Noah wasn’t really a dog. I’m at a loss for words trying to communicate to you how he operated. Dogs are silly. Dogs come when you call them. They are thankful for what they can get, and they are never subtle in how they express themselves.
Noah wasn’t a dog. The way he operated was entirely… Machiavellian. He was subtle – even manipulative at times. He had a very particular preference with most things, but would only let you know you disappointed him in the most muted, passive-aggressive way. Everyone said he was great with kids, but I know what was really going on – he was a great patronizer. He would never participate in something unless it was obvious you were the butt of the joke.
To be fair, a lot of this mystique didn’t fully develop until he became a little jaded with age. I’d imagine that at a certain point, you eat too many Scooby snacks to ignore the fact that life as a family pet can always get better and more privileged. As a dog, you just get to the point where it’s hard to get excited about regular dry food.
But Noah wasn’t always old. He too was a puppy once. I remember when we got him – every part of his body looked too big. It was interesting to watch such a small puppy lumber. It was like he had too big of a skeleton. But that’s how you know when a dog is going to get really big – it’s based on how long they struggle to move around.
The first time I remember Noah showing any kind of attitude atypical of a new puppy was about two months into the new relationship. We were all watching TV in the family room when Noah wandered into the basement. Just as that week’s Survivor was starting to get good, our focus was broken by loud whining. Pausing the DVR, we all made our way down into the guest bedroom, where we found Noah had lodged himself deep underneath the bed flush up against the back wall.
At first glance, it looked like Noah was trapped. But looking more closely, it was clear that he wasn’t wedged at all. He was positioned like he was totally trapped, but there was obviously enough wiggle room for him to get out.
Not knowing what to do, we all got on our hands and knees, cheering for him to spring himself free. Just as we all began to call for him, Noah crawled out from under the bed. It was as if all the gathered attention lifted him out.
We began to notice this was a regular thing – whenever the family was preoccupied with something (especially TV), Noah would make his way downstairs, and refuse to come out from underneath the bed until we were all behind his decision. This continued until he reached the point where his physique allowed it. At some point, he was forced to stop pretending he was too big for under the bed when he found out he actually WAS too big for it.
But I make Noah’s cravings for attention make him sound manipulative. He always had a streak of entertainer in him. Early on in his training, we quickly found out that he responded well to laughter – whether he was eating toilet paper off the roll or trying to roll over – enough cackles could make him do it all night long.
Noah would swim occasionally. At first, we would all have to admit that we were a little disappointed with his ambitions for the open water. Rather than getting to frolic and splash with a vibrant water-lover or playing a flashy game of underwater fetch with an all American hound, Noah was more of a reluctant lifeguard. He would step daintily into the shallow end of the pool, do a couple of placated circles, then step out. Most of Noah’s time around the pool was spent barking at anyone else who moved. The great deal of importance he put on barking at moving objects around the pool made it clear to us that he would never stop. Sometimes we had to lock him in the basement when we wanted to get a good swim in.
Noah was an entitled creature. Even his most disgusting of activities (usually involving licking something I wouldn’t dare touch) was executed with a hint of regal authority. The quickest way to offend him was to take him out to pee without rewarding him with a treat. After all, he put all that work into not peeing all over the floor or on your shoes. How dare you not reward him for urinating outside?
Especially because Noah loved to eat. Noah was a bottomless pit. Saying he loved anything edible is somehow an understatement. I would more appropriately extend that to anything malleable. There was more than one occasion where Noah got into something and I thought, “Surely, this is going to be what kills him.” Noah survived a comically large Hershey’s chocolate bar. He survived twenty bratwursts in a sitting. From slippers to toiletries – his stomach was a martyr for anything left within three feet of the ground.
Noah was the hallmark of an intelligent jackass. Some of his most athletic moments happened whenever it was time for him to take a pill. He knew all the spots to hide. With the military genius of Hannibal, he would head to the closest corner and make a last stand that could last all night long if you had the gall. When the prescription puppy meds came in the fashion of a Trojan Horse tucked in the case of a sausage wrapped with a seductive layer of American cheese, Noah showed off his knife-edge pallet. He could sift through yogurt, spaghetti, cheese, and even bacon to find the puppy med you were trying to slip him. Every confrontation would end with that little pill laid proudly at his feet as he licked his chops and feigned ignorance – all as if to say “Thank you. Any more ‘pills‘?”
By the time Noah had a little brother to look out for, he had already settled well into old age. Phineas followed his every move. Noah commanded him with the confidence that he had earned in his domestic life. You could call my dog Noah a lot of things – so long as “alpha dog” was on the list too.
I hope you don’t mistake these stories as hard feelings. I know that when we remember Noah, we make him sound like a prima donna. But our affection toward him was much more than that. Yes – he was a little manipulative at times. It was scary that an animal could know your emotional weaknesses and exploit them for a fourth meal in the middle of the night. But that did require he get to know you on a level much deeper than your average bouncy golden retriever mix could touch. Noah had kind of an alpha dog complex without ever feeling a need to achieve physical excellence, but you can’t help but admire the sense of stewardship he felt over everything included in his territory. He was sort of a patronizer of authority (especially healthcare professionals), but it takes strength to be a rebel in old age. Noah was a special dog. Whenever he was being too needy or high-maintenance, it was never too hard to remember that it takes more character than a dozen mutts put together to develop some of the quirks that Noah had.
I don’t know if you have caught onto this by now, but this is an obituary. For the last few months of his life, Noah staggered around with a baseball-sized tumor in just about every organ – still as spunky as the day he learned to whine at the table. What finally got him was the baseball in his brain. Noah had a seizure. Though he came out of it, it was clear he did not have much more time left.
On Friday, November 22nd Noah ate his last meal. It was a pagan ensemble for a dog. A small bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a few strips of bacon. Noah was taken to the vet shortly after.
They say most dogs kind of resist it. They walk around until the injection takes over. But Noah didn’t try to get up at all. He just lay there and went to sleep. I knew it was probably the best sleep he’s gotten in a while. Noah passed away peacefully with the taste of bacon and ice cream in his mouth and a room full of people that will remember him forever.
Thanks for being such a great little brother, Noah. I won’t bother to back this up with sound doctrine, but I know I’ll see you again someday. I like knowing you are somewhere where you never have to take a pill again. You never have to walk up a flight of stairs. You will never feel threatened or hungry. Your only memory is temporarily leaving behind a proud, grateful family and the uncontested status of the best dog in the world.
Goodbye, Noah. And thank you.