Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Keeps On Giving August 5, 2013

It all started with a gift. It was Christmas Day 1997 and my mom and her little sister only asked Santa Claus for one thing that year. A puppy. They wrote to Santa, talked to him at the mall (several times), and prayed together every night that their wish for a puppy would come true.

So you can imagine their disappointment when there was no puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. It didn’t matter that there was plenty of other shiny packages with pretty ribbons and bows. There was no puppy. But a surprise lurked under the tree that later proved to be even better than a puppy. It was a package with a promise inside. “This coupon is good for one rescue puppy.”

It wasn’t from Santa either. It was from mom’s parents. They wanted mom and her sister (who were 12- and 8-people-years-old at the time) to be part of the process of picking the perfect puppy. And they wanted the puppy to be a rescue dog from the local animal shelter. It didn’t take long before they found her. Pheobe. It was love at first sight. Pheobe was the one.Gratitude

Phoebe counseled mom and her little sister through their remaining years as little people as only us canines can do. She got dolled up in all sorts of clothes, learned most of the same tricks mom would later teach me (give kiss was a favorite of hers), and made mischief that brought joy to the hearts of the entire family. She was the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving.

Later in her life, she went to live with my mom’s great-grandma to keep her company after great-grandpa went to heaven. She’d grown a bit less spunky then, but had a gift for simply being there. She was an extra set of ears to listen. An extra set of eyes to see. An extra heart to love.

Sometimes it happens suddenly. Other times it happens over time. I’ve seen it happen both ways and I don’t think one is any easier than the other. Loss is loss. When it happens doesn’t fill the gaping hole left in the hearts of those left behind. It was a gradual decline for Phoebe, but that doesn’t negate the truth that the world lost another canine treasure today. Pheobe went to doggie heaven today, after 18 years of bringing all sorts of joy to the hearts of many.

But it all ends with a gift. And, just like Phoebe, it’s not wrapped in pretty paper or tied up with ribbons. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, it’s about as simple as it gets. We never got to meet in person, but we didn’t have to for me to know the gift Pheobe granted me. My gift from Pheobe was the same as that one my mom opened all those years ago. It was a promise. This coupon is good for one rescue puppy. Thanks to the relationship my mom had with Phoebe growing up, it turns out that coupon was good for more than one rescue puppy. So far, it’s been good for two. I will always have Pheobe to thank for that.

Rest in peace, dear Pheobe. You will be missed.

 

Mind Over Matter July 7, 2013

I won an argument with a fly today. It was buzzing around the house all day driving me crazy with its zigs and zags. The more it buzzed, the more I felt like it was taunting me. You can’t catch me! You can’t catch me! Oh yes I can, Mr. Fly. And (after yet another epic battle of the minds) I did. I caught you and all of your incessant buzzing, Mr. Fly!

It was a very different ending than a similar battle I had about two weeks ago. I lost the argument that day, after what seemed like an eternity of jumping, twisting, chasing and growling. Victory evaded me that day. But not today. Today I trade feelings of defeat for feelings of regret as I now feel like the buzzing continues in my tummy.

Not Feeling My Best

If there is something us canines don’t all fully understand it’s the people practice known as moderation. Our misunderstanding is probably at its worst when we’re puppies and have yet to learn the dos and don’ts of living with people. Do eat your food when it is provided to you. Don’t get so excited about your food that you spill it all over the floor. Do accept treats in reward for tricks. Do not beg for people food at the table. (Or, better yet, do not attempt to jump onto the table to retrieve the people food yourself). You get the idea.

Generally speaking, I don’t struggle with the concept. All good things in moderation. Understood. But I blame my nomadic lifestyle as a puppy for one area I lack control. I ate what I could when I could. There was no picking and choosing, and (when I was living with other street dogs) if you didn’t eat fast you didn’t eat. I know this is different in my forever home, where there is never short supply of dog food, treats, rawhides and various other chew toys. I would prefer this life to my previous time as a puppy nomad any day. Yet my mind always seems to beat my stomach in the ultimate battle royale in self control.

In the meantime, I seriously need to learn my lesson when it comes to eating live things. No matter how small, the pursuit is always more exciting than the finale. It makes me wonder about this mind over matter thing. It’s another one of those people practices that occasionally leaves us canines stupefied. But experience has taught me things that confuse us are often those most important for us to seek to understand. As American evangelist Charles Swindoll suggests, “the secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free.” I suppose he’s right. I’d much rather have freedom in excellence than win a battle that leaves my tummy feeling funny.

 

Young at Heart February 9, 2013

Every now and then I will be at the dog park or on a walk through the neighborhood and I hear it. Four seemingly unimportant people words strung together in a beautiful sentence that makes my heart smile. “What a cute puppy!” It goes the same way every time: mom corrects the person by telling him or her that I’m actually full grown and I wag my tail incessantly until the person kneels down to pet me. The truth is, I love the attention almost as much as the compliment. I may be a mutt to some people, but what is in a name?

You see, there is something about us canines you need to know. From Pomeranian to Great Dane, that playful puppy we once were is always a part of us. Puppyhood wasn’t always easy for my two brothers and I, but my birth mom always had a way of making even the littlest events seem special. I remember our one-month birthday like it was yesterday.

A dog's tail never lies

My birth mom had made a pretty nice home for us with decent shelter from the elements and I was so worried because she was gone for a really long time that day. Boy, did she have a surprise for us when she got home! She had spent the day relentlessly scavenging through garbage can after garbage can to find us the perfect dinner, and she did not disappoint. She finally returned to us (after finding what I can only assume must have been the garbage can of a very upscale restaurant) holding in her mouth the most beautiful steak we had ever seen. Sure, it was not that great for our puppy diets eating whole food like that, but it made us all feel special sharing such decadence.

I look back on that night often, as it wasn’t long after that when we all got separated and I found myself longing for family. Longing for home. It would be another two people years before my people brought me into my forever home, and it may as well have been a lifetime. But my puppy-like state of mind helped carry me through the hardest of times. Life through a puppy’s eyes is scary, but I prefer to see it as exciting. Everything looks and smells new, and the world is such a big place yet to be explored. When you’re a puppy, you spend your time primarily playing, eating and sleeping. What could be better than that?Playing "dead"

I can’t say I completely agree with Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who claimed “youth is wasted on the young.” No sir. I’m much more in line with former American president Theodore Roosevelt. “Old age is like everything else,” Roosevelt said. “To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

That’s why I feel such a sense of joy when people mistake me for a puppy. The best thing about childhood is making the early decision to never grow up.