Note: I wrote this primarily for self-therapy. I just lost my dog and best friend this past Friday (January 5th), who meant the world to me. Dogs, for any person in their early 20s, are incredibly special. They witness the transformative years of your life.
His couch still sits beside me, where he 'worked' alongside me daily. Outside my office is a 4-foot-tall mountain of hundreds of his toys that Kelsey and I hug for just the tiniest bit of comfort. We love and miss him terribly. He was such a big part of our family and made every day special.
In 2014, I was 23 years old, single, and had relocated to Richmond for my first job after college. I didn't know more than a handful of people. I was scared, excited, but most importantly, motivated. No one could stand in the way of what I was after in life.
I spent a lot of time surrounding myself with coworkers, getting to know the area, and trying to distract myself from the loneliness of being 800 miles from everything I knew so well before.
I had a brief stint with guinea pigs that ultimately didn't work out. I thought it would be the perfect compromise of a low-effort pet that still fulfilled the feeling of having a dog (without all the commitment). That didn't work. Guinea pigs were not for me.
My Mom's coworker (Lori) had a Goldendoodle that I was obsessed with at the time. I set my sights on getting one someday. I spent a lot of time researching dogs but couldn't quite swing the price tag that came with one. In Virginia, a Goldendoodle was starting at $2,500, a pretty steep price for someone who had just purchased new furniture and finishings for my first place on the East Coast. One day, I came across a litter of black Goldendoodles that were being advertised for $500 a pup.
This seemed too good to be true, but I visited since the pups were about 10 minutes from my house. I learned that black puppies (and pets in general) are far more difficult to find homes for (than that of a caramel-colored Goldendoodle, for example). They don't photograph well. You don't get the essence of who they are unless you meet them in person.
When I first visited the puppies, the boys and girls were brought out separately to play in the grass. But one little puppy stood out from the others. He wasn't interested in wrestling with his brothers or endlessly chasing the yard full of toys. From the moment the door opened and a flood of puppies came out, one seemingly stayed at my side the whole time and drowned me with kisses. It was love at first sight.
On August 29th, 2014, my life changed forever. That's when I brought home "Blue", the fluffball that would become known as Noah (or doodle, pupperman, angel face, Noey, babysauce, flufferman, dood and the many other names he would respond to - depending on who you were).
He looked like a miniature Tasmanian devil, with stray, unkempt puppy hairs going every which direction.
He was the most adorable, mischievous puppy I had ever seen. Everything in life made him so curious. Not a square foot of our apartment, neighborhood, or neighbors' personal space went unexplored. Whether or not you liked dogs, he would get to know you.
He would also get to know my little belongings and make them his. You see, Noah had a taste for the finer things in life. To name a few, he destroyed:
- an iPad mini by eating off an entire corner of the screen
- Kelsey's passport & social security card
- Chipotle gift cards
- Books and magazines (and anything else paper)
- A new bedding set (I gave him a Thanksgiving meal and paid the price)
- Baseboard molding
- Coffee table and couch
- ..and lots more
He was also obsessed with toys up until his final days. Even if the toys around were not his, he would find a way, no matter the cost. Such as Christmas day in 2014, we visited my Aunt Colene's house in Maryland. Their dog, Max, a slightly older, blue-eyed husky, had just received a new toy for Christmas that Noah thought should be his. That day, I experienced my first-ever dog fight. I learned what not to do and still have the scars from Noah to show for it. In hindsight, this was my first realization of how similar we were. If he wants something, he will get it. We were more similar than we realized.
The first few years tested my patience and resilience to the new puppy life I wanted. While he tested the boundaries those first few years, little did I know I would get pure joy from being his doodle dad after those trying times—pure heaven.
Noah ate what I ate. Did what I did. Went where I did. I was so proud that I took him in; our personalities were similar. He could be cocky and aggressive. But only when it was warranted. He didn't care if you liked kisses or not. You got them exactly when you needed them. He had the biggest heart—a true softy when it came to other's feelings/mood.
Noah made my life better in every shape and form. He saved me from being an idiot.
