Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Search and Rescue November 6, 2013

I’ve seen it all before. And the story ends the same every time. But today the moral of that story took me by surprise.

My mom misplaced her glasses this morning. She looked everywhere as I followed her through the house. They weren’t on the nightstand or under the bed (I helped her look). They weren’t in either of the bathrooms. They weren’t in the freezer (stranger things have happened). So she stopped looking. She went about her other business and that’s when it happened. The lost glasses were found on the dresser in the bedroom right where she left them the night before. Right where the belonged.

I see the lightAnd it struck me. She had to stop looking to find what was lost. It got me to thinking about this misconception I think people have about us canines being able to find anything we’ve left someplace. Sure, there are some breeds that are especially gifted at tracking just about anything. But there are others who leave a graveyard of buried bones in the backyard of a home when moving to another. I’m not proud to say I probably fall into the second category myself.

Especially when I think back to one night in particular at the Oshkosh Humane Society. It was the night after Rusty left me to go to doggie heaven. He took his contagious optimism with him, leaving me behind with nothing but my thoughts. So I resolved to change some things that night. I resolved to stop trying so hard to be adopted. I was probably not helping matters by trying to jump into the arms of all of my visitors anyway. So I stopped looking.

I know it sounds terrible coming from your resident doggie optimist but sometimes I think that’s what it takes to find what we’re really looking for. “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves,” as one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau put it.

I’ve seen it all before and it always seems to end the same way. It’s quite the paradox really. From little things like mom’s glasses to life-changing things like when my forever people found me, sometimes what we seek is more easily found when we stop looking for it. And so the lost is found.

 

A Loving Heart October 17, 2013

I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I hear there is a new invention that offers a countdown to the last moments of life. It’s called a Tikker. And those on either side of the fence that separates the scientific thinkers from the philosophers can find things to legitimize the idea.

Me? I don’t want to know. There is a certain (in my opinion) less morbid mystery in not knowing the details of our eventual demise. It challenges us to live each day like it could be our last. It keeps things in perspective. It teaches us to live better. And I like that.

But I got to thinking about how I would change my life if I bought into this Tikker idea. If I knew when life would end, what would I change? What exactly would I do differently? And (perhaps most importantly) how would I spend my final moments? I surprised myself today with an answer to all of these questions in a single word: love.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my life or how I live it. I make it my life’s work to find sources of joy from the ground up to share with whomever will take it. I would do the same if my Tikker told me I would die tomorrow. But it gets a lot deeper than that. It has roots running through my soul that have sprouted into this thing called love for my world. I love you world

I wrote of this love tree recently, and today it grew a bit larger in my heart as I contemplated the one thing I would want to tell the world if I knew my moments were numbered. I know what I would say. And in the spirit of living each day like it could be our last, I’m going to just come out and say it.

I love you. Yes, you. Each and every one of you who take the time to spend a few precious moments with me each day. My world is comprised of my forever people, my family and my friends. It includes two-legged friends and four-legged friends, who I know either in person or through the blogosphere. You bring me happiness, love, friendship and joy from the ground up.

A certain sustained level of humility keeps me from believing the Charles Dickens’ idea that “a loving heart is the truest wisdom,” but I know my character benefits greatly from all those I love. And I wouldn’t change a thing about that.

So it’s settled. I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I do want all those I love to know it. Because to me love is life. Why then think about death?

 

May The Force Be With You October 1, 2013

Some love it. Passionately. Others hate it. Fervently. Regardless of which side of the Star Wars opinion fence you fall on, I think we can all agree about one thing: the force? It’s pretty cool. Using your mind to control your surroundings? Believe me, in a dog’s life of silence that would be a game changer. Use The Force

I occasionally find myself wishing I could use the force for a variety of things. But no matter how hard I focus on that food on my mom’s plate, it does not make its way to my mouth as I will it to. The same can be said of doors. I frequently long to open doors with my mind. Most recently, I caught myself willing the car door to open and alas! It did! But it wasn’t my mind that did the opening – I looked up to discover it was my dad who opened the door so I could hop inside.

