Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Poem From the Ground Up June 17, 2014

Joy

I thought I knew what it

looked like

But

I had no idea

Joy

I’m convinced of this one thing

that from the ground up

it always looks different

It did for me

Joy

Existed when I was with my birth mom and brothers

I loved them and

I knew joy then

albeit brief

Joy

Prevailed when I was with Jo and the man

with the leather belt

I loved Jo

and I chose joy

Joy

Survived when I was on my own

on the streets

Even then

I had friends

Joy

Happened when I met my forever mom and dad

for the first time

I knew joy then

forever

Joy

Lived when I met my little person

so teeny tiny

I knew real joy

in that moment

Joy

I thought I knew what it

looked like

But

I had no idea because

Joy

From the ground up

it’s pretty special

to me

because it is one of those things

Joy

It always looks different

to everyone yet

it looks

the same

to me

I dedicate the above poem to my mom, a published poet at the tender age of 15 people years old, who helped me piece together my thoughts in response to today’s daily prompt.Happy Blogging!

 

My Universe March 9, 2014

My UniverseIt’s happened to me a few times. Like when I was returned to the humane society the first time. Or when I met Tiger and his puppies. Most recently, it happened when my forever people brought baby Carter  home. Each of these situations brought me face to face with the reality that I am indeed not the center of the universe. Sad, but true. Yet I’ve also come to understand this is part of growing up. Part of becoming a man. It’s something that separates the puppies from the dogs.

And it’s happened again. I knew it before all the tears. Right now mom is the center of my universe. I’d been keeping somewhat of a distance since baby Carter came home, instead spending extra cuddle time with dad. But she needs me now. I haven’t left her side since she slipped on the ice yesterday. Because even though dad (and various friends who have called to check up on her) are saying it’s going to be okay, she doesn’t seem so sure.

There’s nothing I can do about that, but I can do what I do best. I can stay by her side. I can stay positive, like American comedian Ellen DeGeneres suggests.

“It’s our challenges and obstacles that give us layers of depth and make us interesting,” she said. “Are they fun when they happen? No. But they are what makes us unique.”

It’s not an easy thing for a canine like myself to admit, regardless of how many times it has happened to me. But today as I cuddled into mom’s elevated leg while she cried, I was overcome by the knowledge that it’s okay not being the center of the universe. It’s all part of growing up to be a unique individual. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s all part of living. Because when you fall down, it’s the world around you that helps you get back up.

Mom asked that I pass along her gratitude for all of the concerned comments.

She appreciates your words and thoughtfulness more than you know.

 

Along Memory Lane February 18, 2014

It doesn’t happen often. Usually it’s all blue skies and sunshine. Lately there’s even been a lot of playing with a slightly more grown up version of Carter. But every now and then I get a glimpse of the past in my doggie daydreams.

Today I was back on the streets with Tiger (the inappropriately named lab who I came to think of as family). It’s funny how having a little person of my own changes how I reflect on the time I spent helping him care for his puppies. This occurred to me as my daydream trip down memory lane took me to a fateful day. It was like I was there again. Sweet Dreams

It was Tiger and I against the world. Usually we stayed on our part of town but not that day. That day our search for food brought us into a territory better left alone. We were met there by a brutish pack of dogs just as fierce as rumor had it. Except for one thing. We had a lot at stake. We had three little puppy mouths to feed. And we were not going to negotiate with bullies.

That’s the thing about bullying. They stay in power as long as they are allowed to do so. Stand up to them, put them in their (not so powerful) place, and in a way you stand up for every other victim of their bullying. It’s not always easy, and might not always take on the first try, but persistence will pay off in one way or another.

If not for the bullies, for those who took a stand. It wasn’t easy to cross enemy lines that day, but I’m glad we did it. Sure, we got the food we sought. But we got more than that. We stood up to the bullies and (more importantly) we lived to tell the tale.

The past has a way of making its way into my present in the oddest ways sometimes. And today I’m so glad it did. Because every now and then we need reminders of where we came from to light the path to where we’re going.

