Family helps dying dog live out his bucket list: We ‘Try to Make Each Day the Best’

We should all strive to live our lives to the fullest, and if you’re looking for some motivation to do that, this 12-year-old Golden Retriever is the perfect model.

Despite suffering from a terminal illness, a dog named Theo is bringing happiness to his community and people worldwide. The pup was diagnosed with testicular cancer that has spread all over his body, making him unqualified to undergo surgery. Thankfully, Jenny Leech, his devoted companion, is there to make sure he lives out the rest of his days surrounded with so much love and happiness.


Jenny and her husband got Theo as a hospice foster on May 27. The shelter didn’t have much to say about Theo’s origins, except that he was brought in by someone who found him alone in a Walmart parking lot in Joliet. He was then brought to animal control, but no one claimed him. The poor pup was covered in large masses throughout his body, and it was clear that something was wrong with him.

They found the dog had testicular cancer that had already metastasized to his prostate and abdomen. Doctors couldn’t operate on him because of his old age and the amount of spread. To manage his condition, they put him on Chinese herbs to slow progression and pain medication to keep him comfortable.


This diagnosis didn’t stop Leech from fostering Theo. She has extensive experience with senior dogs, so she knew she could give Theo a life he could enjoy. Since taking care of a sick dog entails expensive care, the Leech family got help from Live Like Roo, a Chicago-based organization that helps owners cover the cost of dogs with cancer.

The foundation got its name from Roo, a dog who also had the disease. His owner made sure that his last days were filled with joy, so he made him a bucket list. This inspired Leech to do the same for Theo.

“I just thought, with Theo, when we got home, he was so happy. Despite everything that had happened to him, he didn’t know he was sick, he was wagging his tail, and I thought, ‘He has life to live. I don’t know what his life was like before, but I want to make whatever time he has left amazing,’” she said.


The list started with the simple activity of picking out a toy at the pet shop. Theo chose a cute blue octopus, which he became obsessed with. That set the tone for the rest of his bucket list experience.

It has been two months since Theo began ticking items off his list. So far, he‘s gone on many fun adventures such as (pretend) skydiving, riding in a Mustang, touring the fire station, checking out a drive-in movie, going on a picnic blind date with Sasha, the German Shepherd, and being sworn in as an honorary police dog for the Crystal Lake Police Department.

Of course, Theo went with his blue octopus on every adventure. People even baked octopus-shaped treats for him and made octopus accessories for him to wear. There really wasn’t a shortage of love for Theo, and Leech is grateful for it all.


“It was just amazing for all of these people to come together just for this dog they’ve never met,” she said. “I think he has given people a chance to do something nice even when they thought they weren’t doing something so nice.”

Theo’s story has been followed by people worldwide, and Leech is thankful that it has raised awareness about fostering and fostering senior dogs.

“I hope people consider fostering a senior dog or a dog with special needs,” she said.

Leech has been doing it for about five years, having fostered around 15 dogs in that period.

“I see an old, gray face and I kind of fall in love and think what I can do to make a difference,” she said.


While Theo’s medical condition hasn’t improved, what’s important to the Leech family is that he enjoys every second of his time left. And with that, he’s also giving other people a chance to do something good, especially during these hard times.

“He came for some purpose. I think people are looking for things and ways to feel good, and he’s giving people that chance,” Leech said.

Click here to follow Theo on his latest bucket list adventures.