Since then, I’ve noticed he does this for my mom too, though I don’t understand why since she can do it herself. (I obviously don’t have this luxury). It wasn’t until yesterday when my dad’s friend Josh was visiting that I pieced together this mysterious puzzle. Mom, dad, and Josh were having a conversation in what will become the baby’s room. I was listening comfortably from the cozy new rug they put in there (which is my new favorite spot to think) when Josh said something that caught my attention.

He’s thinking of adopting a dog, and he’s looking specifically for a Beagle rescue. Apparently there aren’t very many nearby so he’s thinking of taking a day trip with his two-year-old nephew to one about two hours south of here in a place called Chicago. When mom mentioned it was cute he was thinking of bringing his nephew, I got my answer. “Well I want to make sure the puppy gets along with kids,” Josh replied.

Josh is currently single, but he is looking forward to meeting his future spouse and starting a family (I think people call it settling down, though I’m not quite sure what exactly they’re settling down from). Mom melted when he said this, and that’s when I realized something very important about the way “the force” can work in real life.

It’s no secret I’m a mama’s boy, so I’ve always been a proponent of treating a lady a certain way. It is probably no surprise that these feelings feed my belief that chivalry and romance are not dead. Little things (from opening a car door) to big things (like planning a future) all make a difference in both the development and maintenance of lasting relationships. It’s like the force of today. And even if you are not a fan of Yoda and his pals, you have to admit the force is a pretty neat idea. Idea it is. Reality it is not. Except when it’s used in ways I’ve come to understand as chivalry. And romance. Indeed there is a certain force a man can have, perhaps not with his mental will, but with his heart.

 

Remembering Wiley September 17, 2013

He kind of annoyed me at first. The people at the shelter called him Wiley and my first impression of him resonated perfectly with his name. He was small, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the noise he was making. Whining and pacing and scratching and whimpering. It was all too much. Worse than that, I’d seen it all before. These young pups come in here all anxious and adorable. I don’t understand what all the fussing is about. I don’t understand why they let themselves get so worked up.

Meanwhile I’ve come to the conclusion I will not be adopted. The Oshkosh Humane Society will be my final forever home. No one wants a 15-year-old golden retriever when they can have the puppies, or the anxiety attack two-year-old terrier mixes like my new neighbor. But I have made peace with that. I’ve lived a long and fulfilled life. I had a forever home with people who loved me. I had a family who loved me, played with me, and brought joy to my heart. I know what it means to be man’s best friend. I also know I’m not quite finished. I have something left to offer the world, and I am going to do it through this new neighbor of mine.Rusty

Because there is something different about this one. I can see it in his eyes. They are wide open to his soul, just like mine were at his age. And in that moment, his little soul was desperate for connection. For love. For hope. I could see it in his eyes. He was about to give up, and I was not about to let that happen.

So I told him my story. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to hear it but I didn’t care. My purpose in life was to share joy from the ground up with whoever would take it. To see the best in all people, places and things. To walk the walk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, to respect that sometime we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine.Remembering Rusty

I’ll never know what he did with the wisdom I shared with him that fateful night. And it was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to him before the people took me to that place in the shelter a few days later. (I’d come to recognize it as the “deliveries only” kind of room where the old, unwanted dogs go into never to return). But I know one thing for sure.

He kind of annoyed me at first. He had all that energy and he was wasting it all on pessimism. But I’d been through too much, seen to much, lived too much to let the opportunity slip through my paws. So I lived my purpose that night by sharing my wisdom with him. It was like the final chapter in a long life of joy from the ground up. And I wouldn’t have traded my time with him for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. That annoying little Wiley will know better than to mourn my loss, I thought as I made my way to the Rainbow Bridge. No sir. He will paw it forward.

This post was written from the perspective of my dear friend and mentor Rusty from the Oshkosh Humane Society in response to today’s daily prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

Rusty was right. His optimism lit a flame in my heart that night no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

Related Posts: Remembering Rusty, http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/17/remembering-rusty/

 

Your Teacher Heart September 16, 2013

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. (Want to go …anywhere…is not the question, in case you were wondering). How did you get so smart? They ask. Even if I could speak people, I’m not sure what my answer would be.

