Shelter Creates Super Fun Bucket List and Gives Lots of Love to Terminally Ill Dog

A stray dog, with terminal cancer, has been showered with more attention than he likely could have ever imagined. Approximately three months ago, “Howard,” a golden retriever, was picked up as a stray and taken to the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control – he was then transferred to the Humane Society of Johnson County (HSJC).

On August 3, HSJC introduced Facebook followers to their new arrival:

Well we fell in love with this fella, a stray from IACC. We were told he was a senior, but we said that’s okay with us, Seniors are amazing animals.

Hearts were shattered a short time later when Howard went to a veterinarian and an exam and x-rays revealed that he had a fast growing, cancerous tumor in his abdomen. Though the cancer is expected to claim Howard’s life in less than a year, shelter staff is doing everything in their power to ensure that what is left of Howard’s life is the very best that it can be.


Aside from showering Howard with loads of love and attention, a bucket list has been created for the terminally ill dog and so far, several items have already been checked off, including a trek to Mrs. Curls for ice cream.


The chance to be an honorary firefighter, or rather, fire dog.


And in mid-October, he even had the opportunity to be sworn in as an honorary K-9 Officer with the Greenwood Police Department.

All of the love and fun in Howard’s life seems to be paying off. On September 1, the shelter provided Facebook followers with dramatic photos showing Howard’s “fuller-figure,” as well as some encouraging words about his health:

I have gained 20 lbs since I have been at my foster home. I got a great report from the vet my cancer hasn’t grown. I think its due to all the love from my family & new friends, and maybe some McDonald’s…


There are still several items on Howard’s bucket list – the biggest one is something that will help other terminally ill animals have the same opportunity to experience joy at the end of their life. This lofty goal is explained on the GoFundMe account which has been created for Howard’s bucket list:

As Howard’s last wish and last item on his bucket list, he would like to raise $10,000.00 for his fellow 4 legged friends to carry out his legacy. Howard wants more terminally ill animals to be able to have the end of life he has had the pleasure of having. He also wants more senior animals to be saved and given the chance  of becoming adopted.  It is very costly to help senior animals, especially those with terminal illness.

Though Howard spends his nights in a real home, he is often at the shelter, greeting visitors, during the day. In fact, Howard loves visitors so much that the shelter is encouraging people to call and see if Howard is “in the office.” If he is, you may want to swing by and say hello.

Find the Humane Society of Johnson County on Facebook here. Find the fundraiser established for Howard’s bucket list here.

(Photos via Humane Society of Johnson County)







Penny Eims

Penny is a freelance writer who provided content to her National Dog News column at for 8 years. She is a current contributor to Fido Friendly Magazine, as well as a newly formed website, Pet Rescue Report. Penny is married and she has two rescued German shepherds and two kids.


  1. Anne Sutton says:

    Thank you so much Penny for this story. We are truly the lucky ones that get to spend our days with Howard. We are so privileged and honored to be able to do all of these things, and to see complete strangers step up and offer help to him has been amazing. If we can get a few more tail wags, hugs and affection for him, then we have been successful. Thank you again

  2. JERRY EDELMAN says:

    What an AWESOME story. I wish more shelter’s and communities would respect the lives of their pets that end up abandoned with such humanity. And to HOWARD, my wish for you is to experience the joy and love that you deserve for as long as you can. You’ve earned it.

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