 

Seeing Through the Fog December 4, 2013

I can’t see a thing. This has been among my first thoughts of the day for three days in a row now. The days have begun like any other, except for when mom lets me outside in the morning. It’s been so unbelievably foggy, I feel completely blind. It’s a good thing I know my way around my backyard paradise so well.Seeing Through the Fog

Being encompassed by a dense fog like this reminds me of what it feels like to be overwhelmed. The fog can seem to close in from every direction. And you can’t see. You’re blinded by the realm of possibility. It doesn’t happen to me often as I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty simple life. From (albeit dreaded) regular visits to the veterinarian to the food in my bowl every day, my parents take really good care of me. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Thank goodness for that because I don’t think I’m much of a fighter. I’ve always thought of myself as more a peacekeeper than anything else. But when I think of the fighters I’ve known in my life, one face comes to mind every time. Tiger. Now he was a fighter. I remember watching in disgust as he violently fought with other dogs for anything from a bone to a loaf of bread. He was always one step ahead of me when it came to finding the best food scraps in the neighborhood and I hated him for it.

That was, until I found out what he was really fighting for. He was providing for a small litter of puppies after the family lost their birth mom. Just like I had lost mine, only my deadbeat dad had left long before I was born. Tiger wasn’t like that. He stood by his family and fought for them in every sense of the word.

He was away hunting for food one day when the fog closed in on me. He’d left me to watch over the little ones before, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was. That was the day one of the dogs Tiger had made an enemy decided to seek revenge. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my life. I was blinded by all the devastating ways I knew the story could end. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I needed to see through the fog. I needed to persevere.

So I used the only weapons I knew I had in my arsenal capable of defeating this strange dog with the crazy eyes. My brain and my heart. And (with a little help of a feline friend of mine), I won that particular battle. The puppies were safe. I was safe. Looking back I know it is because I decided to see through the fog to the heart of the matter. Maybe I’m more of a fighter than I thought I was.

 

Just One Thing November 22, 2013

Two years and three months. That’s how many people years I lived before I met my forever family. I had my time (albeit brief) with my birth mom and brothers. Then there was Tiger – the single doggie dad – and his puppies, who I lived with on the streets for a while. Next came Jo and the man with the leather belt. And finally the first family who adopted me but never loved me as one of their own.

Happiness Is...Looking back on all the homes I’ve had sometimes makes me wonder what life had been like if I had been one of those fancy breeder puppies that cost all kinds of money. Even my forever people first considered purebred West Highland or Norfolk terriers before deciding to adopt a rescue dog. So what would have happened if they had found me in puppyhood? How would life have been different? Would I be different?

I may not be able to travel through time and space to make such a thing a reality, but I can imagine it. And I’m not going to lie – it looks pretty swell. I picture dad picking me out from the litter and tying a big red ribbon around my neck. At eight weeks old, I could have been mom’s birthday present for her 23rd birthday.

I would never have known the pain of losing my birth mom and brothers the way I did. I would never have seen so many things I wish I could un-see while I lived with Jo and the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t know the rejection that accompanies being returned to the humane society. Sometimes you don’t even know you were lost until you are found.

But that time was not devoid of family. Quite the opposite in fact. I wouldn’t trade the time I had with my birth mom and brothers. She was home to me. I wouldn’t know the sincere compassion I learned from the time I spent helping Tiger support his family. I wouldn’t have the overwhelming desire to protect those I love without time with my beloved Jo.

Three years and two months. That’s how long I’ve lived with my forever family. Though there are a fair share of ups and downs here just as there is anywhere, joy has overwhelmed my time here. But I realized something today. If I could change just one thing I wouldn’t. Each of those pieces comes together into who I am. Past, present and future.

 

Pieces of You September 24, 2013

“Keep love in your heart,” suggested Irish writer Oscar Wilde. “A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

I’m never short on love. But lately I’ve been wondering about that thing people say about distance making the heart grow fonder. I’m not so sure that’s true.

Lady LucyIt’s been months and months (which feels like years in doggie time) since I last saw my dearest Taffy. My first love. And while I can’t say I will forget her, my heart has been wandering lately. More accurately my eyes have been wandering and taking my heart along for the ride. There is this lovely lady Lucy who moved in recently across the street. I gaze at her from my perch in the window when she’s out in the front yard.

