Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

To Be Young Again December 22, 2014

American businessman, humanitarian and poet Samuel Ullman once wrote “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

I’ve come to believe this as truth in the six and a half people years I’ve been around. That youth is indeed a state of mind, something a person (or dog, in my case) is capable of choosing to embrace, regardless of the number of years they’ve walked the Earth. Still, there are times I admit to feeling old. Wiley and Joey

It happens sometimes when I spend time with dear aunt Morgan’s dog, Joey. He’s five years my junior, and you don’t have to be a dog person to see the difference in our personalities. I’ve mellowed over time, coming to enjoy my time to rest, reflect and enjoy a general sense of peace. Joey on the other hand is full of spirit all the time. He never stops. Moving, jumping, playing, spinning. He’s a bundle of energy.

I haven’t met him yet, but I’m sure the newest doggie member of my extended forever family is the exact same way. I’m happy to report that the family that recently lost 15-year-old Mocha to the Rainbow Bridge has adopted a new German Shorthair Pointer named Jackson.

Jackson

The parents were here at dear baby Carter’s Winter One-derland birthday party on Saturday, and when they got home arranged to have the new family dog wrapped up in its fancy new crate in what has become his forever home. He is only a few weeks old, and I am so incredibly happy for him to have found such a loving family so early in his life. Moreover, I’m overjoyed for the family to have found a special new doggie soul to fill the emptiness they felt after losing Mocha. And, after 15 very special years with the family, I know Mocha would feel the same way.

Because that’s the thing about getting older. Sure, there are days when I feel old. But I believe you can decide to be young at heart in spite of the inevitable creaks and cracks that accompany the aging process. You can dream about tomorrow in connection to yesterday. You can feel renewed in each day. Best of all, you can live the wisdom you’ve acquired.

 

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.

 

The Tree of Life August 14, 2014

It’s everywhere you look. In different sizes, shapes and forms. And you can’t avoid it no matter how hard you try. Aging. From the ground up, it is a part of life. In itself it is almost as constant a thing as the breath that makes life a reality. It happens to everyone in different ways and different times.

Today was another beautiful late summer day in Wisconsin. The blue sky harbored a gentle breeze that kept the 70-degree weather in an absolutely perfect balance of comfort. In my backyard paradise birds chirped, the wind chimes jingled, and the sun shone brightly. In more ways than one. Mom and Carter were glowing today as they played together in the grass. Pure unadulterated joy has a way of doing that to people, I’ve noticed. So there we were enjoying the perfection of the afternoon when I noticed something that made my heart skip a beat. Tom and I

I’m not sure how I’ve missed it this long. It’s probably glaringly obvious to visitors to my forever home, but since I see it every day it was lost on me. Until today. Today I noticed that my dear Tom seems to be dying. Tom is a good friend of mine otherwise known as my favorite tree in the backyard. He was there for me when I was new here. He stood by when I got into my barking arguments with Demon Dog. He provides shade for moments like today when mom and Carter play in the grass. And he is dying.

I don’t know how I missed that about three quarters of his branches have gone bristle dry at some point. There are some branches with leaves on it still, but they are few and far between. I hate to think of what is going to happen to him when those branches go dry too.

As I reflected on this in the gorgeous afternoon sun today I found my heart turning to dear baby Carter. He is still so young, and yet seems to be growing up so fast. And mom, who has blossomed from a young adult into a woman before my eyes in the last few years. And me, as I approach canine middle age.

Aging. From the ground up, it is everywhere you look. It happens to everything and everyone at different times in different ways. But as true and beautiful as Tom’s remaining branches are, I know in my heart this part of life is another chapter just as valuable as all the chapters before it. And, like most things, the tree of life is only as beautiful as we believe it to be.

So you might call me a tree hugger, but I’m okay with that. Because to me life is a pretty beautiful thing.

 

Every Single Day August 2, 2014

Every year my reaction is the same. “It’s Fish Day!” mom will say. Meanwhile, my mouth starts watering and I begin to pace the hallways of my forever home because I know what this means. And as mom and dad put on their flip flops, I know the journey is about to begin.

As long as I’ve been around my forever family, it means off to Port Washington, Wisconsin we go. It is the home to lots of things, including the birthplace and childhood home of my dear forever father. But on this one special day every year it is the home to so much more. It is home to the world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry. (Google it if you don’t believe me). And, since it is home to much of the Schmidt family, that means it’s a reason to celebrate.

Because I’m sure everyone has one. A month of birthdays. For us it’s July. In addition to my dear forever mom and several of her pals, her sister and mom have birthdays in July, as well as dear favorite little people of mine Abigail and Sam, and my forever father’s dad Gerry.

