow to grab me and haul me back inside. Boy was I in trouble. Not just because dad and mom were upset with me for putting myself in danger like that, but because I have what I have determined to be a pretty serious problem. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

I realized it tonight as I saw the darkness in those eyes. I got up close and personal with evil and I didn’t like what I saw. Defeat. On both our parts. On his, from whatever made him into such a monster. Everyone has a story and I’ve wanted nothing more than to give him the benefit of the doubt. And on mine, because I realized I don’t think I can save him. Your resident doggie optimist is throwing in the proverbial optimistic towel on this one.

And I don’t like it. Not one bit. I don’t give up – it’s not in my nature. I see the good in all people, places and things. I find the silver lining. But sometimes there is maturity in recognizing there are some things we simply cannot control. Some problems can’t be fixed. I find peace in knowing this itself is the silver lining.

“Defeat is not the worst of failures,” suggested American literary critic and poet George Edward Woodbury. “Not to have tried is the true failure.” I tried. That’s what matters. In this case my defeat can be my victory.

 

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.

 

A Friendly Freefall April 4, 2013

It’s a free-falling kind of day. It was almost 60 degrees and sunny after what has been arguably one of the most withdrawn and painful winters in the great Midwest. The warmth has been teasing us for months now, toying with the allergies of my people, and I’m not certain yet it’s here to stay. But it doesn’t matter. Today was beautiful.

It was the kind of day that brings to life the scene from Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise finds himself screaming the lyrics to Tom Petty’s ballad “Free Fallin'” at the top of his excitable lungs. That song is filled with memories for me, as I know it was a favorite of my mom’s. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my adoptive mom and I heard the famous rock ballad on our way to the dog park today.

Singing Along to Tom Petty

It was one of my first times back to that place since before the pit bull attacked me when we were there the day before my mom’s big knee surgery. I know my mom remembered it better than me, as I was as excited as always to be back and I could tell she was incredibly nervous. But my excitement and her nervousness were voided when we heard the familiar lyrics “yeah, I’ m free, free fallin!”

We both enjoyed the moment so much that it made the re-entrance to the scene of the crime that much easier. What is it about shared experience and appreciation for a good song that makes all other thoughts melt away? We got there and it was busier than I ever remember it. I met a few new friends, like Eddie (a fellow rescued terrier mix) and Fritzie (an adorably petite Dachshund) and we were having a grand old time. Then Rylie got involved.

Rylie was the first purebred pit bull terrier I’d come across since my attack, and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. She seemed nice enough, that is until she started to wrestle with Angie, a Staffordshire terrier mix and cancer survivor. I could see it in Angie’s eyes she wanted nothing to do with the wrestling match, but Rylie didn’t care. I ran to the rescue, but mom swooped me up before I could get involved. Playtime with Eddie

When I saw the concern in my mom’s eyes, I remembered why it is it had been so long since we’d been to this park together. I relived my brush with death when that awful nameless pit bull shook me with his teeth from amidst his perch upon the picnic table. I remember the fear in my mom’s eyes as we journeyed to the vet, and the worry in the voice of my vet when she explained how lucky I was to have made it out of the attack with my eyes, let alone my life. While I wanted to help Angie, I was relieved in that moment that mom pulled me aside.

Bullying is a serious problem in the dog world, and from what I can tell it is just as bad in the hallways of schools as it is by the lunchrooms of corporate America. There’s no room for bullies in my life. Come what may, I would much rather enjoy my fair share of free-falling kinds of days than live in constant fear of what’s behind my shoulder.

Life has taught me the worst thing one can do for bad behavior is to reward it with any kind of attention. (With a little help in the restraint department), I put this into action today and I would argue it worked quite well. Rylie’s owner reluctantly removed her from the situation, and I made an effort to restore peace to the park. Rather than dwelling on what had happened, we all moved on with playtime. Maybe it had more to do with our common bonding over our cabin fever symptoms but I don’t care what the reason is. Bullies are not welcome here.

