Wheelchair. Kids. Schools.
Say those words around Noah — a 3-year-old cocker spaniel and poodle mix who was born without eyes and with deformed legs — and you better be serious about taking him to work, said his owner, Lisa Edge, of Mineral Point.
“I can’t say (those words) if I’m not serious about taking him there,” she said.
Noah and Edge work in schools teaching students about bullying, tolerance and disabilities — work for which Edge recently learned has won Noah the Dog of the Year award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The ASPCA selected Noah for the award for his work in schools teaching youngsters about bullying, not judging people or animals by their looks, and the difference between sympathy and empathy.
“Noah embodies the message that even though people look different, we all have similar needs and are no less important because of our difference or disabilities,” the ASPCA said in announcing the award.
Noah, who lives with Edge’s four other disabled dogs, was adopted from California about three years ago as a severely neglected puppy.
“Here is a dog that shouldn’t have even been alive,” Edge said. “He was so dirty and so ugly and so needy it was just amazing that he was alive.”
Edge said she realized Noah was a special dog soon after arriving in Wisconsin, so she started taking him to nursing homes to entertain and comfort residents.
He cheered up many residents, and soon after, schools started calling. It’s there that Noah really shined.
“Word just got out. It got big,” Edge said. “Noah did this all by himself. ... He had a chance to show himself and show his personality.”
Without Noah, Edge said she doubts she’d be able to hold the students’ attention as she went though the lessons.
“When I get in a circle with 80 kids, this guy steals the show,” Edge said. “I wouldn’t be able to go through a lesson plan without the dog.”
Noah isn’t just a cute prop, either, she said. He’s a perfect example of how people can be different but still accomplish anything.
“He’s a breathing, furry visual,” Edge said. “By the time we finish ... we’ve proven that he can do anything, just in a different way.”
Afterward, Edge and Noah go to Culver’s or McDonald’s for a treat, she said.
Noah’s work has attracted plenty of attention. He’s been a semi-finalist in the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards and has a Facebook page with more than 15,700 likes.
He will be honored with other four-legged award recipients at an ASPCA luncheon on Nov. 15 in New York City.
When not working, Noah scoots along in a wheelchair complete with a halo to protect him from bumping into anything and prefers to be cuddling, held or on a lap, Edge said.
“He wants nothing but constant love and attention,” she said.