Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Whole Way Home November 27, 2014

It’s one of my most absolute favorite days of the year. Not just because I get to see the extended members of my forever family. Or because of the delicious variety of table scraps I inevitably score throughout the day. It’s not even because I know I have a game or two of pickle in the middle to look forward to with some of my favorite (not-so) little people.

It’s because of how these things make me feel. Gratitude. From the ground up, it oozes out of my soul today, as our nation celebrates a day designated to pause and reflect on one’s blessings in life. Though this is something I try to do on a daily basis, there’s something special about today. Maybe it’s the time with family and those table scraps and after-dinner games. Or maybe it’s what happens when all that is over. Joy

That was the case for me today, as my most recognizable moment of blissful gratitude took me by surprise. It happened on the car ride back to my forever home. It was dark outside so no one could see it happening. Somehow that made it even more memorable for me. As has become the norm of late, mom was in the back seat with dear baby Carter, leaving me to her former spot in the passenger seat. This is an honor in itself, but that’s not all.

Soft music echoed through the car as dad drove, Carter napped, and mom sat in reflective silence in the back seat. In itself it was a perfect moment for our little family. But what completed it for me was dad’s hand. He pet me with his free hand the whole way home. Mom tells me all the time what I already know. She loves me bigger than the sky. Dad doesn’t have to say so. And no words were needed in that 40-minute car ride for me to know true gratitude.

Because today is one of my absolute favorite days of the year. I’ve never been at a shortage of reasons why I love it so much, but this year will always stand out from the crowd for its simplicity in silence. No one has to say a word for me to know real love.

That is what I am most grateful for today. The true and unconditional love I feel in my heart for my people. And even more so for the moments when no words are necessary for me to know for certain they feel it too.

 

To Be Rescued October 15, 2014

There are moments in life when you just don’t want to hear it. Moments when you would much rather stew in your misery or frustration or grief about whatever challenges you face. The dreaded words “everything happens for a reason” are the absolute last thing you want to hear. They offer you no peace in that moment. No rest. And they certainly don’t make the original problem go away. They are a line of garbage.

Except that they’re absolutely and completely 100 percent true. In spite of a few emotional battles, I’ve always known it. And, as I have followed a story of a two-legged friend of mine during the past week, I know it in my bones. Her name is Emily, and she is my hero.

A patriot for rescue dogs, she in the last several days has personally taken on the emotionally tasking job of reeling in two stray dogs near her neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. It hasn’t been easy, for Emily or the dogs, who she has since named Dallas and Cricket.

She has worked diligently to earn their trust, leaving out food and water for them for several days and keeping her distance until they were ready. She unsuccessfully attempted to enlist help from neighbors. Sadly, she learned that the area where she found the dogs was a common dumping ground for strays. She was heartbroken to learn of this, not only for the dogs, but for the people who have become completely desensitized to the problem.

Beyond all of this, she cared. She cared enough to put her life (and the immediate needs of her beloved dog, Lupy) on hold. She cared enough to be patient. She cared enough to make a difference. Why? She had two touching reasons I believe are better shared in her words.

I believe God doesn’t give up on people, no matter how much they push away, or have doubts or are scared and my overwhelming sense of love toward this dog I don’t even know must be miniscule in comparison to the love God feels for his creation. The words ‘whatever you do unto the least of these’ and I don’t care if some people argue that that was only meant about people, I don’t think it was, I think God wants us to care for his creation dearly. So even when I start losing hope when she runs away from me, or when I’m not able to slip the leash over her head, I just keep thinking of those two things and how even if I can do good in my small corner of the world, it’s never futile even if the result isn’t the miraculous one I’m hoping for.

Everything happens for a reason. From the ground up, I’m guessing Dallas and Cricket didn’t want to hear it. For whatever reason, they had both lost all hope in people. For all we know, they had both lost all hope in life itself.

But now, thanks to the passionate persistence of one person, Dallas is set to be adopted. There is more work to be done for Cricket, who really likes cheese and peanut butter but still needs to work on her trust issues. The point is Emily hasn’t given up. And because of that, Dallas and Cricket will have forever homes. They will know what it’s like to be rescued. They will know what it’s like to feel the love of a person. Take it from me, there is no greater thing.

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Sisterhood of the Traveling Dog September 10, 2014

I’ve never really known what it meant. Or what it takes. To be a sibling takes emotional effort that I am not unwilling to offer, but it is a role I just have never really been presented with an opportunity to properly honor.

Sure, I had my brothers before I lost them that day when I also lost my birth mom all of those years ago. But we didn’t really know brotherhood at that age. We were young, puppies, and we had no idea what such a thing really meant. I thought maybe I understood it when I lived at my first adoptive home with all of those other dogs and cats. But that wasn’t quite right either. Then something happened when dear baby Carter was born.Snuggles With Auntie Morgan

Not only did I inherit a puppy brother I’m still figuring out, but I learned a few things about what it means to be a sibling. It started the very first night dear Carter came home when mom and dad were completely and utterly overwhelmed. I think it probably happens to any and every parent that first night or two when they bring their new little person home. Shock. The reality of what it really means to be overtired. Confusion. And, at the heart of it all, love. For this little life and all the change it means for the family, as well as for life itself.

