One of the most important things I’ve learned about living a full life has been understanding that even seemingly innocuous moments can turn out to be important.

You know these moments. They’re things we usually skip past because we’re too busy focusing on other things – things we think really matter. But, for me, most times, these little moments turn out to be the universe gently rapping on a door – “Look over here, Jim. It’s important.” 

One of these moments happened in the spring of 2007, when I was driving home from dropping off our daughters at elementary school. On the short drive, I saw a black puppy dart down a driveway and was running into the street when it put on its brakes and stopped. I stopped too and yelled for it to go back. I noticed there were no other dogs or people around, so I parked the car and found the little rascal hiding under a truck. It couldn’t have been more than 12 weeks old. I coaxed it out and took the black fur ball up to the house where the truck was parked. The lady who answered said she didn’t have any dogs. I went to the houses that flanked that one. I went to a house across the street. No one claimed to know the dog. And there were no other puppies, or dogs, to be found. Naturally, I had no choice but to bring the scared little animal home. 

I put it in the garage in our backyard and called my wife. Then I told my mother in-law who lives in an apartment above the garage. My MIL’s reaction was concern for the puppy, but she was not remotely interested in keeping a dog herself (in the event we couldn’t find its home.) Because we had two Australian Shepherds, I wasn’t even sure we could integrate another dog in our house – or even on our property. 

Later that day, our daughters arrived home and were ecstatic to have a puppy – despite being told we weren’t keeping it. I made some flyers (this is before social media) and we waited a couple of days with the puppy using one of our old crates in my MIL’s apartment. 

And it was in that apartment she ended up living for 16 years. 

Last Friday, we finally said goodbye to Noel. It was time. She lived a full life where little girls grew up and went off to college (even graduating,) where old dogs passed on, where new dogs arrived and themselves passed on, and where she gave and received love and affection from an aging woman who needed precisely that kind of love and affection during a period of transition in her own life. 

I’ve been known to say that my only beef with God is the length of a dog’s life. Of course we’d all love if our dogs lived with us as happy and healthy friends who never aged and who stayed with us forever – but that’s not how it goes. Everything changes. Everything is in flux. Everything dies. And for a dog, these changes occur at a faster rate – which is probably why they forgive so easily, play so hard, and love so deeply. Because in the end, these things are all that really matter, and wasting time on anything else is just that – wasted time.

Noel lived 16 years and was cared for by a woman who treated her like a princess – in an apartment above our garage in our backyard, where they lived happily together for 16 years. 

All because of a random moment in 2007. 

Noel and her Kahu, Sandy.
The night we said our goodbye to Noel, I saw her shadow in the sage after showering. But of course I did.

I’ll see you again, Noella. Jim ❤️

Barbie is All That

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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