In Loving Memory of Sage Ponderosa Noel

Its nearly been six months without my dear Sage and I adore every Catahoula Leopard Hound I see, plus she is still the wall paper on the lock screen of my phone. I adopted Sage in the summer of 2010. I found her on pet finder while visiting my family in Boulder. I had resisted getting a dog during my early 20s because I was in college and renting rooms, but I after 4 years of feeling that way and my boyfriend getting a dog, I wanted one of my own.

I went to visit Sage at the Boulder Humane Society and regardless of my second and third choice picks, Sage was the one. She was off-standish and obviously heartbroken, pining for her family to come back and take her home. One of the volunteers saw my reluctance and explained he had taken her for hikes and she was a totally different dog outside of the Humane Society. I took her for a walk and he was right. She won my heart when I threw a rock into the creek behind the Humane Society, and like a dork, she dove head first to find it. I took her home for 50% off her adoption fee, coupons for Avoderm dog food, collar, leash, and bowls all for $100. The next day, Dad, Dave, Pete, and I took our dog pack: Loki, Blue, Hank, and Sage, for a high alpine hike up James Peak, just outside Rollinsville. Sage did so well off leash, she and I were bonded the second we left the Humane Society the day before.

Mid August rolled around and it was time to drive home to Corvallis, Oregon to start school in the end of September 2010. My boyfriend at the time, Dave, had a dog named Loki he rescued from a craigslist ad. Loki was the bravest dog ever, kinda. She had never been socialized and was afraid of everything, like bridges! She just couldn’t cross them without being picked up and carried. Loki also had Thrombocytopenia, an autoimmune disease that would not allow her blood to clot. On our way home to Corvallis, Loki became super sick. We had taken her up a 14,000’ ft mountain, Castle Peak, with my Dad on our way out of Colorado. The whole trip to Corvallis, Loki was bleeding out of every opening in her body. We arrived in Oregon to our veterinarian at Albany Animal Hospital only to receive the bad news that Loki was dying.

Dave was experimenting with a “money free” lifestyle and had been exchanging veternary care for labor on the farm the owner and head veterinarian, Ken Fletcher DVM, owned. Dr. Fletcher advised us we had two options: to put Loki down or provide her a blood transfusion and giver her more medicine to hopefully save her life. Dave and I decided on the latter option and Sage was the blood donor for Loki. We left our two girls at the vet that night and returned the next day. Loki was so weak, while Sage was lively and curious about her new home. I was so proud of Sagie that I bought and cooked her the nicest stake I could afford and despite being a vegetarian for 15 years. Having been fed well at the vet, Sage was not hungry but I forced the food on her anyways. She finally took a piece of stake and walked off with it. Promptly there after, Dave yelled down to me from our bedroom, “Grace! Your dog is the BEST dog ever!” I ran upstairs and Sage had taken the piece of stake and dropped it in front of Loki, hoping to help her recover. Just incredible! Sage was always like this – thoughtful, protective, and nurturing of all the animals she came to live with and raise. Unfortunately, Loki died that night. We buried her in a plot of land we would often take her on walks to. As time passed, her grave grows the darkest, richest, emerald green grass with an amazing view.

Sage has so many stories, I could write endless blog posts about her and she will always resurface. As a rescue, she needed my constant attention and another dog to be present with her at all times, so we did everything together. When Dave and I split up and he took his dog Hank (Hank was Dave’s Dad’s dog who needed a home) Sage couldn’t be left alone, so I took her everywhere I went or found a suitable sitter if I absolutely couldn’t bring her with me. Working in Boulder, I could leave Sage with my family. Sage loved my folks new dog Dakota and Blue until he died at the sage of 14 in March 2013. I could leave her with my folks while I worked cleaning houses or landscaping for clients who wouldn’t let me bring her to the job site.

Sage dictated so many details of my life, was my rock, and constant companion. I trusted her to keep the peace and she did just that. She raised countless puppies and kittens of my family and various roommates at all the houses we lived in over the 8 years I cared for her. All Sage really wanted was one solid home to protect and live in, but I ended up being the only consistent home base fore her. Since the day I got her, we were always on the move and in constant state of adventure. This is where the inspiration for my artwork came from. My paintings were the, “Magical adventure side of reality. Come along a magical adventure with me and my dogs as we travel through space and time!”

