When a local couple learned their beloved dog was terminally ill, they decided to take the pup to the Pacific Ocean for a special trip filled with sunshine and water, and it quickly ballooned into a bucket-list road trip chronicled on Instagram.
Thomas Neil Rodriguez, a New York City native who deejays for a living, adopted Poh from the North Shore Animal League on Long Island when he was just an 8-week-old puppy in December of 1999. He grew up a "really, really strong, really healthy" dog with a mischievous personality, said Rodriguez.
Then in January of this year, Rodriguez learned Poh -- who Rodriguez thinks is a yellow Lab-pit bull mix -- was suffering from renal failure. After some initial treatment, Poh seemed to be getting better, until a checkup revealed a softball-sized tumor in his liver and multiple tumors in and around his kidneys.
"With those types of symptoms, the doctor can't really give you a timeline," Rodriguez told NBC 4 New York over the phone. "It could be days or years or anything in between."
"We decided to just make the most of his time while he was here," he said. And that's how the idea for Poh's bucket list adventures was born. An Instagram account was created to document the dog's trip, and the first post read: "I always wanted to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean, so dad and @goumada are going to bring me all the way, escaping this cold weather so I can get my paws wet and get a nice tan."
Rodriguez is frequently on the road for his job, and he set up his work itinerary with Poh in mind, knowing he did not want to be away from his dog for long periods of time.
"It was either leave my dog at home and cancel my trips, or I was going to start bringing him with me," he said.
"A lot of it was on the fly," he said. He, his fiance and Poh ended up hitting 35 cities for a total travel trail of 12,000 miles.
Poh's spirits seemed to be up on the road, said Rodriguez. He seemed especially at peace in Sedona.
"When we found out he was sick, I wasn't even sure he'd make it to the ocean," said Rodriguez. "Thankfully he did, and then the new goal was to get him back to New York City."
Now that they're back, "I kind of make it a point to continue his adventures," he said. "We've been going to go the beaches here with a 2- to 3-hour radius, we've been down to the Jersey Shore, where there are a couple of really great dog parks."
Growing up in New York, Rodriguez said he never compelled to explore his own backyard. Now he and Poh are have been heading to the beaches on Far Rockaway and Coney Island "because it's new for Poh" -- but equally rewarding for him.
"I'm hoping Poh at a minimum makes it to my birthday" in a few weeks, "said Rodriguez. "Then I'm hoping he makes it to his birthday in October," at which point he hopes to plan a smaller trip to Chicago or Rhode Island or North Carolina -- somewhere where he can be near water but still enjoy a short, manageable trip.