When Jenny Leech first spotted a picture of the geriatric dog who’d been abandoned at a Walmart in Joliet, Illinois, her heart went out to him.
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Theo was an 11-year-old golden retriever whose abdomen was riddled with cancer. The vet at the shelter determined that his cancer was not treatable, but even that didn’t dissuade Jenny from taking him home.
“He looked pretty terminal when we picked him up, dejected and sad, and I thought, ‘we may have a couple of weeks, I don’t know,'” Jenny told GMA.
But on the way back to Jenny’s Crystal Lake, Illinois home, she realized Theo still had a a bright spirit lurking beneath his sad eyes. She stopped to get him a bath and let him pick out a toy in the pet store. He chose a blue octopus, and on the way home Jenny’s heart burst with joy as she saw him tossing the toy up in the air and catching it.
Recognizing his “joyful” response, Jenny decided to do whatever she could to fill his final days with love, acceptance, and even more joyful experiences. “There was just this spark,” Jenny explained simply.
That’s when Theo’s bucket list began!
Over the next year, Jenny helped Theo cross off an impressive amount of activities and experiences from his bucket list. They started off with simple items like getting an ice cream cone, enjoying a fresh bone, and enjoying a day at the beach with his friends. Jenny shared their good times on Facebook, and before long thousands of strangers were following their adventures and suggesting new items for the list.
“People started offering bucket list ideas; someone offered to take him on a boat ride, another took Theo for a ride in his Mustang convertible… it was just amazing,”she told CTV News.
Thanks to his community and new online friends, Theo has added (and checked off!) bigger and bigger items from his list. He’s met Elvis, solved a mystery with the Scooby-Doo gang, been out on a date with a pretty German shepherd named Sasha, gone to a drive-in movie, visited local law enforcement and fire fighters, and sat in a sky diving plane.
Theo recently celebrated his 12th birthday, far surpassing his life expectancy. Jenny says he’s as happy as a dog can be, and the fact that his bucket list items are bringing others joy gives new purpose to their adventures.
“He came for some purpose. I think people are looking for things and ways to feel good, and he’s giving people that chance,”she said.
No matter how bad things got, Theo never lost that spark of joy! We’re so happy he’s able to experience so much love and happiness in his golden years.
Share this story to thank Jenny for recognizing Theo’s spark and going with it!
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