As I watched her today I wondered what her life has been like, and what her dreams are. I pondered whether her forever people found her at a puppy store or rescued her from a shelter. I hoped she had never seen or experienced pain like I did before my forever people found me. Then it happened. Guilt. I felt guilty for thinking about Lucy when my heart belongs to Taffy. Or does it?Looking for Love

I don’t think so. I don’t know if our hearts really ever belong to anyone other than ourselves. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in true love. Or any other kind of love for that matter. But I do think its our choice how we distribute pieces of our heart. My life before I met my forever people taught me how precious our hearts really are. I’ve always had a big heart to offer the world, so I know what can happen when you entrust the wrong person with a precious breakable piece. It doesn’t end well.

This is not to say Taffy was the wrong dog for me to love any more than it means I shouldn’t have loved Tiger and his puppies or Jo and the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t change how I’ve distributed pieces of my heart so far in life. And Taffy will have a piece of mine with her name on it forever.

I’m not so sure about distance and matters of the heart, but I do know love can be tricky. We win some and we lose some, but (at least from what I can tell) it’s ultimately up to us what we do with the outcome. And I’d rather have too many characters to love than too few. The sun is always shining in the garden of my heart.

 

 

Just Call Me Blessed September 2, 2013

Swell. Good. Great. Peachy. These are all common responses to what I think is likely the most frequently asked conversational question. How are you? As I am a believer in responding to this question with nothing but sincere honesty, I time to time find myself cooking up creative responses in my mind. Super duper. Splendid. Or (again in support of honesty)  crappy.

Perspective has taught me a lot about the power contained in identifying with such words, or putting labels and names on things. Words are powerful tools to begin with, but names take the conversation to another level.

This struck me today as I found myself feeling particularly happy. It is Labor Day in America, which (for some reason I don’t fully understand) means my people stayed home from that place called work. I’ve never been shy about my love for the weekends, so I suppose it’s not too far a stretch that a three-day weekend is in a land of happiness all its own. Especially since they spent the majority of the day with me at home.

In turn, I enjoyed an unordinary amount of time lounging outside (where I do some of my best thinking). Today as I contemplated these words with which we identify, I searched my memory for something and came up blank. Before I was Wiley (and briefly Zorro), I didn’t have a name. I was just another dog living out my life on the streets. Characters I came across while I was nameless either had given names I picked up or names I assigned them.Peaceful Gratitude

Like Tiger, the lab mix I once misjudged as manipulative and catty because he had a sneaky selfish way about him. It turned out Tiger was sly because he had to be. He was always stealing the best scraps before I could get to them because he was feeding his puppies, not because he was vindictive. But in addition to mystery, tigers are known for their strength and Tiger was one of the strongest dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

His name (the name I assigned him) was true to who he was. And I would say mine is true to who I am as well, though I know another name would not change my identity. So today as I let the breeze sweep over me and took in all the delicious smells of the neighborhood, I developed a new name for myself.

How am I? I’m blessed. Who am I? Just call me blessed. My days are not always perfect, but this simple truth remains. From the moment I wake to the moment my head hits the proverbial hay I am grateful to be alive. I am, indeed, blessed.

 

The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

My Two (Fashion) Cents July 18, 2013

It startled me at first. There I was, minding my own business, when someone else’s business looked me directly in the eye. There she was, the most beautiful West Highland Terrier I’d ever seen, all dressed up. Literally. She was walking down the street in a dress that matched her collar that matched her scarf that matched her visor. Yes, you read that right. She was wearing a visor obviously made special for a small dog, as it had teeny tiny holes for her ears to peak through. Our eyes met and she radiated this powerful positive energy that led me to believe she was incredibly happy to be waltzing down Antoine Avenue covered in matching pink fabrics.

It didn’t make any sense to me at all. I guess it would be plausible for a dog to wear clothes to keep warm, but it was a beautiful 70 degree day. There is no need for extra layers upon an already warm fur coat. But I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened to be living with Tiger (the black lab) and his litter of puppies. They took me in as part of the family after I misjudged Tiger as the big, bad dog in the neighborhood. (When in reality, he was gruff and pushy because he was a single dad trying to provide for his family).

