There are many stories of the love that families have for their dogs, and the tearful final days that they inevitably spend together – but this family turned what was sad news into a bucket-list brigade of canine adventures. Indeed, where they went during this heartbreaking time was amazing.
In December of 1999, New Yorkers Thomas Neil Rodriguez and his fiancée-at-the-time, now-wife Goumada went to an animal shelter and fell in love with an adorable little eight-week-old puppy. They named him Poh, and he immediately took to both their hearts.
Poh lived with his loving family for 15 years but when his health started to decline Rodriguez took him to a veterinarian for a check-up. It wasn’t good; Poh’s body was starting to fail him.
In fact, Poh had two inoperable stomach tumors. The veterinarians were uncertain about just how much time he had left, and Poh’s parents started to prepare for the worst.
“I would say sometime in February  he started to get sicker. I travel quite a bit but we came back from one trip and he was doing really bad,” Rodriguez told ABC News in May of that year. He decided that Poh should have a chance to see more of the world, and his own experience traveling inspired him to carry out a bucket list for his ailing companion.
“I’m unsure of how long [he will live],” Rodriguez commented. “Doctors are unsure. My assumption is that I don’t have very long with him and that’s what prompted the trips.” Poh’s decline was turned into an opportunity to do something for him that the Rodriguez family would remember for the rest of their lives.
“My dad @djneilarmstrong [Rodriguez] decided to give me a bucket list trip across the good old US of A,” Poh’s Instagram account announced before their big trip. “I always wanted to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean, so dad and @goumada are going to bring me all the way.”
On March 6, 2015, Rodriguez and Goumada set out with Poh on their big bucket-list road trip that would take them on an epic cross-country adventure from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There was no time to lose, and though they didn’t know how long they had, the family was determined to make the most of their time together.
Although Poh was living on borrowed time, the adventure proved to be bigger than any of the family expected. Certainly, they traveled 12,000 miles and visited 35 cities on their journey, seeing some amazing sights and visiting several historical national landmarks.
The road trippers also took some time out to visit some famous locations from film and TV. There were plenty of photo opportunities, and the Instagram account dedicated to Poh’s bucket list – @pohthedogsbigadventure – saw a lot of support for the poor pooch.
“We even stopped by Walter White’s house in New Mexico,” Rodriguez told ABC news. “We went to The Goonies’ house in Oregon. There was some dog parks to go to. In Austin we went to a great dog park where he actually swam. It was a little bit for him, a little bit for me.”
Poh’s Instagram account and the chronicling of his bucket-list adventure drew huge amounts of followers, reaching as many 124,000 in April 2016. His story touched many hearts and the family received massive outpouring of support from people all around the world.
“I initially wanted to get him to the Pacific Ocean. I have always wanted him to swim,” Rodriguez explained. Poh did make his father’s dream come true and, after some initial confusion over what the cold-water beach was all about, he seemed to really enjoy it.
Poh and his family didn’t stop when they got to the Pacific, from San Diego they traveled north. The instagram account of their trip is full of pictures from along the way, and it includes a stop at the Washington monument, Disney World, and the Seattle Space Needle.
Rodriguez could tell how much Poh enjoyed his big adventure. He said, “He loved it, it was so healing for him. It was like he was five years younger. He was walking with a lot of energy.” When Poh tired, Rodriguez would carry him on his back or in a green buggy he bought the dog for extra convenience.
Poh even saw his daddy and mommy get married. “My life is kind of hectic. I’m always traveling, but Poh is my home, my child … I am super blessed that I have actually gotten to do this,” Rodriguez said. “People think I take care of Poh, but Poh takes care of me.”
At one point during the trip Goumada took time to visit her parents in Japan, but Poh kept his spirits high, as though he were waiting for her return. It was only after she came back that Poh took a final turn for the worse. Having checked off most of all of their old dog’s bucket list, the couple made plans to have Poh put down on February 16.
But before that final day they took one last trip together to Toronto – and on February 12, about a year after his original diagnosis, Poh passed away peacefully in his sleep next to his loving parents. His last act? To poop in his dad’s shoes. “I tell you this because I want you to smile,” Rodriguez wrote.
Poh’s adventures touched the hearts of so many, and they continue to do so even after his passing. With the help of the Animal Medical Center, Poh’s parents have started a fund to help with the financial costs of elderly pets that need extra medical care and attention.
Rather than opting for euthanasia by default, the Rodriguez family implore dog owners to try and give their furry family members a better quality of life, for as long as they can. Rodriguez says his companion will live on through his final epic year. He wrote, “Although he is no longer here in physical form, you all have made his story and life immortal.”