My people felt none of that love that first night. All they felt was complete and utter exhaustion. So when they called mom’s sister Morgan to the rescue, I was not surprised. I knew my abilities to help were limited and  I was frankly more than relieved upon her arrival. She stayed with Carter and I while mom and dad caught a half hour or two of sleep. She cuddled Carter and I cuddled her.

I was reminded of those moments tonight when mom was rocking Carter to sleep. She was stroking his hand in a way that seemed to make him relax, which I later learned is somewhat a trade secret of hers. It’s something she used to do for her baby sister way (way) back when to help her sleep. She would rub her silky smooth little hand way longer than necessary just to make sure she was really and truly asleep. She thought of this tonight as she did the same on Carter’s soft little hand.

It all made me think that maybe I know more than I thought I did about what it means to be a sibling. The emotional effort I thought I’d never really understood? Maybe I know it better than I thought I did. Because I know true and unconditional love. I know what that looks like. And I’m not going to lie. From the ground up, when that kind of love is applied to the sibling life, it all sounds pretty special to me.

 

Not-So Little Luxuries September 7, 2013

It’s kind of like counting sheep. It’s my understanding people do this sometimes to calm their minds into falling asleep. This would never calm a canine mind (for obvious reasons) but my method sure does bring me peace. I count my blessings.

The list includes the obvious characters who make up daily life (like mom and dad), as well as the less obvious things (like my special spot under my favorite tree in my backyard). Today I noticed something about the list I couldn’t keep from sharing: it never seems to get shorter. Instead, it seems only to grow to include more of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) luxuries in life.

I recognize this in itself is a blessing, and yet it got me to thinking. What would happen if something fell off the list? What if one of life’s not-so-little luxuries went away for some reason? Which could I not live without?

My constant flow of healthy food and water came to mind, followed closely by their (slightly less necessary) tasty counterparts peanut butter and bacon. And Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. Losing them would be a major problem. But I know my people would never let me go hungry. And (as much as I hate to admit it) Mr. and Mrs. Prickles are indeed replaceable (exhibits A and B: Flea and Angry Bird).  My Comfort Circle of Characters

It wasn’t until later in the day I realized what ties the list together. I tend to think through these things around the same times each day. Morning and evening. Both times have something very important in common. My bed. And I’m not talking about the dog bed in the kitchen. Nor do I understand the appeal of a dog bed (which comes home smelling like a factory) compared to a people bed (which contains all of the smells of our people us dogs long to be near at all times).

My SpotIt was not an easy battle to conquer either. I took mom down first with what I fondly refer to as “the look” combined with my persuasive cuddling skills. Getting dad to agree to the arrangement was a whole other game entirely. I had to be strategic about it. And patient. Until one night (after more than two years of effort on my part) “the look” and my cuddling skills struck again.

Since then I’ve secured my spot in the bed and I will not let it go for all the dog treats in the world. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It smells heavenly. And it’s where I count my blessings at morning and at night. But the more I think about it, I suppose even the bed itself is replaceable at least to a certain extent. Because (as much as it is indeed the coziest bit of people-smelling cloud a dog could ask for) it’s so much more than a bed.

As American screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola reminds us “I like simplicity; I don’t need luxury.” I suppose I don’t need luxury either. I just need my people. It’s that simple. So as I count my blessings tonight from my perch on the bed, I give thanks not for the comfy cloud itself. Rather I give thanks for its representation of the love I have for my people, and their love for me. Ultimately I think that is the luxury I truly could not live without.

 

Only in Wisconsin July 20, 2013

Cheese. Beer. The Green Bay Packers. We are known for a lot of silly things in the fabulous American state of Wisconsin. But today was something new for me. Today I attended the world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry. Fish Day, it’s called, which sounds pretty simple all on its own.

But everything about this festival was far from simple. After an excessive heat wave, the weather lent itself to the perfect temperature that set the stage for a fabulous day. There was no wind, but still the most amazing smells wafted through the air. My nose enjoyed the cocktail of all sorts of fried goodness, kettle corn, sunscreen and people. Lots and lots of people.

The best part of it all was the people at Grandma’s house. I saw all the usual characters like my favorite little people and their parents and grandparents, but also met for the first time the majority of the extended Schmidt family. They drove up from Illinois to enjoy the day, and I was tickled pink to meet more members of my forever family.

Among them were some new (to me) little people, who embraced me without question. Literally. I got all kinds of hugs, kisses, playtime and treats from Reanna, Ryan, Emma and Grace. They range in people years from 2- to 8-years-old and I love them. We dogs fall in love pretty easily.