The thing is, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly smart. I’m not (that) special. Perhaps that’s why people think I’m smart. Because I’ve noticed a trend in modern society that people generally are not as smart as they think they are. A concept I think can go both ways.

Psychology aside, I do sometimes wonder where “smart” comes from. It’s not among the list of qualities American author John Grogan said seem to come so effortlessly to dogs: “loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love.” Grogan hypothesizes these emotions that are second nature to canines can be “elusive to humans.”

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but it does spark a curiosity in my heart. And I beg to differ with the popular thought that curiosity killed the cat. First, because I think it’s a terrible thing to say even if it is theoretical. Second, because I think curiosity of the heart is the ultimate spark for learning.Love. Unplugged.

This occurred to me today as I dreamed of meeting my little person and all he or she has to learn about the world. I found myself both excited and overwhelmed by the insight of my dog park friend Tucker, who shared with me all about his little person Mason. They are best buddies, and they are constantly learning from each other. But Mason is 13 people years old now. My little person will be brand new to the world the same time he or she is brand new to me. Talk about pressure.

Then I took a deep sighing breath (the kind that catches the attention of my forever mom and inevitably merits a scratch behind the ears) as I realized something that gave me the sincerest form of peace. I don’t know what I’m so worried about. My heart is my teacher. That’s why things like loyalty and selflessness come so easy to me. It’s all rooted in the unconditional love in my heart.

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. How did you get so smart? Beyond the people/dog language barrier lies their answer. I’m not. Not in the conventional sense at least. But I do know where smart comes from. It comes from a curiosity of the heart. It stems from a desire to be loyal, devoted, selfless and optimistic. It is love.

This post is dedicated to my dear blog friend Utesmile, whose encouragement inspired these words.

 

The Mouse Will Play August 23, 2013

From sneaking people food right off the dinner table to jumping four-foot fences, I used to fancy myself a master of mischief. Somewhere along the line, I determined it was best to use my God-given brains to cause trouble because it triggered attention from people. Sometimes it was even the good kind of attention. Though they were few and far between, occasionally my behavior merited a “oh, that is so cute” comment in place of the dreaded “bad dog” nickname.

Me? Sassy? No...But something changed for me the day I escaped through the doggie door and jumped the fence of my first adoptive family. I remember feeling so disappointed when they found me and brought me home, and then (almost) relieved when they took me back to the humane society. (This ended up being a very positive thing because I met my forever people a few weeks later as a result). Forever changed for me that day as I wandered the streets of Port Washington exploring my newfound (short-lived) sense of freedom.

I’ve had it all wrong, I thought to myself when the people drove me home. “Bad dog, Zorro,” I remember the woman saying. In that moment, I realized was tired of being called a bad dog. And despite my best intentions at being bad, I was terrible at it. It was work. I don’t know why this came as such a surprise to me, since us canines tend to wear our hearts right outside our bodies for all the world to see. We can’t lie – our tails, our ears and our eyes give it away. No one is as mysterious as they think they are, especially when they have four legs and a tail. So I resolved that day to give up mischief forever. From that moment on, I would use my God-given brains to do only positive things for the world. No more bad dog. Naughty dog was a thing of the past.

But no one’s perfect. And experience has actually taught me we all need a little mischief in our lives every now and then. I know it’s happening with my people when my people call me a “little stinker” or “ball of sass.” I don’t mind – I know these are pet names, employed when just the right amount of mischief has been applied to a situation. Like when I make “the face” at mom when she’s eating a steak. Or when I paw at dad’s foot to let him know it’s time for our nightly game of fetch. And (let’s face it) I do my fair share of things that merit the occasional “bad dog” or “naughty dog” sentiment. (Barking madly at all variations of animal life on the television comes to mind). I might not be perfect, but I can say I no longer fancy myself a master of mischief. I’d much rather be the administrator of joy from the ground up.

