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Suzy has already completed 50 of the 70 experiences on her bucket list.

By Madison Pincombe
December 03, 2020
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When Cleveland foster mom Jennifer Lynch took in Suzy as a hospice foster, she decided to give the pup the best life possible despite the dog's terminal cancer diagnosis. How? She created a 70-item bucket list full of experiences any pooch would love.

In May, a good Samaritan found Suzy running loose and dropped her off at Cleveland Animal Care and Control (CACC). She had noticeable open wounds on her undercarriage when she arrived, so she was immediately taken to an off-site veterinarian. 

The veterinarian said Suzy's wounds were caused by a tumor. Suzy underwent a surgery to remove the tumor, but surgeons couldn’t remove all of it because of the location. Lab results showed a high-grade mammary tumor that was unfortunately not possible to remove entirely. Because the tumor would likely continue to grow, the vets gave Suzy a few months to live.

black and white senior dog with bucket list
Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Lynch

Suzy returned to the kennel, and staff began looking for a hospice foster where she could live out the rest of her days outside the busy animal control center. Typically, partner rescue groups take on a dog like Suzy, but ones in the area didn’t have capacity at the time. Lynch, a CACC volunteer-turned-employee, had experience with fostering animals before their adoption, but had never served as a hospice foster. “I raised my hand and said I guess I’ll try it,” she says.

“Since I got her, one of the things I wanted to do with her story was provide a narrative about the end of her life and tell the story of how even though she might not have a ton of time, we’re finding the best of it,” Lynch says. 

Lynch is just like you and follows lots of dogs on Instagram and Facebook. Years ago she came across a page called Live Like Roo. Roo's family had created a bucket list for their dog after he got a terminal health diagnosis. They wanted to take him to do all the things they thought a dog would normally do over their lifetime. Lynch says that story stuck with her, and she used that as inspiration for Suzy.

Once Lynch brought Suzy home, she created her own bucket list for the pooch that others could follow along with on Facebook and Instagram. “I’m not trying to sell her to be adopted. I’m just trying to paint a nice rosy picture of the end of her life,” Lynch says. 

She also hoped that it could bring awareness to the Friends of City Dogs Cleveland, CACC’s nonprofit. Dogs who come to the kennel and cannot be returned to an owner are considered a city dog and put up for adoption.

Lynch created a bucket list with over 70 dog-friendly experiences, and CACC volunteers have stepped up to make each one happen. Suzy has already checked off 50 of the bucket list items.

dog wedding bucket list
Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Lynch

The crowd-favorite dog wedding started off as a small idea Lynch thought would be fun for social media. The CACC volunteers decided her plans to go to a local gazebo with 15 people and record a doggy wedding were not going to work for them since they’re a “go big or go home kind of group.” According to Lynch, the wedding took on a life of its own. There ended up being a DJ, catering, a full wedding party, a flower girl and ring bearer, a dog wedding cake, and one of the volunteers even got ordained. On October 10, Suzy and pup Frankie exchanged their vows in a virtual wedding event.

Lynch says the experience was possible thanks to donations from community members and support from the nonprofit. Suzy is the first hospice foster that the Friends of City Dogs Cleveland has supported. “We’re trying to make the most of the opportunity in all aspects,” Lynch says.

This summer Lynch also planned a lemonade stand for Suzy. They set up the stand in someone’s front yard on a busy street, and raised over $1,000 for the medical and dog enrichment programs supported by the nonprofit.

Lynch says her favorite experience on Suzy's bucket list was their motorcycle ride, since the pooch loves riding in cars with her head out the window. “It doesn’t matter where she’s going, she’s going to have a good time if she can have her head sticking out the window,” Lynch says. Suzy sat on the back of a Harley Davidson with a volunteer and her husband and rode around a parking lot. For those 15 minutes, “it was like she was in heaven,” Lynch says. (Editor's note: Don't try this at home, and always make sure your pup is safely secured in the car for any rides.)

Doggy Bucket List Experiences Suzy Still Needs to Check Off

Suzy still has a few items left on her bucket list that Lynch says they need to check off. A few—like watching the sunset and experiencing a dog-friendly spa treatment at the groomer—may sound like just another day in the life of a lucky pup. But Suzy is no ordinary girl. In fact, Lynch says she's already outlived the vet's prediction.

“I think she may have bamboozled us,” Lynch says. 

“I’ve had a number of foster dogs, and at the end of every foster is a happy ending,” Lynch says. “For Suzy, I know that is not the case because she’s going to be with me until the end.”

We're so thankful Suzy found a friend to live out her days in style and comfort. Every pup deserves a happy home just like this one, no matter how long we have with them.