Underdog is putting it mildly. Noah the Bichon Poodle was born in a puppy mill with deformed legs and missing his eyes, undernourished and neglected. He was mere hours away from death when he was rescued, lovingly rehabilitated, and eventually placed in an adoptive home across the country.
Apparently Noah never got the memo about all the odds stacked against him because today he lives not only an active life, but one full of service. In fact, all of his heroics have earned him a finalist spot in the upcoming Hero Dog Awards. We sat down with Noah's adoptive mom, Lisa Edge to hear his brave tale:
OLLIE: Can you tell us a little about Noah’s adoption story?
LE: It was about midnight one night and I happened to see these triplets posted on the Saving K9 Lives Facebook page. They were just in terrible, horrible shape. When I read that Noah didn’t have eyes, it was almost an automatic response. I was filling out the application to adopt this blind, crippled dog.
I don’t know what I was thinking. He was in California, I was in Wisconsin. I sent off the application with a hope and a prayer and didn’t think I’d hear back. That started a nearly three-month journey to bring Noah to me. The adoption process was long, and it was painful in the fact that I didn't know if I would get to be his mom. Over that period, I made a lot of friends who are an important part of Noah's story, women who donated time, money and resources to give Noah a chance at life. I actually got Noah on my birthday in February last year and it was the best present I've ever received!
OLLIE: Had you had other rescue dogs before?
LE: I started out about 5 or 6 years ago with a Yorkie who was rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri by United Yorkie Rescue. She was blind, with tattered ears, breast tumors and no teeth. I set my eyes on her and said, “She needs me.” She’d never touched grass. She had been in a tiny cage all her life, breeding. She had to be taught to walk. No muscle tone. From then on, I decided I’d never have a normal dog again and now I have five total with varying degrees of handicap.
OLLIE: You call Noah a rockstar—where does the nickname come from?
LE: I needed a way to dedicate something to these people, Jasmin and Bobby Kimball, from Saving K9 Lives. They've dedicated their lives to rescuing dogs like Noah. Bobby Kimball was the lead singer of Toto, a literal rockstar, and I think some of that rubbed off on Noah. He's a total rockstar—he thrives on attention!
OLLIE: Noah enjoys amazing mobility. How did you find such special equipment?
LE: Silvie Bordeaux was part of the "village" that brought Noah to me. She invented this amazing device called Muffin's Halo for her blind dog, Muffin. It’s made of soft copper tubing covered in soft material and is worn around the neck and head like a halo. It goes before them and encounters objects and obstacles, which allows the dog to redirect. Silvie generously donated Noah's halo.
Noah's support cart (kind of like a wheelchair) was donated by Judy Walter from Mango on a Mission. Mango is her paralyzed dog and after getting him mobility, Judy was inspired to give back. She donates thousand of dollars to get disabled dogs into wheelchairs to give them quality of life.
OLLIE: Much of your time with Noah is spent visiting classrooms of school children. Can you describe a typical experience when the kids meet Noah for the first time?
LE: Well, he follows me into the classroom, looking like he does, and thank God he’s cute because the contraptions he wears makes him look strange. Immediately there are gasps, they feel very bad for Noah.
The first question I ask them is: What do you think Noah can’t do? They quickly list fifteen different things. Then I say, "Actually, yes, he can jump. He can play." He can do everything they said he couldn't. I let him out of his wheel and he quickly finds a lap to climb.
By the end of the hour, after we've talked about the difference between sympathy and empathy, after we've talked about bullying and how differences are what make us strong, an amazing thing happens. The kids don't see his handicaps anymore.
Before I leave, I ask them if they still feel sorry for Noah. I remind them of those initial gasps of pity. The response is always the same, "NO! He's a regular dog!"
OLLIE: Tell us about this moment you call, "The Hug Heard Round the World."
LE: That was our very first trip trying this therapy thing out. I wasn't sure what to expect from Noah or the patients. We went to a dementia unit and this woman hadn’t spoken in a very long time. I put Noah on her chest and he cuddled right up into her neck. She started to make sounds. She started to verbalize and speak. That was my first sign that we had something special here. It's just a really profound thing to see people who can’t talk or walk, holding their hands out to hold him next. It's an honor.
OLLIE: Do you have advice for other potential rescue parents? How do you know if you’re a good fit?
LE: This is not for everybody. I think there has to be an innate want to help animals. Some people can’t stand the sight of anything abnormal. You have to have a sincerity to want an animal that is otherwise unwanted. But on the other hand, you can’t treat them like they’re invalids. If he stumbles or goes off the curb in his wheelchair, I let him learn. He plays in the mud, the rain, the snow. He wrestles with his brother. I'm cautious, of course, but my desire is to let him experience life as a normal dog.
OLLIE: Noah is in the running for Hero Dog of the Year. Has he changed the way you think about the word hero?
LE: Noah is a hero for a couple of reasons. First, just the fact that he survived and lived. He was hours away from death and something inside kept him going. The second is that he never complains. His knees are fused and have water on them, it's an excruciating pain. He can't see anything, not even shadows. But the thing is, he has never whined or moped or been aggressive, and that is not exaggeration. He's happy 100% of the time. He’s got everything stacked against him and still he finds joy.