So you could say that Fish Day has taken on a life of its own for our forever family. It’s a day when we get together and celebrate by way of eating fried fish, but there is also cake. (Which means there is a little frosting to spare for everyone’s favorite four-legged friend otherwise known as me).

And this year, I was surprised to find even more meaning behind this special day. Yes, everyone was glad everyone was born. And yes, everyone loves a good piece of fried fish and birthday cake for dessert. But this year was different for my forever family. Because this year involved dear baby Carter. And he was a bit of a handful, what with all of his almost 7-month-old teething at the time. Master of the computer

But none of that mattered to his grandma Schmidt, especially since she hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. He fussed and cried and did everything he doesn’t normally do. But what I saw through her eyes that day was pure and completely uncomplicated love and appreciation for all things this little person would bring into the world.

Joy. From the ground up, I saw that in her wisdom that day. Her and my dear forever mom talked at length in the living room with no one but a sleepy Carter and myself there to hear them about life as a mom and all that entails. I’ve heard it before from other family members (like my mom’s mom and sister) too, but something seemed to come full circle that day hearing it from my grandma Schmidt. Like in some odd way everyone who loves dear baby Carter was on the same page.

This isn’t to say I didn’t know this before. But I know every year something special is going to happen at Fish Day and this year was no different. This year I was reminded there is so much more to life than fried fish (though that was and always will be very yummy). There is life. And the love that life breeds. These are the things worth celebrating not just one day a year but every single day.

 

 

 

Sky Full of Stars July 23, 2014

When we’re little, we can’t wait for it. It’s like something we have our own internal countdown for, just waiting until that special day arrives. Then it does and we wish it hadn’t. Birthdays. From the ground up, I’ve come to wonder about them, mostly because I’ve always thought I would know when that day came. That day, when I knew beyond a doubt that I was completely and utterly grown up. That day, when I felt on my game. That day, when I felt wise.

Well I don’t know about you, but I haven’t yet recognized such a day. At the tender age of six people years old (which is equivalent to about 42 doggie years old), I say with complete honesty that I can’t say I’ve ever actually felt like a grown up. Not in the traditional sense of the term anyway. But today, as I paused to watch my forever family for a bit, I realized maybe it isn’t about that.Think with the Heart

I sat by, as I always do, while mom and dad had dinner together. More recently, dear baby Carter has joined them for dinner as he eats various concoctions of what my people call “solids,” which (at least in my opinion) greatly resemble soups of various homemade flavors. His options thus far include mango, sweet potato, broccoli, avocado and (as of tonight) banana. And it’s all very exciting both for him, as well as my beloved forever mom and dad.

Today as I watched what is my reality unfold I realized I am, in fact, living my dream. I can’t say I knew what it would look like when I was a puppy. I know I was like anyone else, looking forward to being a grown up more than anything else. I couldn’t wait for the outside world to see me differently. To see me as a grown up.

Today I realized none of that really matters as much as remembering your inner child. Sure, it’s fun to think about what it might be like one day when you’re all grown up. That one day when you have everything figured out. That one day when you feel wise. But I realized today being grown up has absolutely nothing to do with that one day. It has everything to do with the days that follow. It has everything to do with how you move forward, how you make a difference. How you live.

So today I recommit my life to one of wisdom. I recommit myself to seeing a sky full of stars whenever it’s in front of me. I recommit myself to live. From the ground up, that’s about as simple as it gets.

 

 

The Truth About Garbage April 11, 2014

It didn’t end well. This afternoon I decided I was going to do something I’ve never done before. I’ve been plotting it for quite some time, but never had the guts to follow through. I’m not sure what it was in my mind that finally convinced me to do it. All I know is it happened. And the rest is history.

I knocked down the garbage can in the kitchen today. It smelled like ham and apples and cheese and rice and beans and corn and peas. I love peas. I don’t know what came over me. All of a sudden, I was overcome with this urge to get in there and pick out all of that goodness for myself. I never understand how my forever people can throw such gems away. I cringe when I see leftover bacon or any kind of bones go in there. Enough is enough, I thought to myself.Did I do that??

It was quite the feast, and I ate everything in a matter of minutes. Next came the aftermath. Not only was I in (really big) trouble, but I paid for it. Apparently garbage is garbage for a reason. It’s not good anymore. I’m not generally a trouble maker, so getting scolded was almost as bad as the tummy ache that followed. Almost.

I certainly learned my lesson. (At least until my nose overtakes my mind again). Philosophically speaking, I am still a believer in the theory that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. But when it comes to that garbage, it is a lesson I already knew. I just didn’t realize it. My instincts told me my people would not keep treasure from me on purpose. In the back of my mind, I knew there must have been a reason for every single time I’ve made a pass at the garbage can in the past, I was scolded.

I should have known I could trust my instincts. I thought my nose knew better. I was wrong. And it didn’t end well

“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry,” suggested Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, “but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.”