I learned a thing or two about the judgment trap from my experience with Tiger. First impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Its never fair to judge a book by its cover. So why would it be fair to judge a dog by its clothes? Fashion is an art form, and no form of self expression should be off-limits for us canines. (Or our people for that matter). Donning the Green

I say this now, as the proud owner of a small assortment of doggie sweaters, T-shirts, and turtlenecks. I occasionally sport a timepiece people call a watch. I even have a classy blue Body Glove swimsuit top should I ever feel the need to don it. I say this as a dog who now feels naked without my collar, lost without my identity. I say this as a believer in all things artistic. All things joyful. All things alive.

Next to my collar, my favorite animal accessory is my green scarf. It was a gift from my dog groomer Mary, who gave it to me at about the same time I started this blog. It’s threadbare, dirty, and falling apart so mom doesn’t let me wear it anymore. But it wears itself on my heart. Symbolically speaking, green is a color of renewal. Rebirth. Life.

I get it now. It’s not about matching pink outfits or visors with holes for doggie ears to poke through. It’s not about how many collars you have or whether you have that sweater in enough color variations. Sweaters, T-shirts, and timepieces aside, a the art of self-expression never goes out of style. “Fashion fades,” as fashion icon Coco Chanel put it, “only style remains the same.”

To read the story of how I met and befriended Tiger: http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/03/14/forget-first-impressions/

 

No Freedom Without Love May 19, 2013

Shelter dogs long for it. Teenagers drool over it. Adults occasionally miss it. The way I see it, there is this thing about independence I can’t quite put my right paw on. It’s almost like its one of those things in the world that isn’t all it’s written up to be. But what exactly is it written up to be?

Well, you’d better believe I thought I knew the answer to that question while I was fending for myself on the streets all that time ago. After the initial anxiety I had about being separated from my mom and brothers wore off, I had a newfound and overwhelming surge of pride in my independence. I could do whatever I wanted wherever I wanted with whom ever I wanted. I didn’t have to report to anyone, rely on anyone or support anyone but myself. It was fabulous!

Feeling the LoveOh dog, did I have some growing up to do. I realized it a few days after I became an adjunct member of Tiger’s family. The dog (for whom I was previously uncertain whether to fear or despise) was my single most embarrassing misjudgment of character. It turned out he had four pretty good reasons to be protective of his food and shelter. Their names were Sam, Spike, Lucy and Lana, and they were only about eight weeks old when I met them for the first time. I wasn’t that much older than them myself, but upon meeting them I instantly felt protective like I would have been of my own brothers.

My moment of self-discovery happened a few days later when I had a rough day finding anything to bring home to share with Tiger and his pups. I scrounged harder than when I was on my own because I felt responsible somehow. I was so embarrassed to come home with empty paws that day, but Tiger didn’t mind one bit. He had a hidden stash of food for days like this. I was stubborn at first when he offered me some crumbs of a loaf of bread and a couple of almost-rotten carrots. I didn’t need his help. I could fend for myself. I was better than this. Stronger than this.

In that moment as Tiger’s earnest eyes held out to me my portion of the scraps I realized sometimes knowing when to ask for or accept help is wisdom at its core. There is more strength in those who ask for help than those who refuse it. Indeed, I was no longer the only dog who cared if I lived or died. I was no longer completely independent. And it wasn’t so bad. A few seconds later, I was scarfing down those precious little scraps with more joy in my heart than if I had returned home that day with a feast.

“Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

What a silly young dog I once was, thinking complete independence was the best thing since sliced bacon. Independence, at its skeletal core, is not all its written up to be. It’s not about being completely alone in all things, plotting through life to “figure things out.” It’s about understanding yourself well enough to know how you best relate to others. It’s about making the best of our moments of solitude and sharing the resulting joy with someone. It’s about asking for help when you think you need it least. There is no true independence, no freedom, without love.

Today’s post is lovingly dedicated to a four-legged blogosphere friend of mine named Claire.

She passed away a few days ago, and she will be sorely missed.

Claire and Frond