CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (CBS) — CBS 2 was first to introduce you to Theo, a dog who is terminally ill with cancer and who is now living out the rest of his life in doggie hospice with a loving couple in Crystal Lake.
It was a story of real life, and social media gold, in a time when people needed a smile.
And as CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reported Wednesday night, it was proof positive a little love can save a life.
Before everyone fell in love with Theo, and before we did at CBS 2, Jenny Leech and her husband Scott did.
“I just thought maybe he’d have a good couple weeks or something like that,” Jenny said.
Jenny and Scott Leech met in high school – which means they’ve known each other for a while, as Jenny is 53. And they’ve got a thing for rescuing dogs.
“We do Sunday Funday. It’s usually a s**t show,” Jenny Leech said.
One dog, Tilly, can’t see. Another, Roo, can’t really walk. And Scott usually strollers five chihuahuas.
Again, Jenny said, “It’s usually a s**t show.”
But then came Theo. We first told you about him in July after Edwards received an email from the Leeches.
At the time, we provided Jenny and Brad Leech’s email for anyone who could help with Theo’s bucket list, which at the time included a boat ride, a fire station visit, and to go on a play date.
“Once you did the first thing, it was like crazy after that,” Jenny Leech told Edwards.
She said they got emails from India, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany.
“Theo gets more email than we do,” Scott said.
But a situation that ended up with so many people caring started with no one.
“My first glimpse of him, I thought, oh my gosh, what a sad dog,” Jenny said.
Theo, as the Leeches named him, was brought to Joliet Township Animal Control after supposedly being abandoned in a Joliet Walmart parking lot.
Jenny got wind.
“That day, I went and picked him up,” she said. Turning to her husband, she added, “I don’t even know if I told you, actually.”
“No, you didn’t,” Scott replied.
And they learned Theo’s condition was dire.
“The vet called me and she’s like… it’s not pretty,” Jenny said.
The first stop was a bath. And Theo also knew just the toy he wanted.
“He picked out the blue octopus that day, and by the time I got home, I looked in the back of the car and he was throwing it up in the air,” Jenny said, “and I actually stopped and had to video it because he was just like this joyful dog.”
We had an update about Theo eight days after our first report. Many viewers had reached out and helped him fulfill his bucket list.
He went on a boat ride thanks to Lavins in Wonder Lake. He also met a pony – or maybe a unicorn – in McHenry, and got a tour of a fire station.
For a play date, Theo had a blind date picnic with a German shepherd. He had a birthday party too.
He also had a beer named after him – Theo’s Octopus beer from Roaring Table Brewery.
And he became Officer Theo.
“He was sworn in as an honorary police K-9 with the City of Crystal Lake,” Jenny said.
And of course, he was in People Magazine.
A Boy Meets His Dog Again
But then there was the big question.
“What’s his life been life – it is sad? Was he loved?” Jenny said. “All the questions.”
Theo had become so famous, his mysterious backstory found him.
As noted earlier, we first heard that Theo was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot near Joliet. But there weren’t really any parking lot heroics. There was simply a divorced dad who dropped off a dying dog, and who made up the parking lot story to Joliet Township Animal Control out of embarrassment.
The father didn’t tell the details to his only son – who wondered, until Theo became famous.
“They knew it was him when they saw him on TV,” Jenny said.
The Leeches arranged for the dog and his boy.
“About 15 minutes into it, all of a sudden, like Theo, just like the nose went up. He just like looked at the boy,” Jenny said. “It was this recognition – the girlfriend said something the same time I said something. And I think that was all he, I think that was all this boy needed.”
It wasn’t on the bucket list – but it happened. A boy – now a young man – re-met his dog, and a dog re-met his boy, to say goodbye.
“He’s a dying dog,” Scott said.
And one day soon, they’ll have to decide when it’s time. But what’s resonated is that it’s not the end.
“It’s his journey. He’s going out. He’s living life big,” Scott said.
“He’s still got some bucket list stuff do,” Jenny said.
He went to a concert.
He met an Elvis impersonator clad in a jumpsuit every bit as festive as the ones the late legend himself wore.
And that’s not all.
“A friend has set a photo shoot and he’s going to be Scooby Doo, and our dogs are going to be the other casts of characters,” Jenny said.
That’s was a real motley crew.
“It’s going to be a s**t show,” Jenny said.
It was, and it has been. But it’s also completely beautiful. And those couple of weeks the Leeches expected to have with Theo now amount to five months – and counting.
Theo, again, is riddled with cancer and beyond treatment. Compassion has kept him alive.
Jenny Leech hopes to bring attention to elder pet adoption.
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