 

 

More or Less August 12, 2013

I don’t think dogs are wired to understand the people concept that less is more. I’m sure I don’t speak for all of us, but I certainly don’t leave spare kibbles in my bowl. Not a single scrap of people food hits the floor that I don’t scoop up. One toy is just never enough. But I suppose this all makes sense because we live with our whole honest selves. We wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves. And we love with all our hearts.

2013-06-28 21.17.47I was reminded of this today when I heard a familiar phrase on television. “Amateurs built the ark; experts built the Titanic.” I’m not certain of the origin of this philosophical commentary, but I’m drawn to it for obvious reasons. Not only does it challenge us to try something new, to challenge conventional wisdom, but it aligns with another truth I hold dear about judging a book by its cover.

Don’t do it. Easy as that.

It is in contradictions such as these that I find myself pondering things on a more philosophical level. In general more is more to me, yet I believe in extracting joy from the simple things in life. I believe in giving that book with a seemingly boring cover a read simply out of principal. I believe in second chances. These are not declarations of someone who doesn’t understand how less can possibly be more.

Maybe that’s the amateur in me. It’s the same part of me that can’t leave any food and prefers the company of all my entire comfort circle of toys rather than a simple representation. But just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean I push an idea aside. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the point that I want to learn something from everything. I would much rather build something on faith and understanding than on vanity and luxury anyway.

So perhaps I’ve been going about this whole less is more concept the wrong way. It’s not one way or the highway. When we love with our whole selves, down to our core, whether we have more or less of something doesn’t matter.

 

Obedience School Drop Out June 28, 2013

I’ve been called a lot of not-so-nice things in my relatively short doggie life. Obedience school drop out. Behaviorally challenged. Approved for homes with children ages 12 and above. Yet I find in life’s greatest contradictions lie some of the most intricate sources of wisdom.

Its true of animals and people alike if you ask me. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it as truth. In a dog’s life, words like stupid, naughty, and troubled haunted my puppyhood. In a person’s life, overuse of words like stupid, disabled, or challenged as a child can impact a person for the rest of their adult life. Truth becomes us. But can we become truth?

Becoming Truth

I’ve often wondered this as I think nostalgically back on my time before my people brought me into my forever home. I encountered a variety of characters in a myriad of settings who each taught me invaluable lessons along my journey. So how could I be so stupid? Why do they keep calling me naughty? What did the folks at the humane society say to my mom that almost made her give up fighting to adopt me?

Then it happened. The tides changed, and with them my life changed forever. Two distinctly similar moments come to mind when I think of the brilliance of contradictory wisdom. My first night at the humane society when I thought the world was coming to an end, Rusty the golden retriever showed me the light. Much like my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rusty believed we are not products of what the world tells us, but rather of what we tell ourselves. We are what we think, so of course if we believe the negative things that are said about us we indeed may become them.

The bookend to my understanding of this occurred only a few short months later, when my forever family took me to see an animal behaviorist for my alleged behavioral problems. (This was required by the humane society as a condition of my adoption.) I’ll never forget the first two sentences Jenny said when we began our session. “He’s got to be one of the most unique looking dogs I’ve ever met,” she said, “and so smart!”

It was the first time anyone had ever used the word smart to describe me. And in that moment I was both overwhelmed with joy and humbled. Rusty changed my interpretation of the world around me by changing my interpretation of myself, and here I was being praised for simply being me. I know it sounds contradictory, but in that moment I realized true wisdom is found through admission there is much yet to learn.

It is because of my personal admission of humility that I can say I honestly wouldn’t mind being called those negative names anymore. Sure, if we hear something repeated enough times we begin to believe it. But let us learn from the variety of characters life offers us. Let us choose to contradict the negative things with our positive thoughts. Let us become our own truth.

 

Tick Tock (The Watch-Dog) June 25, 2013

My mom has a thing for clocks. Big ones. I realized it the moment I cautiously tiptoed into my forever home for the first time. Excitement abounded as I was greeted by all sorts of new smells, sights and sounds, but two things instantly stood out to me. Both hang above the stairway leading to the basement; one is a sign that reads “home is where your story begins” and the other is an enormous clock.