 

A Moment’s Paws January 23, 2013

Sometimes life hands us lemons. Truth slaps us in the face. Reality checks in to say hello. And the result isn’t always pretty.Paws for Happy Thoughts

Momma said there would be days like this. Days when pressing pause on a remote with a jammed fast-forward button seems impossible. And yet, these are days when perhaps a moment’s paws (all right, we all know I really mean pause) could be the secret ingredient we need to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“Before we can change anything in our life we have to recognize that this is the way it’s meant to be right now,” Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. Accepting the present is one of the most important steps toward enjoying our future.

“Life is getting shorter, not longer, so we should live our bliss,” actress Drew Barrymore commented on today’s episode of The Chew. (Yes, I watch The Chew, and all the other food shows my mom and dad enjoy. What’s not to love about watching all kinds of human food goodness flashing before me?)

Drew’s thought got me to thinking about the role the present plays in our lives. I don’t think its a coincidence that present (as in the current time) is literally spelled the same as present (as in a gift). To me, the present is a gift, and I don’t intend to waste it.

I was reminded of this during my bi-monthly trip to Paws ‘R Us today. My groomer, Mary, (as well as her resident shop crew of canine pals) were all as happy to see me as always. After I was all cleaned up, I was enjoying some of my usual post-grooming play time with my Beagle mix pal Gus when BAM! It was like someone hit the pause button and my life flashed before my eyes.

Peter, a pit bull/lab mix, nipped at me and had a thing or two to growl to Mary when she interceded. In that instant, I relived my dark date with destiny at the dog park a few months ago. My vet’s words to my mom about “how lucky” I was to survive that pit bull attack seemed to echo off the walls.

The moment passed, and order was restored (no humans or animals were hurt during the inspiration for this blog), but I got to thinking about the role reality plays in our lives. I’ve said before that I’m a believer that life’s experiences shape who we are. Soren Kierkegaard, who is thought of as one of the founders of this existential outlook, once said “life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Today was not a problem. Today was actually a pretty great day. I got to spend time with my pals at the groomer, I got a pretty nice looking haircut (if I do say so myself), and I enjoyed a longer than usual amount of playtime with mom, dad, and Mrs. Prickles tonight.

The Haircut (What do you think?)

What was it that pulled me from the past back into acceptance of reality? Sometimes a moment’s paws is in itself the answer to life’s little reality checks.

 

The world is my dog park January 4, 2013

“Why, except as a means of livelihood, a man should desire to  act on the stage when he has the whole world to act in, is not clear to  me.” Dear George Bernard Shaw, how I enjoy your words. Not to mention My Fair Lady, but that is a whole other conversation.

I am back in Simple Abundance mode, looking to day four: This Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal. Today is about today, not about practicing for today. We have the whole world to act in, as Shaw put it, so why don’t we use it?

Today’s challenge to live each day as if it were our last got me to thinking about where I would want to spend my last day. Like many of my canine pals, it didn’t take much to come to the conclusion that one of the contenders for my final hours would be the dog park. Another playwright and lover of the stage William Shakespeare called the world an oyster….well, I don’t much care for oysters, but I sure do love the dog park.

It has everything a dog could love: plenty of room to run off all kinds of energy, lots of new and old pals (human and dog alike)…not to mention the car ride to get there. (I love car rides!) It makes me feel alive being there running (semi) wild with the wind in my hair, playing and wrestling and meeting new friends. Unfortunately for me, it also almost made me dead a couple of months ago, when I was attacked by a pit bull. But this is a new year, and I’ve resolved to find good in all things. Alas the reasoning behind my dog park metaphor.

That day when that pit bull had me by my neck four feet in the air could have been my last. The way he shook me and growled and the terrifying sounds my bones made when he threw me to the ground….I found myself (for the first time ever) contemplating the whole cat’s have nine lives concept. I didn’t want to die. And I almost did. Talk about a wake-up call.

Live for today

“None of us can be expected to perform every minute of our lives,” writes Breathnach in Simple Abundance. “But a lot of us might tap into the power, excitement, and glory of Real Life more frequently if we cast ourselves as the leading ladies — or in my case leading gentlemen — in our own lives.”

