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‘Bones or no bones?’: How Noodle, a 13-year-old pug, became the Internet’s beloved oracle

When thousands of people check the forecast each day, they are not looking to a meteorologist or news outlet for answers. Instead, they seek the counsel of Noodle, a 13-year-old pug turned fortune teller.

Jonathan Graziano and his elderly pug, Noodle, create videos together on TikTok each morning to see whether or not Noodle "has bones."
Jonathan Graziano and his elderly pug, Noodle, create videos together on TikTok each morning to see whether or not Noodle "has bones."Maddie Mortell/Photo via Jonathan Graziano, @showmenoodz on Instagram.

“Bones or no bones?” is a question Jonathan Graziano has asked of his pug Noodle for years now. It is then that the very round dog decides whether to stand up or flop into a puddle.

If Noodle “has bones,” the 13-year-old pug has decided to stand, which means it’s going to be a good day and spirits are high. On “no bones” days, Noodle immediately slumps back down into his cushy bed, which means that it’s maybe not the best day to to take big risks. It’s like watching Punxsutawney Phil check for his shadow on Groundhog’s Day, except you don’t have to wait a whole year for the next prediction. “No bones” days do not mean bad days, by the way, but we’ll get that later.

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I won’t bury the lede. Tuesday, the day this article was published, was officially a no bones day.

@jongraz

hope you all have the best Monday! 🔮🦴 #nobones #bonesday #pug #noodletok #monday

♬ original sound - Jonathan

Noodle – yes, Noodle, and not “Noodles” as others have reported – is the moment. If you missed it, on Monday #bonesday trended on Twitter. On TikTok, the hashtag #NoBones has over 180 million views, while #BonesDay has a measly 46 million views in comparison. #NoodleTok has over 96 million views. On Friday, a Twitter account dedicated to tracking the beloved dog’s readings, @NoodlesBonesDay, materialized, and has already amassed over 20,000 followers. It’s increasingly likely you’ll see the phrase “bones day” with little direct context, but rather an implied acknowledgement of Noodle’s forecast.

Neither Noodle nor Graziano anticipated that the almost daily game they play would become the latest form of pandemic entertainment. But at this anxious, questioning time, it makes perfect sense that those longing for some –– no, any –– clarity are searching for signs on how things are going to go. It just so happens those signs come from a geriatric pug.

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“Sometimes we just have no bones mornings, and that’s okay. You just roll with it, because that’s what Noodle does. He’s 13 and he might have a few more no bones mornings than would have last year, but that’s okay. Because we all have a little more no bones mornings than we would have two years ago,” Graziano told me. On the day we spoke, it was a bones day.

So, how did the pair come to be? Noodle was adopted at 7 1/2 years old and has been loved his whole life. He was an owner-surrender from a home that loved him but could no longer provide the care he required. At the time, Graziano, an Emerson College alum, was working for BarkBox, a popular pet brand.

One night, he performed a comedy set at an after-work event, where he gushed about meeting another famous pug, @itsdougthepug. In the audience was someone who’d been fostering a dog and was looking for the right person to adopt him. Within two weeks, in January 2016, Noodle arrived at his new home with Jonathan. It didn’t take long for Noodle to adjust. “He’s a silly old pug. He’s got such a personality. You know, every dog is the best dog. Like, everyone’s dog is the very best dog who’s ever been? But I have to say Noodle is the very best dog that’s ever been. He’s got such a big personality.”

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The Internet has noticed Noodle’s personality, too.

@parodymom

#stitch with @sirnixalot Family meal planning 2021 iykyk @jongraz #bonesday #nobonesday #mealplan

♬ Lazy Sunday - Official Sound Studio

Their bones or no bones ritual, Graziano believes, took off because he has put a name and visual to a reality so many dog owners experience: sometimes dogs simply go limp. From small, shaky chihuahuas to horse-like Great Danes, the full-stop flop can occur in the middle of walks, before trips to the bathroom, and really, at any time at all.

“It’s just so absurd to me how this dog will very definitely choose ‘No, I am not going to go potty and I am going to sit here physically limp until I choose otherwise,’” Graziano said. There’s another ritual that Noodle does, too, and it’s a nighttime routine. It’s called “Comfy Mountain,” and it’s when the sleepy pug waddles his way into a blanket on the couch, signaling he’s ready for bed.

Noodle, who often barks at strangers to say hello, has a mind of his own. That’s why Jonathan prefers to say he is the person who’s accepted responsibility for Noodle, rather than his owner. Noodle does what he wants. His person is Jonathan.

The cosmic litmus test. “I never thought this would be like a fortune-telling thing, it was never anything like that. It was literally just to see if he is ready to go on a walk or not,” Graziano said of the bones/no bones routine. “And then people all of a sudden were like, ‘Well, it’s a no bones day‚ so I can’t do anything,’ and I was like, yeah that’s kinda how it goes.”

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When Noodle is no bones, he’ll go on a walk later, but he’s not going on a walk now. Graziano assures that no bones isn’t a bad omen. “No bones doesn’t mean bad luck as much as it just means you have to just take it easy. Noodle is still going to have a great day, he’s just going to take a little longer to get where he needs to go.”

He continues, “And then you see comments like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to fail my test,’ and I’m like nooo, that’s not what it means.”

Noodle, the TikTok famous pug, sticks his tongue out for the camera.
Noodle, the TikTok famous pug, sticks his tongue out for the camera.Maddie Mortell/Photo via Jonathan Graziano, @showmenoodz on Instagram.

Noodle’s cosmic ascendance into fame also coincides with an upcoming initiative. November is National Senior Pet Month, a nationwide push embraced by many shelters, including the Animal Rescue League of Boston, to find homes for older pets. Owner-surrenders sometimes leave their homes confused to be in a different world than they knew, and require different care than younger pups. Noodle, for example, has a carry bag, takes supplements, and has pet insurance, which is something Graziano suggests any pet owner should invest in.

“I don’t think people will ever understand the real value of adopting or rescuing a dog until they do it. But I would encourage everyone to even foster,” he said. “Even if you don’t know if you’re ready to adopt, just foster ... All dogs are amazing and all dogs need homes, but there are some that we know of right now that are dogs like Noodle, oracles, just waiting for someone.”

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Gazing ahead. There are bones in Noodle’s prophecies. Or maybe no bones. And that’s OK. Because the dog knows that when he flops, he’ll land on his comfy cushion and that he can try again later or whenever, or never, if that’s what he wants. As for the future, one thing is clear: Even when things feel uncertain, people will look to Noodle for what’s next.


Maddie Mortell can be reached at maddie.mortell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @maddiemortell.