There is obviously no poetry in garbage. But there is wisdom in knowing the value of instinct. That is the lesson I learned today.

 

You Just Wait March 12, 2014

Apparently it’s one of those things parents say to each other. Like the never ending piece of advice stuck on repeat in the CD player. And while I’m usually all for taking in and putting to practice any piece of advice or wisdom, this has (of late) been one of my least favorite tracks. You just wait.

When my forever mom was up all night because baby Carter was beat boxing on her ribs, people told her. You just wait. After he was born and he was sleeping in teeny tiny increments of time, people told her. You just wait. Even now, when he’s starting to interact with the world in both smiles and experimental cries, people tell her. You just wait. Cuddles

And I will tell you. Each and every time someone says this, I watch as she visibly tenses up and I know better than anyone else what she’s thinking. YOU just wait. Because here’s the thing about unsolicited advice and wisdom. It’s great when it means something positive. And it’s even all right when it means something negative, as long as it’s delivered in the right way. But even when you’re a boy dog who will never in a million years understand the mystery of birth, I can hear it.

There is something grating about hearing someone imply things will get worse before they will get better. It doesn’t matter if its family life, work life, personal life, or whatever sort of life path you’re on – it just plain sucks to hear even the slightest implication of things being worse on the horizon.

That is, until you live it. I know it grated on my mom’s nerves when people told her to “just wait” for what sleep would be like after the baby was born. I know it the same as I know things will only be getting more complicated from here as Carter figures out his emotions. Happy and sad. Love and hate. Chaos and peace. You just wait.

It’s a track that has been stuck on repeat far too long around here. And yet I know its one we need to hear. Not necessarily as its intended from its various unsolicited advisors. Because tone has no place in true wisdom. Instead I would rather cherish the good things that come to those who “just wait.” I cherish the first full night’s sleep my people have had in a while. And these first smiles that are happening on purpose. And that look of recognition when mom and dad talk and he seems calmed by their voices.

As one who has just waited, I can definitely confirm a certain and undeniable truth. It’s always worth the wait.

 

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.

 

A Baby Laughing January 22, 2014

I’ve never been too big a fan of mirrors. I know barking and cowering are fairly common canine responses to them, but I do neither of these things. Instead I feel nothing. Emotionally indifferent I guess you could say. In general I don’t particularly care for the effect I know they can have on people, especially women.

So I choose to direct my attention elsewhere. I prefer to find joy. From the ground up, it was easy to find today. It happened on my living room floor with my other baby pal Alexis (daughter of mom’s friend Jessica). There we were staring at each other when it happened. She laughed.

If joy had a sound, a baby laughing would be it. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced such things, but each time it happens teaches me a new lesson about true and sincere happiness.Joy.

Today it taught me joy doesn’t come from a mirror. It simply can’t. But if you reflect joy, if you put it out there in front of you, it is likely to reflect right back at you. I mean no disrespect to mirrors. They serve their purpose and that’s all well and good.

But I do think people place too much value on that reflection staring back at them. Dogs bark and cower. People get sad or frustrated. Me? I’m indifferent to the mirrors. I would much rather focus on the person than the reflection anyway.

See the action unfold: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=569872490057&l=334242941458658880

 

Neighborhood Watch January 6, 2014

It’s been said more than once. Some have said it jokingly. Others have been more serious about it. Regardless of the reasons, the message is clear. I would make a terrible guard dog.

Watching the Angel SleepIn our neighborhood we are surrounded on either side by neighbor ladies who have been widowed, one of whom was especially enthusiastic about my impending ferocity when my people first brought me home from the humane society. It will be nice to have a dog guarding this neck of the neighborhood, she said.

Here I am, three and a half years later, and that could not be farther from the truth. My bark is rare, and every visitor to my forever home is greeted with fanfare and love. I do, after all, have a personal goal to share joy with whomever will take it, so why would I startle folks as they enter my home? It’s simply not in my bones.

Or so I thought. Then came baby Carter and suddenly everything has changed. Every little creak in the floor makes me jump, I find myself reacting to noises outside differently, and I have even uttered a protective bark or two at something other than the pig on the Geico commercials or the dogs with pretty teeth in the Pedigree commercials. I can’t describe the change other than that it feels instinctual, as natural as scratching an itch behind my ear.

“Follow your instincts,” American media mogul Oprah Winfrey suggested. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” Sometimes I think its all too easy to start believing what people say about us. Especially when it’s not necessarily complimentary. I’m not really sure which side of the fence a guard dog falls on, since it usually isn’t a good thing to assume the bad in everyone instead of the good. But I have developed some pretty keen instincts in my time on four paws, and I think its time I start employing them. It’s been said more than once that I could never be a guard dog. I’ve got new reasons to believe that doesn’t make it true.