“For now, we go day by day and try to make each day the best ever for him,” his owner says.

By Madison Pincombe
October 14, 2020
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Courtesy of Jenny Leech

Meet Theo, an approximately 12-year-old octopus-obsessed golden retriever. When Theo’s family received his terminal cancer diagnosis, they immediately started drafting a fun-filled bucket list fit for their sweet senior dog.

Hope and Heartbreak

When Theo's family picked up the senior dog from their local rescue organization as a hospice foster earlier this year, they were told he'd been found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot before being brought to BAARK Dog Rescue in the Chicago suburbs. Despite his advanced age, Jenny Leech and her husband Scott welcomed Theo into their family on May 27. Soon after taking him in, the Leeches learned that Theo has advancing terminal cancer and is not a candidate for surgery. 

As a foster family for other dogs and their own Chihuahuas, the Leeches lovingly decided to give Theo a home for however long he needed one. They enlisted the help of an organization called Live Like Roo, which provides support to families and their pets who receive cancer diagnoses. “Despite everything he is sweet, happy and loving with a huge zest for life,” Jenny wrote. That enthusiasm for life was evident after she'd let him pick out a new toy at the store on their way home. The plushie toy, a small blue octopus, helped bring the pooch out of his shell. Little did Theo know that his little blue octopus signified the start of a new phase of life—one filled with joy and love.

Adventure of a Lifetime

After seeing Theo's reaction with his new toy, Jenny says it was clear that the golden retriever still had some living left to do. The Leech family got to work, creating a doggy bucket list filled with adventures big and small, "...to give Theo a chance to experience amazing things and receive huge amounts of love,” Jenny says. Since then, Theo has checked off numerous items from his bucket list, and met all kinds of new friends along the way.

It's been a busy past few months for Theo, including an appearance on the local news station WLTX. But fame and even a brush with lottery fortune hasn't slowed him down. The list continues to evolve, even as he checks off more adventures each week.

Don't just call him Theo, though. That’s K9 Officer Theo to you! The Crystal Lake Police Department swore Theo in as an honorary Police K-9 officer, complete with an official badge, certificate, and ride-along in the squad car.

Theo's public service work didn't end there. He also got the chance to serve as an honorary firehouse dog for the day with the Nunda Rural Fire Protection District.

Illinois businesses have joined in on the fun, too. Thanks to help from Casten Auto Body, the Leech family also put together an adorable mystery experience for Theo, with his fellow four-legged family members serving as the supporting cast. The Daily Paws staff is now anxiously awaiting the premier of "Scooby Doo: The Tantalizing Tentacle Thriller" starring Theo and friends.  

Theo's newfound celebrity status even scored him a complimentary bar tab at the local brewery! Roaring Table Brewery named a beer after Theo (and his octopus). We haven't tried it, but it sounds delicious, and proceeds from the small-batch brew are being donated to Live Like Roo, to help other pets living with cancer. 

The bucket list just gets better and better. Lucky Theo was even declared a lottery winner by the Illinois Lottery—and has the giant check to prove it!

Never one to shy away from a good cuddle, Theo and his family brought their blanket and a box of snacks and toys to catch a movie at the drive-in. The crew enjoyed some popcorn while the sun was setting. A perfect evening if we ever saw one.

Theo is as brave as he is strong. He and his octopus even got to go skydiving. (OK, he didn't really go skydiving. But he did get to enjoy a day at the airfield, watching the parachutes and meeting new friends from Skydive the Rock.)

The Leech family says they are grateful to BAARK Dog Rescue and the Live Like Roo Foundation for their continued commitment to Theo’s health. Follow along with Theo’s bucket list adventures on Instagram and through Jenny’s photo album on Facebook. We can't wait to see what this sweet senior pup is up to next!