Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Wise Man Listens December 5, 2014

Sleep is a close friend of mine. We’ve basically been best friends forever since day one. I’m sure my schedule in a day consists of no more beauty sleep than the average canine. There’s the early morning and mid-morning naps, followed by the early afternoon and mid-afternoon naps. Usually there’s a late afternoon and evening nap too before it’s finally time for one of my absolute favorite times of the day – bedtime.

An outsider might see this as a waste of time. I see it as the opposite. I do a lot of deep thinking and dreaming big in my sleep. I also usually have one ear open to the world. It’s a trick I learned during my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society that I have perfected over the years. Listening. From the ground up, it’s one of many reasons why we dogs are known as man’s best friend. We listen when we’re asleep. We listen when we’re awake. And when I say we listen, we really listen. Tired from the run

We are present in a way I can’t say all people are, at least from what I’ve observed. I say this with a soft kindness in my heart, because I know it is a skill that takes practice, and not everyone has had the practice necessary to be a good listener. It helps that we can’t talk back, obviously, but it’s more than that. We might not understand all the words that well, but we read emotion like champions.

So I couldn’t help but giggle mentally when I found a scrap of paper dear baby Carter threw on the ground while my forever family ate dinner. According to mom it was something called a fortune from a Chinese cookie. It bothers me that I don’t know who to attribute the quote to (other than to say it was once inside a fortune cookie), but the words stuck with me. “Anyone can hear, but a wise man listens,” the paper read.

Anyone can hear, but a wise man listens. The subtle message in the words is one with which I resonate deeply. I aspire to be wise, which I understand means making wise decisions. Some might argue I’m choosing poorly spending so much time sleeping. I would argue first that I always have one ear open. But more importantly, I would defend myself with the simple truth. I’m resting up.

To be a good dog. To be a good listener. To be a good friend to my people. And it’s because of these things I know there’s a purpose behind everything in life if you chose to listen instead of hear.

 

A Life Worth Fixing November 23, 2014

There’s a simple truth I’ve come to know as an observer of people. It almost never takes as long for a person to break down as it does to recover.

The same can be said for dogs, but usually its with little unimportant things. Like tonight when I uncharacteristically tore apart a beloved member of my comfort circle. My dear Angry Bird toy is no more after I ripped it apart beyond repair. There was no good reason for it, but that’s not actually important to the story. My Comfort Circle

What is important is how long it took me to do such damage. Or maybe I should say how long it didn’t take. 45 seconds. That’s how long it took me to completely break down one of my favorite toys.

I think with people it’s frequently less than that. A lot less. Sure, it could also be longer, but regardless of how long it takes there is something I know for sure. It never takes as long for something, or someone, to completely break down as it does to put the pieces back together.

A mom goes to the grocery store for something silly she thinks she needs for a recipe on a cold, rainy night and never comes home to finish what she started. An unsuspecting person goes to a doctor for a checkup and leaves with the kind of news that no one ever wants to hear. A curious little boy burns his hands beyond repair investigating the inside of an open oven. These are things that can happen, and at a moment’s notice change absolutely everything. Not just for one person but for everyone that person knows.

Life can change in an instant, a day, or over time, but more often than not putting it back together again, moving on, starting over? These things can take time. And frequently they do. A lot of time.

But there’s a simple truth I’ve come to learn as an observer of people. You can’t rush it. Rushing the recovery process never helps the situation. Though it might not seem fair given the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for life to change, I think it’s that way for a reason.

I think it’s that way because it’s worth it. It’s worth the time and effort and stress and emotional strife it takes to move on. Because it’s worth fixing. We can’t always control when life throws us a curve ball. We can control how we react to it. A life worth living is always a life worth fixing. No matter how long it takes.

 

 

Window to the Soul November 15, 2014

I’ve always wondered what it would be like. It certainly isn’t something I think I’ll ever be able to do. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed about that, since mostly I’m in appreciative awe of anyone who has done it.

My people did it when they adopted me on that hot summer day all those years ago. They didn’t just give me a safe place to live with a constant supply of food, water, and toys. They gave me love. They gave me a home. They gave me a life.

Me and my number one fanThat is what adoption does for us shelter dogs, after all. A life saver. This is not to say shelter life is all that bad. I was well tended to during my tenure at the Oshkosh Humane Society. But it’s not the same. It’s not the same as laying down your head each night knowing you are loved.