I will not play the supporting role in my own life. Especially to a pit bull.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures December 28, 2012

Existentialism fascinates me. The philosophical theory that experiences define one’s existence was strongly influenced by German novelist Frank Kafka who said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” Well, that is the story of my year.

Good, bad or indifferent, 2012 was a year of firsts for me. I travelled to exciting new places, I earned the right to sleep in my parent’s room (instead of that blasted crate), and I had brushes with death that made me place a higher value on life. Its tough to pick just one “high” or “low” point, so I have chosen to review my most memorable moments as a means to recognize these existential moments that define my existence.

Memory lane 2012 began with me longing for the snow we saw at the start of 2011.

The great February blizzard of 2011 was very great indeed. I was disappointed by the lack of snow we saw this year, but the extra time exploring the great outdoors later in the year proved worth the wait…

In June, I took my first camping trip to Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells. I loved every second of it! All the new smells, sights, sounds….I know mom and dad were worried about me being quiet in the tent with them, but I was so exhausted after all our hiking on the trails that I paid little attention to the sounds of the night. Life lesson: Variety really is the spice of life.

In July, I got a haircut…while not my first, it was one of the shortest cuts I’ve ever had. I felt so free. Life lesson: “Beauty isn’t worth thinking about; what’s important is your mind. You don’t want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head” – Garrison Keillor.

In August, I met Diesel…one of my mom’s pals’ new puppy. I relished our moments together when I was bigger than him. He’s a chow/lab mix, so I knew he’d be bigger than me almost instantly. But I look forward to having him as a lifelong mate. Life lesson: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down,” – Oprah Winfrey.

September was an especially exciting month. I went to my first race at Elkhart Lake. While I’m not sure I understand the point of the cars going around and around the track, it was my kind of day. I got to be somewhere new with my people in the gorgeous outdoors. The Friday night football game about a week later held a similar appeal – one of the little people in the family was playing in the game, so it was even more exciting to be there to root him on. Life lesson: I like race days and football. Simple as that.

In October, I travelled with my family way up north and impersonated president Lincoln on the World’s Largest Penny. It was also around this time that my mom finally convinced my dad to let me sleep in their bedroom with them instead of having me sleep in a crate in a room down the hall. It might seem silly, but that is a big deal to me. Life lesson: Appreciate the small things-they may not be as tiny as they seem.

Remember that though by Kafka about the bites and stings? November quite literally brought a few of those for me. It was uncharacteristically warm in Wisconsin, so I had a few teeny tiny little unwelcome visitors take shelter in my fur. Not one, not two, but three deer ticks I had to contend with this fall. Fortunately for me, my mom and dad pet me on such a regular basis that they found them all and removed them before it became a bigger problem.

Mid-month brought my biggest struggle. It was one of the first frigid days of the winter season, but I was still so excited to go to one of my most favorite places in this whole world: the dog park. Mom kept talking about how it was the last time of the year, so I prepared myself for some fun. It was disappointing to get there and have there only be two other dogs to play with, but I didn’t care. I ran right up on the picnic table to greet a breed I know to be called a pit bull and was unpleasantly surprised with the result. It’s hard for me to tell what happened next, because I kind of blacked out, but I’ve overheard my mom tell the story enough times to know it wasn’t pleasant. From what she’s said, that pit bull had me dangling four feet in the air by its teeth, while still atop that picnic table for a good minute before I fell to the ground with my tail between my legs. The next thing I can remember is my eye hurting and that nice lady at the vet telling me how lucky I was that the scratch in my eye wasn’t worse…I could have lost my sight. Life lesson: Seeing is believing.

But November also brought a high for me in all the extra time I got to spend with mom while she’s been on what I have now heard her call a leave of absence for recovery on her leg surgery. Life lesson: If you look for it, joy actually is all around.

Such became the stepping stone for my blog, which I would call December’s most memorable moment. And so it is…here we are at the end of December reflecting on the year. At its most basic application, existentialism claims one is defined by his or her experiences. And with that, I would agree that 2012 experiences have contributed to who I am – good, bad, or indifferent.