He helped bring Kelsey and I back together after I moved to the East Coast. After the first time they met, he was obsessed with her. The love he had for Kelsey was unrivaled. That was his doodle mom from day 1, and he knew it. He witnessed my relationship with her go from high school sweetheart, to fiancée, to my wife.
Noah was the first dog I personally knew who expressed his emotions through actually smiling. If he was in trouble, excited to see you, or being mischievous - he gave you the biggest smile he possibly could.
He was there to comfort my Mom (and I) when she visited Virginia to break the news about her cancer diagnosis. My mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and I couldn't have been more proud of Noah. The entire time she stayed with us, he could sense her energy and the hand she had just been dealt. He cuddled against her neck, ironically where the mass was first discovered. He never left her side the whole trip. I’d like to think he was a big part of her winning her battle against cancer.
We took tons of road trips together. Some were for fun, but mostly moving for work. Noah traveled with us across the country and made every road trip memorable. Virginia to Illinois, Virginia to Oregon, Oregon to Colorado, and all the stops in between. He was a well-traveled dood who always looked forward to new adventures with his parents.
On the brink of a mental breakdown in Oregon, I was weighing the decision between staying at my job at Nike or taking the leap and going full-time on my business. I remember collapsing to the floor at our house, overwhelmed by stress and the decision I had to make. Noah's sensitivity to everyone's mood and vibe around him caused a barrage of reassuring licks on my face. It still makes me smile knowing that he was along for the ride during each of the decade's hardest decisions.
He also witnessed the acquisition of my business. He went from being a scrappy pup, playing with orange juice bottles in the kitchen for fun, to having a monthly subscription to Barkbox and getting any toy or treat he ever desired.
Much like his dad, he was never much of a social butterfly. But he adored the few friends he did have. Cedes, a Black Lab in Fairfax. Atlas, a Golden Retriever in Beaverton. “Friendo”, the German Shepard in Aurora, and Gus, his favorite Shihtzu uncle he loved to boss around.
Both of our personalities rubbed off on each other. We were human/animal brothers at heart. When Kelsey took work trips, my favorite thing to say to him was “Mom’s gone! We can do whatever we want!” Which usually meant running all around the house playing hide and seek, getting new treats/chewies, smelling bad, and going for off-leash walks.
He became sick in September 2023, and it escalated quickly. We changed his diet to prescription food. Towards the end of October, he had his first ultrasound, which didn’t reveal much then. But his condition continued to get worse. Towards the end of November, we took him to the emergency vet for a second opinion. They once again ran an ultrasound, but this time it was different. They discovered a tumor in his stomach, which was blocking food from entering his intestines. He had an endoscopy, and multiple rounds of lab tests. Unfortunately, after his second ultrasound, we were told we had “weeks to months” with him.
Knowing the fighter that he is, I still had hope. We were willing to give chemo a shot if it would help in the slightest. Unfortunately, that was never a viable option. Our best hope was to keep him comfortable at home and surround him with all the love we could offer. It never felt real. He was only 9 years old. Entirely too young to be given such a grim diagnosis. Practically the same diagnosis as his biological mom - spleen cancer.
When my Mom visited when he got sick, it was a full-circle moment. He had been there for her with her cancer diagnosis, and now she was here to comfort him. I’m so thankful for these moments.
On January 5th, Noah passed peacefully at home. No amount of time would have been enough to have Noah with us.
I love you Noah! You were my best friend, and I can't stop thinking about you. I’m sure that one day, I’ll feel better as time passes. But right now, I've never been this devastated. Not sure how to move forward from here. It hurts. A lot. There’s such a void in our day-to-day lives.
Signs of Noah are still everywhere, and they always will be. I’m so proud to have been your Doodle Dad.
Thank you to our family, friends, and coworkers who have reached out with kind words, comfort, and shared their favorite memories of Noah. I also want to thank Lap of Love in Colorado. They were incredibly helpful and compassionate. ❤️
“A man in his twenties and his dog is a special bond. Twenty something men are idiots. We’re figuring it out. And our dogs are the only ones there for the entire thing. The bond is unconditional.” - Sam Parr
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard" - A.A. Milne
Noah Leigh 2014 - 2024
More memories that make me smile
There’s thousands of pictures/videos of this doodle, but these are some of my favorite.