Noah is using his disabilities to bring love and empathy to the lonely
The beginning of Noah’s story was almost the end.
The dog was found at five months old, struggling to survive in the dirt at a backyard breeder in California. Born without eyes and deformed back legs, the tiny, white Bichon poodle mix had no chance to snap up any of the kibble scraps thrown in the filthy space he shared with his two siblings. Emaciated, frightened and just two pounds — that’s how the rescue Saving K9 Lives found him.
Lisa Marie saw a picture of Noah in this condition on the Facebook page Everything Rosy, and she didn’t see a dog beyond help; she saw a dog she needed in her life.
“It was a visceral response of ‘I need that dog.’ It didn’t take but five minutes before I started an application,” the nurse and kindergarten teacher told PEOPLE.
Already the mom to one blind dog, Lisa Marie had been looking to help another visually-impaired pup for the past year, but hadn’t found success yet. Living in Wisconsin, she wasn’t expecting much when she submitted the application for California-based Noah, but just a few days after seeing the needy dog’s photo, Lisa Marie received a call that became the start of her life with this inspiring canine.
After extensively vetting Lisa Marie and helping Noah recover, Saving K9 Lives sent Noah to his new forever home in Wisconsin, equipped with a donated wheelchair and custom Muffin’s Halo to help him navigate his now-promising life ahead.
It didn’t take long for Lisa Marie to find out her new pup wasn’t just a survivor, but a special soul as well.
“I found out that Noah has a really unique personality,” she explained. “He only wants to sit on your lap with his head in your neck, so heart-to-heart, neck-to-neck. He does not want to be held any other way.”
After seeing the soothing effect this cuddle-wielding dog had on friends and family, Lisa Marie decided to share Noah’s tenderness with the world by bringing him to local nursing homes. The positive power of his presence was immediate and astounding. Residents who spent their days in resigned solitude melted under the weight of this now-12 lb. dog.
“The first time we went to a nursing home I didn’t know what to expect. This little old woman, who was in the dementia unit, hadn’t spoken for so long, and when Noah got into her lap she started to grunt. It was at that point that I knew that he had something,” Lisa Marie recalled in awe.
Noah didn’t have to go sniffing around for his next opportunity, it found him. Shortly after starting their nursing home visits, Lisa Marie and Noah received a call from a local school looking for help with a bullying problem. Lisa Marie knew Noah was the answer.
She arrived at the school with Noah in all his gear. While the schoolchildren looked at Noah — no eyes, a wheelchair strapped to his legs and a halo fixed to his head — Lisa Marie asked the kids what they thought Noah couldn’t do. Jump, run, play were many of responses.
“And I will say ‘Yes he can.’ And they just go ‘Wow! but he looks so different,’” Lisa Marie said.
And it is precisely this message that she and Noah are looking to get across: Someone who looks different from the outside, is just the same as everyone else. Differences shouldn’t exclude anyone, or making them feel less than; instead we should approach everyone from a place of acceptance and empathy.
“By the time we leave they don’t see Noah as a disabled dog. That’s how I want humans to see each other,” she added.
Noah’s message and signature heart-to-heart hugs have become so popular with schools that the pup earned a place in Murray Park Elementary School’s yearbook, as the 5th grade’s Honorary Favorite Rockstar.
This little dog’s big influence isn’t just felt locally, Lisa Marie can easily recount messages she has received from all over the country from those positively changed by Noah’s story of strength and compassion. She has received notes from a woman undergoing chemo, who brings a picture of Noah to her sessions as a reminder to be strong and others from a proud mother of a child who decided to stick up for a little girl being bullied after he found Noah on Facebook.
“It’s these stories, that you think people may not be listening or they are not taking it to heart, but then you get stories like this and it takes your breath away. Here is this dog, who shouldn’t even be here and he is saving lives,” Lisa Marie said.
Noah’s message is spreading fast, and it is about to go fully national. The pooch is currently a semi finalist for Emerging Hero Dog Award at the American Humane Associations Hero Dog Awards. Starting in an applicant pool with hundreds of other dogs, Noah’s healing work and dedication to doing good has earned him a spot in the final three for his category.
Lisa Marie decided to enter Noah (who you can vote for once a day until June 22) into the awards in memory of a special poodle named Muffin. It is because of this furry soul that Noah can travel through the world without fear. When Muffin, Silvie Bordeaux’s beloved poodle went blind, the dog lover changed the course of her life and dedicated herself to finding a way to make Muffin’s life easier.
She came up with Muffin’s Halo, a device for visually-impaired dogs that prevents them from bumping into walls, allowing them to learn new spaces and reclaim their independence. Bordeaux has provided Noah with halos throughout his life, and helps hundreds of other blind dogs through her non-profit Second Chances for Blind Dogs, which provides halos to owners of blind dogs for free, so they do not have to surrender their pet due to medical expenses.
“I am creating a movement for blind dogs around the world,” Bordeaux said. “I lost Muffin, so his legacy continues on. He has changed the world for all these blind babies.”
Noah and Lisa Marie hope to build on this legacy with a win at the Hero Dog Awards, but more than anything, the pair want to create hope and happiness for the countless people out there who feel that they are different and are bullied because of it.
“If we can stop one kid from being bullied to the point of suicide, Noah has done his job,” Lisa Marie shared.
To accomplish this, Noah plans to keep visiting schools and spreading his message of acceptance and empathy at events and online. He has even gone so far as to open his own bank account, that way any donations he receives can go directly into his paws and be used to help dogs in desperate need of help, just like he once was.
Noah has found his safe and loving forever place, now he is doing everything a pup can do to make sure others find their happy place too.