CHICAGO (CBS) — A beloved dog who stole hearts with his story of constantly carrying his leash, has died.

Back in 2016, CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported on the Instagram star known for strolling on the River Walk with his leash in his mouth.

Like many Golden Retrievers, the nine-year-old dog liked to carry something like a toy or ball in his mouth. Years ago, he instead began toting his own tether.

Sporty’s owner, David Duncan, adopted the former agility and championship show dog. Sporty took his leash and his showmanship to the sidewalk.

“From the first day I met him I knew he would be special but I had no idea he would become an icon of Chicago and loved by people across the globe,” Duncan said.

But in an Instagram post on Friday, Duncan revealed that Sporty had died on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the week, the dog had gone to the ER and was there for several hours, but had been deteriorating rapidly.

Sporty had been battling lymphoma for several months.

Duncan documented Sporty’s illness, the highs when he was active, and the lows when Sporty looked less so. His 79,000 Instagram followers got frequent reports (and pictures) on Sporty’s progress.

“He went so peacefully on his blankets with his head on my lap, paw in my hand and surrounded by all his favorite toys. He knew it was his time and I know he’s in a better place,” Duncan added. ”

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I have been trying to find a way to make this announcement but it is so hard when you know it’s going to unleash a wave of sadness felt around the world. At about 3:04pm on November 14th, 2019 Sporty breathed his last breath. The previous night we had ended up in the ER for about 4-5 hours and Sporty was deteriorating much faster than anticipated. And when I looked into his eyes, he was telling me it’s his time. He was able to come home and we spent the entire day snuggling and holding on to our final moments together. He went so peacefully on his blankets with his head on my lap, paw in my hand and surrounded by all his favorite toys. He knew it was his time and I know he’s in a better place. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced and i’m still having a hard time accepting this new reality. When you get a dog, you know the day will come, but you can never be prepared for it. I am so thankful for the time we had together and I think how lucky I am we found each other. There is a hole in my heart right now and I don’t know how it’s possible to hurt this much but I try to take solace in knowing he lived an incredible life that most dogs can only dream of. From the first day i met him i knew he would be special but i had no idea he would become an icon of chicago and loved by people across the globe. He was a fighter until the very end and i want you all to know i did EVERYTHING in my power to get him better but sometimes even the strongest hearts are no match for cancer. I would like to honor Sporty’s legacy in some way with the money he’s raised and help out other dogs afflicted with this terrible illness, but right now I just need time to grieve. If Sporty has impacted you or helped you when you were down I ask one last favor. Share your favorite Sporty pic/post or if you were lucky enough to meet him in person share that photo/video and let me know where you’re from so I can see how far his love stretches across the world. Sporty will always be apart of me and he will show himself in my dreams and let me know he is okay. He is running free across the rainbow bridge holding his leash creating a wave of smiles in his wake. #solaceforsporty #brokenheart

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“When I looked into his eyes, he was telling me it’s his time. He was able to come home and we spent the entire day snuggling and holding on to our final moments together,” he said.

In the post, Duncan said that he needs “time to grieve” but wants to help other dogs who are sick with serious illnesses, as a way to honor Sporty’s legacy.

More than $29,000 was raised through a GoFundMe site set up last month to cover medical expenses when Sporty was ill. Duncan has pledged to donate the remaining funds “to other pets in need.”

Duncan is asking Sporty’s fans to share their favorite pictures and posts, either photos and videos, as well as their memories of the popular Golden Retriever.

“Sporty will always be a part of me and he will show himself in my dreams and let me know he is okay. He is running free across the rainbow bridge holding his leash creating a wave of smiles in his wake.”