Novah 1

A note from Novah's adopted Family:

We said goodbye to Novah on Monday, April 25th at about 3:30 in the afternoon. He was just over 1 year from his diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor and subsequent lifesaving Cyberknife radiation treatment and just shy of his 11th birthday. We had the honor, privilege and pleasure to be his guardians, caregivers and friends only since Valentine's Day, 2009. He was a quirky guy who had a very hard previous life and therefore didn't give his love or trust easily. You had to work to earn it making the bond we had with him that much stronger and special.

His 1st true love however, was food, especially peanut butter, bananas, clementines, lamb roll and near the end his beloved cheese-sticks which we purchased by the pallet-load. If he was out on the deck and I took too long making his supper I'd hear a classic-wolf, long, mournful howl followed by a metallic crash, him kicking his front paw at the screen door letting me know he was getting impatient. He always knew when it was pizza night, his keen nose sniffing the air when Erin's car had not yet even turned into the driveway. Watching him happily chomp on the crusts was one of life's simple pleasures.

His 2nd true love was cold, miserable weather, seemingly oblivious to blizzard conditions with minus 20-degree wind chill ("Novah, I'm begging you to please stop sticking your nose in the snow and just pee already…"). When you talked to him earnestly or if he thought you made a good point he would speak these soft mini-howls, almost an ooohh or ohhhh, the perfect canine sigh. I remember soon after we got him, Erin and I dressed in our best North Face all-weather gear excitedly ready to t ake him for a hike in the woods. After going about 25 feet he stopped, turned around and relentlessly pulled us back to the car. To say that he was a homebody and not much of a walker is an understatement. He was however, and always will be my Novah-Scotia and Erin's Pooh-bear.

He was so stoic with not one whine or cry despite his severe weakness that must have been associated with significant pain. In the end, he could not get up by himself but always mustered the strength to raise himself up on his huge front paws to allow us to slide the sling under him to pull up his hind legs and get him walking and doing business with assistance. We would ease him down on the front deck where he would watch the world go by. His eyes would brighten and tail would wag furiously when we came out (often) with treats or a meal, which he would then wolf-down ravenously. The last few days we couldn't get him up the ramp to the deck so he slept in the back yard under a tent/gazebo. I didn't want him to be alone in the yard so I slept with him. He always hated camping but tolerated my presence next to him in my sleeping bag. One night after weeks of not having the strength to roll over onto his side, somehow he did so which allowed me to rub his belly for hours. I was convinced that his grunts were exclamations of pure pleasure when in reality he was probably thinking: "c'mon pop, can't we just go to sleep".

No words can adequately express our gratitude:

To Dr. Richard Joseph and Dr. Sarah Charney of the Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, NY whose clinical and technical skills allowed us to have a healthy and full extra year with Novah, probably the best of his life.

To Jane Palinkas, his original owner, who fostered him and nursed him back to health after his "bad patch" and entrusted us with his guardian-ship. She was always willing to take him when we traveled giving me the peace-of-mind knowing he was at "grandma's house" hanging out with his brother Muddy instead of some strange kennel.

To Heidi Palmer McNeil of Pooch Pawsitive Dog Training who was his dog-walker and friend for more than a year, always there for him with whatever he needed and who was by his side comforting him on the last day.

To Bob Tessitore, world's best carpenter and and all-around handyman who didn't particularly like dogs but became attached to Novah while designing and building the ramp which made his life so much easier. Novah seemed so proud when he figured out how to use the ramp to avoid the stairs and get up to his beloved deck. Bob was there on the last day building and digging for hours allowing me to bury Novah in the perfect spot in our back yard.

To Laurie Zeitlin, Vet Tech at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists (OSVS) who over-heard a conversation between Erin and Amy Trow and without being asked volunteered to come to our house to place the (final) I.V. Her compassion and love for all animals but especially those who have been neglected or abused is infectious and inspiring.

Finally to Dr. Amy Trow, Critical Care specialist at OSVS, a truly gifted Veterinarian who saved Novah's life at least 3 times and who adopted him in his last year as her own private patient, always available for counsel or just support. I think Amy had a special bond with him, recognizing early his gruff exterior but big heart. I think Novah was attracted to her because no matter how ferociously and wolf-like he growled or how many teeth he would bare she was the only one at OSVS who didn't seem to be afraid of him and was always too quick for him to land a bite. For the last few weeks knowing that she would come to our house when the time came was a great comfort and a final gift we can never repay.

Monday was a glorious, warm and sunny day, around 70 degrees, not at all to his liking. For the last few weeks I was so afraid I would not know when the time came but his last gift to me was making the decision easy. The combination of the degenerative myelopathy and recurrent brain tumor proved too much even for him and when he refused medium-rare tenderloin we knew he was trying to tell us something (he did still accept Heidi's last treat offering; important message to send or not how is an Alaskan Malamute supposed to politely refuse delicatessen thinly-sliced roast beef).

After Novah was gone, Laurie, Amy, Erin and I sat in the Adirondacks down by the water and while drinking a 1982, St. Emilion, Premier Grand Cru Classe (which was delicious) (and eating the rest of Novah's tenderloin) toasted his life and spirit. When all had left an almost eerie, cold fog rolled in off the bay (much better weather as far as Novah was concerned) and I peacefully spent the next few hours burying him under 2 ancient Maple trees within sight of his deck and close to the compost pile he loved to rummage through (usually finding delicious orange and banana peels or avocado rinds and often emerging with coffee grounds all over his nose).

I think a lot about something Mark Rowlands wrote in the last chapter of his book The Philosopher and the Wolf, a story of the author's 11 years living with a 140 lb gray wolf. After burying Brenin he asks the reader a question. What did Brenin lose upon his death? His answer is nothing and the point is that like Brenin, Novah was the ultimate mindful being, living entirely in the moment, unaware and unconcerned about his fate. I take great comfort in that thought however, being a pitifully un-mindful human, constantly dwelling on the past and worried about the future, I know I will grieve for Novah forever.

I also think about Morgan Freeman's character Red's narrated movie scene where he's talking about life at Shawshank Prison after Andy Dufesne escapes. I like he conclude that after all the philosophy, after all is said and done, I'm left with the simple fact that: "I just miss my friend." Good night sweet-boy, I hope we'll meet again someday but until then I know I'll see you in my dreams.

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