By Josh Saunders
A near-starved to death rescue dog born without eyes and backwards legs is redefining disability perceptions thanks to costumes.
As part of ‘Noah’s Legacy’ the three-year-old cockapoo dons outfits from Elvis Presley to Superman and even a police officer while visiting schools and retirement homes.
He was rescued by Toto lead singer Bobby Kimball, 71, when he was hours from death at a tiny two-and-a-half-pounds.
It’s believed he was abandoned in California due to his deformities that were caused by puppy mill inbreeding.
After three-months rehabilitation he was adopted by Lisa Edge, 50, from Mineral Point, Wisconsin, USA, who was besotted by the adorable pup.
She started taking the blind dog – who also has difficulties walking – around schools to become an antibullying mascot, altering kids’ perceptions of differences and disabilities.
The adorable pooch also attends retirement homes, visiting elderly patients with dementia – him and Lisa spend up to 12 hours a day giving back.
Yesterday (WEDS) he was announced as one of the finalists for a category in the Hero Dog Awards put on by the American Human Society.
Lisa, a substitute teacher, said: “Noah had the most severe disabilities, he was born without eyes, with handicapped back legs.
“Somehow he was able to find enough food to survive, but was hours from death, he was literally starved.
“It was a horrible beginning for Noah, it’s hard to imagine him scavenging without eyes.
“I took him down to a dementia unit in our town to see how folks would react to him and after that I got calls from schools, who asked if he could stop by too.
“Noah looks different, but everybody is different, he is my visual whiteboard to teach kids not to feel sorry for him.
“He is an outstanding visual for kids because although he has a lot of handicaps he can do almost everything a normal dog can do.
“When we walk into a room everyone gasps and some cry – that’s the emotion I want to evoke.
“But then I show them that he can do everything any other dog can but just a little differently.
“When we take off his Muffin’s Halo he does fine and then I take his wheelchair off, he does everything great, he is just a little different.
“He is known as the antibullying dog, never in a million years did I think I’d be dressing him up as Elvis or Superman and having him inspire others.”
As a puppy, Noah was lucky to survive and upon being rescued in California, at close to six-months-old, he was so small he could fit into an adult human hand.
Lisa said: “We believe his owners were trying to starve him to death due to his anomalies, it took a huge effort to get this boy recuperated.
“I think there was inbreeding going on, with puppy mills and backyard breeders some practices happen, he was bred too close and it was all for money.
“There is one disgusting picture where his rescuer was able to hold him in one hand, he was that tiny he was unrecognisable as a dog, his eyes compromised, and rear legs flipped backwards.
“He was rescued by the lead singer of Toto, which is why he now has something of a Rockstar image now.”
Over 2,000 miles away, Lisa was looking at dogs she could adopt online but when she found Noah, she immediately fell in love.
After adopting the pup, she was kindly gifted with a ‘Muffin’s Halo’ – a bar that fits in front of the blind dog’s head to stop him or her from bumping into things.
In addition to a custom-made wheelchair from ‘Mango on a Mission’ that has helped Noah to walk through the corridors without suffering pain from dragging his legs behind him,
Lisa said: “If we hadn’t received these donations we wouldn’t be able to do our job, I definitely wouldn’t be able to carry him all the time.”
Since starting ‘Noah’s Legacy’, the dog has become an icon in the community with the pair working up to 12 hours a day in addition to Lisa answering emails into the early hours.
Out and about, the outfit donning pup has been acknowledged on a national level for his services.
Lisa said: “Superman is the favourite costume, kids love him and it’s a hit in the schools, older people like the Elvis costume with his sunglasses and a cape.
“He comes from rock royalty, plus who doesn’t love Elvis. I was little when he died, but the elderly people in the dementia unit love to see him dressed as Elvis as he was so popular.
“When kids in schools know he’s coming in, they put on Superman t-shirts and who is better to assimilate Superman than a super dog.”
Despite attracting pity from strangers, Lisa says her disabled dog is happier than ever and is on a mission to alter people’s perceptions.
Lisa said: “Most people have such sympathy saying, ‘It’s terrible’ or ‘He should be put down or euthanised’, which I find really hurtful as they don’t realise what he’s capable of.
“Just because he looks different does not make him any less of a dog, he acts like a normal dog.
“We turn the sympathy to empathy, he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him, he has no idea he is handicapped.
“He should hate the world for the hand he has been dealt. He can’t see, he nearly starved to death, his legs are bent backwards and I’m sure they hurt a lot, but he’s a great example of showing people to keep going.”
Noah has reached the final three of the American Humane Society’s Emerging Dog Hero Award – with the winner soon to be announced.
Owner Lisa, who has other disabled dogs, hopes that if he wins it will encourage others to consider taking in a dog with a physical or mental problem.
She said: “We received a message from a lady on the east coast, who told me she was going blind but despite knowing her eyesight would deteriorate she knew if Noah can do it, she could too.
“I want to win this award not for me, but as a platform for all handicapped animals and to show people not to be afraid of them.
“Noah is thriving in spite of the obstacles he faces.
“What makes them beautiful is that they are different.”