And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that as an adopted shelter dog, I know first paw it goes beyond that. A life without purpose is no life at all. I always thought I knew my life’s purpose. Then I was adopted and it was like everything came into focus.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can’t repay you,” suggested Christian writer John Bunyan.

 

I can never repay my people for giving me such a blessed forever home. But I can show my gratitude for finding meaning in my life. My purpose is to love my people with all my doggie heart. To bring them joy in all I do. To cheer them up when they are sad, and to snuggle them when they are cold. My purpose is to live my love for them. To fill an emptiness they didn’t even know they have. It’s a big job, but I’m honored they have chosen me to take it on. Especially since a labor of love is never work as far as I’m concerned. It’s life.

I don’t think I’ll ever know what it feels like to save a life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be an advocate for my fellow four-leggers out there in America’s shelters who need a good home. Take it from me. It’s more than a home. It’s a life.

 

Searching for the Light June 12, 2014

It might sound silly. I am obviously happier than I have ever been with my forever family and our new addition otherwise known as dear baby Carter. And it doesn’t happen often. But every now and then from time to time I find myself longing for one special thing from a past life of mine. A lighthouse. Light.

During my time in Port Washington, Wisconsin, I lived with a family who had several other cats and dogs and that just didn’t work for me. I am now (dog) man enough to admit I acted out for attention in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to) running away frequently. It wasn’t unheard of for me to jump the four-foot fence that encompassed the backyard, just to spite my owners at the time for not paying proper attention to me. It would be one thing if I felt loved, however there were days they forgot to fill my food and water bowls. Nonetheless, that past is past now.

But as my friends and family know, it is a personal goal of mine to make my past a vivid part of inspiration for my future. So today I thought about the good things. Today I thought about the memories and experiences I gained while I lived with that family. (That is, before they returned me to the humane society for being a nuisance). Good, bad, and ugly, there was one image that kept repeating in my mind. In Port Washington there is this lighthouse. It’s way out into the lake, but there is a stony path leading to it for people who want to visit. I have never been such a visitor, but I know my people have. And I know many (many) before (and after) them have as well.

It’s one of those landmarks I wish I could have brought with me to my new forever home. Not just because it seems to bring its visitors joy. It’s bigger than that. It brings them light. From the ground up, this is one of the very most important things an object can do for a person if you ask me. Because as one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson but it, “what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

So it might sound silly. But from now on when I find myself longing for the lighthouse I know what I need to do. I need to dig deep and remember both what is behind and in front of me. Light. From the ground up, I know one thing for sure. This is what is within me.

 

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.

 

But Now I See November 9, 2013

It doesn’t happen often. But when it does I’m in trouble. Big trouble.

Today it happened for the purest of reasons. Mom opened the front door to greet my aunt Morgan and I ran. To greet her, not to run away. But it makes all of the people in my life so nervous when I get outside without my leash. I forget this when I get excited. I wish there was a way for me to tell them there’s no way I could do it. I’m not going anywhere, at least not on purpose. Everything along my path in life has led me here, to my forever home. I would never leave it behind. Another Purpose-Filled Day at the Office

So I don’t know how Elroy did it. From puppyhood until a few months ago, he lived with a friend of my mom’s named Melissa. She took care of him, trained him and (most importantly) she loved him. A lot. And she still does. But Elroy doesn’t live with her anymore.

Now he lives with a new person named Catalina. He was paired with her through the Leader Dogs for the Blind program, which provides guide dogs to people who are blind and visually impaired to enhance their mobility, independence and quality of life. Melissa (and her husband Daniel) were puppy raiser volunteers as part of this program. It was among the best – and hardest – things they’ve ever done.

I know Melissa and Daniel miss Elroy. And he misses them. But he has a new purpose now: to bring joy from the ground up to the life of Catalina. To be her eyes. And to nurture her heart. She was blind, but now she sees. Elroy is an inspiration.

Because I certainly couldn’t do it. Everything in my past has led me to this point, to my forever home, with my forever people. They are my purpose in life. Purpose is one of those powerful things that brings focus to even the cloudiest of situations.

“True happiness…is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose,” suggested American heroine Helen Keller. Melissa and Daniel did a truly selfless thing in raising Elroy. But they had purpose. As does Elroy. As do I. Before I met my people, I was blind. But now I see.

This post is dedicated to the wonderful program that is Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Photo courtesy of Leader Dogs for the Blind

Photo courtesy of Leader Dogs for the Blind

All of my best to Elroy, Melissa and Daniel, and Catalina.