Sage and Dakota (our second family dog and inspiration for the Dakota painting and leggings) went on countless hikes with Dad, Pete, and I. So many paintings and the foundation of my color pallet were discovered and inspired by these high alpine hikes. Sage made it to openings, First Fridays, gallery shifts, and helped me run the Denver Art Society as the Interim Executive Director. I met all the neighbors wherever we lived thanks to the daily walks Sage demanded to keep her territory dialed in. We started two small businesses: Everything Under the Sun Odd Jobs Service and Grace Noel Art, LLC.

This date Jan 13, 2018, Sage turned 11 years young. Leading up to my birthday, March 19, Sage had some mild stomach problems of which I had taken her to the veternarian for. No one really knew what was up with her and figured it was from eating alley food behind the Denver Art Society or a soured bone from Mom and Dad’s back yard. Sage’s acupuncturist of 6 years had no idea either; Sage had received acupuncture per recommendation from Dr. Ken Fletcher to treat her urinary incontinence. Sage and I had been living in Boulder after moving out of the Denver Art Society in Jan 2018. Mom and Dad would take her for Sunday hikes and meet me for breakfast afterwards; I usually wanted to sleep in Sunday mornings since I usually had worked events Saturday nights and had been out late.

The morning of Mar 24, 2018 I was meditating and planning to meet my parents for breakfast after their morning hike. Midway through my morning meditation, mom called me. I ignored the call and kept meditating, since my folks don’t always respect my “no-interruption rule” while meditating. By the third call I answered and mom was frantic, screaming: “Sage is dead! She died on the trail!” She was crying and apologizing, “I am so sorry Grace,” and just kept crying. Mom and Dad brought Sage home and I gave her all my love. I held her one last time and wrapped her body in a shroud with Shiva mantras all over it. I burned cleansing herbs, incense, and rang my meditation bowl saying mantra as tears rolled off my cheeks onto her deceased body. I put flowers all around her and drove her to the Gunbarrel Veterinarian to be cremated.

No one knows what happened to Sage. That morning, my parents described her as running and chasing prairie dogs. She made it to the bottom of the mesa and seemed tired. Mom and Dad coached her to the top of the hill and when she crested, the view took her breath away and she died right there on the trail. I could not have asked for a better exit of my beloved, and that’s who Sage was. She was so nurturing and thoughtful, always staying focused on the big picture and leaving the details to figure themselves out. I am so grateful that I did not go through extreme life saving measures that would only end in pumping her body with enough poison to end her life. She died the way I would want any loved one to go, doing what they love.

Coincidentally, Klondike, Leigh the Llama Lady’s dog, died the next day. Sage and Klondike had been friends 6 years and saw each other every week. Leigh and I had the fortune of grieving together. I have experienced many doggies transition from their bodies. As Sage was carried off to be cremated, her tail fell out of the cloth I had wrapped her in. I realized at that moment, who I loved was no longer in that body and that I was not attached to her at all. The experience was disorienting for both Sage and I. After a few days of grieving, I remembered my baba’s advice when dealing with death, “channel loved ones through the heart.” Every time I thought of Sage, I did just that and instantly felt reunited with her. The experience was so extraordinary, I gained a new appreciation for the light that is behind every living being’s eyes. I know now, “these bodies are like the cars we drive,” something baba always says. The part of us that truly matters, the spirit, the soul, the self, brings life to the body. The spirit occupies a body until it is time to transition to another reality. This is one of my big learning experiences of 2018 and Sage’s parting gift is a renewed appreciation for the spirit, the soul, the self.

This lesson has evolved the theme of my artwork. I created the perfect poem while reflecting on it all in Brooklyn, NYC. As my art is the, “magical adventure of me and my dogs as we travel through space and time,” it is now:

We are all made of sunshine. Sunshine makes the plants grow, the water flow, and the wind blow. So now it is time to go, on a magical journey through the rainbow.