MINERAL POINT — Noah, a 2½-year-old white bichon-poodle mix, looks different than other dogs. He was born without eyes, uses a special wheelchair to get around due to deformities in his back legs and wears a halo around his head to protect himself. But his appearance doesn’t stop him from acting like any other dog.
As his owner, Lisa Edge, began removing his equipment during a special program at the Iowa County Fair, she asked those gathered around what they thought Noah couldn’t do. And slowly, she showed them all the things he can.
Noah moved around the stage, responding to his owner’s voice. He rolled over onto his back and Edge rubbed his belly — something all dogs seem to enjoy. Shaking a bag of treats, Noah excitedly responded to getting a snack. When Edge squeaked a toy, Noah wagged his tail, elated.
“Everybody said put him down. He’s never going to be capable of anything,” Edge said. “But I promised when he flew from California that I’d make something special for him. And he ended up making it special himself.”
Edge adopted Noah fter he was rescued from a backyard breeder in California. He was nursed back to health by Saving K9 Lives Plus, and the moment Edge saw him online, she knew she had to apply to be his permanent owner.
“I don’t know what possessed me. I sent in the application at midnight,” she said.
It took three months to decide if Edge was a good fit for Noah. Those three months included phone interviews and home visits, much like adopting a child, Edge said. Finally, she was approved, and a retired flight attendant from Wisconsin flew out to California to pick up the special dog.
Edge had looked at photos of Noah and had dreamed of what he would actually look like when he joined their family back in Mineral Point. When he was finally in her arms, her dreams were exceeded as he snuggled lovingly up around her neck. Their bond was instantaneous as he joined the Edge family, which includes four other handicapped dogs.
Almost immediately after he was adopted, Edge began calling area nursing homes to see if they would be interested in a unique opportunity for residents to interact with Noah. Not long after, Edge and Noah began visiting area schools, teaching children about tolerance, disabilities and bullying.
“The message is the same,” Edge said. “At the heart of it all, no matter how we look or what we look like, we all have that need to be accepted and loved.”
This was the first time Edge and Noah had given their program at a fair, but it was one they will certainly remember as it was the first program that was corporately sponsored by Upland Hills Health of Dodgeville. When a representative called from the hospital to ask them to participate, Edge said it took her breath away.
Edge also saw the fair as an opportunity to share Noah’s story with adults and older generations as the duo typically visit schools, working with children in Pre-K through high school. Attendance at the fair was a good mix of children and adults, and it was neat for Edge to see how each reacted to activities in the program.
In one activity, Edge had two children put on oven mitts and try to play a game of Old Maid. The children struggled to deal and pick up the cards, and when asked by Edge how that made them feel, they responded that they were frustrated. The exercise was meant to demonstrate how someone with cerebral palsy may feel with limited mobility of their hands.
In another activity, Edge asked another two children to come onto the stage. One held a mirror and another a book behind the back of the other child. Edge then asked the child holding the mirror to try to read the book through the mirror, simulating what someone with dyslexia may feel.
“We can’t see disabilities all the time,” she said.
Sharing Noah with others has been very rewarding to Edge, and she has learned just as much from her dog as those who have participated in their programs have.
“This dog, his world is dark all the time and he’s handicapped, but he doesn’t complain. It’s all perspective,” she said. “He’s also taught me about turning sympathy into empathy, and schools are really promoting that right now.”
Noah has gained national attention as he and Edge were featured in People magazine in 2016 and was named a semifinalist for the Emerging Hero Dog Award by the American Humane Association. Edge also shared with attendees at the fair’s program that another national recognition is on the horizon for Noah, although she wasn’t allowed to divulge much about it just yet.
“Something big is about to explode in October,” she said. “It’s cool to think, here’s this dog — he was so close to death — to be awarded and have something special happen to him. It’s so rewarding.
“From humble beginnings come great things.”
Edge regularly updates friends and fans from across the globe through the Facebook page “Noah’s Legacy: I’m a blind rockstar, this is how I roll,” at http://www.facebook.com/noahslegacy.