Time is on our sideIt’s not the only oversized clock in the house, and sometimes when I’m all alone waiting for my mom and dad to come home from that place called work it’s all I can hear. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The tiny rhythmic sound drowns out all others in those final moments before one of my beloved people arrive home.

I for one generally have mixed feelings about clocks. On the one paw, it is a constant signal of time passing that can in itself be a reminder to live in the present. On the other paw, it is a reflection of time passing. Period. In a dog’s life where one dog year is equal to seven people years, it’s not always a happy thought to think about another moment passing us by. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The Watchdog

All of this came to the forefront of my little doggie mind today thanks to a strange recurring dream I had again last night. I’ve been having this same dream since before I can remember that I am Tock (the watchdog). As in the Tock (the watchdog) made famous in Norton Juster’s famous children’s book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I’m wearing a watch and everything.  In each dream I befriend a little boy just like Milo in the book. It’s a different boy each time, but our journey is the same. I find the boy in the Duldrums where I rescue him from the dreariness and we begin our journey to exciting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Land of Wisdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of characters who share their stories (all rich with life lessons) with us.

Each time I wake I know I’ve just lived the plot of Juster’s book. I know for sure because each time the dream begins and ends the same way. It starts with an image of a boy who seems generally bored with life receiving a message “to (insert name here) who has plenty of time. It ends with the boy seeming much more excited about all that life has to offer receiving a message “to (insert name here) who knows the way.” Just like in the book.

All of this makes me wonder why my mom has a thing for clocks. I generally have mixed feelings primarily because of the dog-to-people ratio of time. But then I am reminded of what it’s like to be Tock (the watchdog) helping a lost little person find the way and suddenly my perspective on the matter changes drastically. Maybe that recurring dream I have is God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for every moment of time I’m granted in life.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Indeed we do not have plenty of time. Each moment is a blessing now, just as it is for the little people in my dream. While I can’t say I care much for clocks in real life, I don’t mind being Tock (the watchdog) in my dreams. Tick tock. Tick tock. The rhythmic sounds of time passing remind us to embrace the present. Time is on our side if we let it be, not because we’re bored with life but because we know the way.

 

I Stand For The Cure June 8, 2013

Novelty is such a funny concept to me. I like when things are new, different, and exciting. I love exploring new places, led by my nose more than my eyes. Everything is so fresh and appealing when you experience something for the first time. Novelty, like variety, is a spice of life.

But so is familiarity. Sure, it’s not the cayenne pepper that is novelty, but familiarity has an inherent comfort like nutmeg or cinnamon. Sometimes I breathe in the familiar smell of my forever home (which often smells like nutmeg and cinnamon because of scented candles) and I am overcome with the most powerful sense of fulfillment and peace. This is when I tend to audibly grunt sigh (neither a grunt or a sigh, but a combination of the two) for all around me to hear.

All of this came to mind for me today while mom readied some delicious-smelling people food in the kitchen. As usual, she was listening to music and dancing around the room while she worked, and while so much about this image was familiar something was different. I can’t quite put my paw on it, but there is something about what I was watching that was novel somehow, even though I’ve seen it a million times.

In my reflective moment I found myself paying attention to details I otherwise overlook, like the words to the song playing in the background. I’d heard Chris Martin from Coldplay sing of Clocks so many times, but for some reason it was like I was hearing the line for the first time: “Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?”

As a general believer in seeing the best in the supporting people, places and things that make up the cast of characters in my doggie life, I try to be part of my own personal cure. In a world sick with negativity, I seek joy in the oddest places and don’t give up until I find and exploit the happiness out of a situation. That is the cure I fight for on a daily basis. What’s yours? Is there something familiar in your life that might need to be cured with a dash of novelty?

Seeking the Cure

It was a such an unexpected blessing for me to be caught up in the novelty of this familiar moment. Everything about it was the same except my perspective. That’s why novelty is such a funny concept to me. While I love when things are new and exciting, I find comfort in the familiar. Yet, when I pay close enough attention to the familiar, perspective offers novelty a second chance. And, if my life is any indication, everything deserves a second chance.