 

Trick or Treat October 26, 2013

There’s not a lot I would change about myself. I guess you could say love has made me confident. I stand proud, head held high, ears up, tail wagging. And no one is going to break me down. I am who I am.

I can’t say it’s always been that way. I, like anyone, have had my fair share of ups and downs with self esteem. (Being thought of as a clearance puppy comes to mind). But I’ve come to understand all of my past as an important part of my present. Challenge builds character, whether or not we like it (or realize it) at the time.

This is why I was initially a little confused by this thing called Halloween. People dress up as all kinds of things other than who they really are. Ghosts and goblins and vampires and witches. Why not instead celebrate who they are rather than focusing time, energy (and from what I understand sometimes a great deal of money) on the perfect costume?

I’ll tell you why. It’s fun. There is something kind of dangerous and exciting about putting yourself aside to become another character, if only for a day.

So today I became the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. It is a character with whom I identify closely, especially as I have begun to better understand the relationship between fear and purpose. Like me, the lion began his story blinded by a fear that had a negative hold on his self esteem. It took courage for him to understand that fear has no place in life. Given my own personal backstory, it was the perfect costume.

My trick or treat dates (otherwise known as a few of my favorite little people) were also dressed to impress. They included a ninja warrior, a flapper girl and Scarlett O’Hara. Together, we walked the streets of Grandma Schmidt’s neighborhood collecting a plethora of goodies that I can’t have.

I didn’t mind that (too much) though. Because it was fun. And underneath by lion getup I was still me. A little dog with a big heart. Even “in character” I want to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. I think that’s the secret to this whole Halloween thing.

Rather than seek to change everything about who you are, you ought to find a creative way to embrace it. Stand proud, with your head held high and your heart beating strong. Because at the end of the day we are ourselves again. And (whether we realize it or not) who we are is something pretty special.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A Dog’s Purpose September 26, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).Fear to Purpose

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession).

Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed that regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers. I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again. I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and solved that problem by leaving me on the side of the road. I feared I would never know home again. So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life. I feared I wouldn’t know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being,” analytical psychologist Carl Jung suggested.

It is a big deal to find one’s purpose. To kindle the light. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and bring fear to purpose for me and anyone who knows me. I know my purpose. What’s yours?

 

Can You Hear That? September 4, 2013

I don’t care much for cell phones. I know some people call them “smart,” but I can’t say I agree. From what I can tell, these mini computers are nothing but a distraction aimed at keeping people interested in everything but their present company. (Not to mention the teeny tiny buttons are far too small for any dog to attempt to navigate and they are capable of producing sounds that hurt my little doggie ears). They are good for keeping in touch with loved ones, but (in my humble opinion) they are otherwise overused.

Can You Hear It?My mom apparently shared my feelings (albeit temporarily) today as she was so frustrated with her phone she verbally considered throwing it as hard as she could into the hardwood floor. (That’s the thing about computers – they have a way of crashing when we need them most). I stood at the ready as I do with all things about to be thrown and was highly disappointed when she didn’t follow through with her destructive plot.

As I mourned the loss of yet another battle (me versus the phone for my mom’s undivided attention), I reminded myself the real purpose of these phones. (As much as I occasionally wish they were), they are not akin to tennis balls. They are designed to make and receive calls. Therein lies its greatest blessing.

If only we had phones capable of calling us to our purpose in life. Not our job, our career, or our hobby. I’m talking about our true purpose and meaning for breathing. That is a phone I would stand behind. But alas, no such invention exists (yet) so we are left to our own devices to receive our higher calling in life. Or are we?

“No other (person) on Earth can do what you are called to do, can give to the world what you alone were sent to give through your authentic gifts,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance. “The call may be so faint you can barely make out the message, but if you listen you will hear it.”

If you listen you will hear it. Not the incessant chiming, chirping, beeping, vibrating and singing songs those cell phones make. Because let’s face it. Even those mini computers sometimes really aren’t that “smart.” Instead be still. Listen closely. Your heart may just hold an answer your mind has been too distracted to hear.

 

My Purpose-Driven Life August 28, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession). Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?Ground Up Thinking

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed something. Regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. And I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers.

I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again.

I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and opted to abandon me on the side of the road.

I feared I would never know home again.

So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life.

I feared I never know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. And I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

It is a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and (in doing so) bring fear to purpose. What’s yours?