When I wasn’t busy making new forever friends, I enjoyed time playing pretend with my old ones. I love seeing their imaginations come together and create different scenarios. More than that, I love seeing them play together like little people regardless of their range of ages. They even made me Mr. President in our game. I wasn’t sure what to do with all of that power but smile and enjoy the show unfolding in front of me.

As compensation for my service as Mr. President I was awarded a couple of cheese curds. (Shh! Don’t tell mom!) Only in Wisconsin would a dog be treated with cheese curds. After all, it is for good reason we are known for our cheese, beer and Green Bay Packers. But while these may be favorites of visitors to our fine state, they are not my favorite thing about my forever home in the state of Wisconsin.

Before today I’d never heard of such a thing as the world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry. But it didn’t take long for my keen doggie senses to pick up something even more special about today than the smell of fried fish wafting through the beautiful summer air. Laughter. Family. Unconditional love. We had plenty of all of these things in the state of Wisconsin today. That beats fried fish any day.

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I Chose Life July 2, 2013

What we know in our hearts we believe with our minds. It might sound simple, but this canine way of thought can also be incredibly complex. It’s also true regardless of what side of the doggie door we live on. If we’re on our own we are responsible for everything, in stark contrast to life in a forever home where the majority of decisions are made for us. Down to what we eat and when we eat it, we rely on our people to make the majority of life’s decisions for us.

But there is one thing we control regardless of whether we wear a collar with our names on it. We control how we feel about things. And I have to admit I didn’t always like the way I felt about people. Though I would argue puppies are born into this world with an innate connection to people, I learned not to trust them within the first few days of my life. My birth mom didn’t seem to trust them, so neither would I. I didn’t know the rationale behind her behavior, but it didn’t matter. It was decided. I too wouldn’t trust people. After I was separated from my mom, my belief remained intact for the most part. That is until various characters came in and out of my life that began to alter my perception. Maybe I was right all along, I remember thinking, we should trust people. My instincts were right! Yay Life!

It wasn’t long after that I met Jo and the man with the leather belt. Also known as the man with the baseball bat. And the man with the power drill. I didn’t make many decisions when I lived with them, except for the one I could control. I will never ever trust people again. What my heart knew was confirmed in my mind that day when the man left me on the side of the road. I remember Jo crying in the backseat, and I cringed thinking of her punishment when she got home and I wasn’t there to protect her anymore. The reality of that thought made me lose any shred of respect I still had for people.

It was a defining moment in my life. And the more I thought about my unconditional love for Jo, the more I realized I couldn’t give up all hope in people. I was faced with a decision, a fork in the road, and instead of doubt I chose hope. It made me too sad to think about a life without hope and trust and that unconditional love for a person. My purpose in life was not to be a scared little dog with no one to love.

That awful man may have scarred me emotionally, but he would not define the rest of my life. I knew in my heart that day I could trust people again, so I believed it. Complex as the journey was, it was actually surprisingly simple. Regardless of whether we wear a collar with our name on it, that is what we canines control. We control how we feel about things and no level of domestication can take that away from us.

I hate to think of what would have happened had I decided to stick to my decision not to trust people. I certainly wouldn’t have let that nice lady pick me up and take me to the Oshkosh Humane Society. Once I got there, I wouldn’t have tried my hardest to seem adorable and adoptable. I could have been that bitter dog who stays at the shelter until…well, they aren’t at the shelter anymore.

Instead I chose life. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Related Posts:

Hands: Heads or Tails? – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/24/hands-heads-or-tails/

Man’s Best Friend – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/06/16/mans-best-friend/

 

Love the questions by living the answer January 1, 2013

I’ve got a bone to pick with George Eliot. While she is a beloved English novelist and journalist in the Victorian era, she got animals all wrong.

“Animals are such agreeable friends,” she once said, “they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” There is no question that dogs are man’s best friend. As such, we love unconditionally and without criticism. That much is true. But the mention of our perspective on questions is where she went wrong.

Big or small, my mind is full of questions…how does that squirrel keep outrunning me in the backyard? Are those animals on the moving picture window real? What is my purpose in life?

Wiley QuestionDay two with Simple Abundance challenges me to ponder the value of these questions. “The answer to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking,” Breathnach writes.

The insightfully witty French philosopher Voltaire takes it so far as to suggest one “judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Well, that is a might high order for day two of this, my very own existential journey. Especially since I have every intention of answering the challenge with what might be the most important questions of all – what are my most important questions in life? How can I narrow it down to the ones that matter most?

For inspiration I turn to Johnny Depp, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

“There are four questions of value in life…” he said. “What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.”

I seek my ultimate inquisition in that answer: only love. If it is having too many question that I fear, I shall embrace them rather than turn them away. I will love the questions because I live the answer.