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Virginia Beach Family Makes Bucket List for Ailing Dog

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Zuba gives her foster mom a kiss. Having a birthday party was one of 54 items on her Bucket List. Photo: Vicki Cronis-Nohe/The Virginian-Pilot

When Zuba, 1, was diagnosed with malformed kidneys, her owners brought her to the Southeast German Shepherd Rescue Phoenix Dog Program’s Virginia Beach office. This was back in March.

Heather Duggan, director of the program that cares for dogs with special needs, said the family didn’t want to go through the trauma of losing their dog within months. Indeed, the program’s vets didn’t have high hopes either.

“After we saw her first set of blood work, she was considered a hospice case,” Duggan told the Virginian-Pilot.

That’s when she and Zuba’s foster mom, Kayla Matherson, decided to make Zuba a bucket list. Among its must-dos: eat a steak, a picnic on Chesapeake Bay, run an obstacle course.

“We were excited about having the idea of helping her live the fullest life she can before her suspected fate,” Matherson said.

The pair set up a Facebook page that keeps followers up to date on what Zuba is scratching off her list at a given moment. They send gifts, as well.

Gifts for Zuba have come in from all over the world. Stuffed toys, squeakies and yes: 300 tennis balls!

“Our second bedroom is nothing but Zuba stuff,” Matherson said. “Other than spoiling her rotten, I think in reality she doesn’t know why she’s being treated differently than others. So to her, I think she sees herself as being queen bee.”

Although Zuba’s condition is still considered Stage 3 renal failure, there’s a chance the prognosis could change for the better.

“We’re hoping the next visit will show improvement and she’ll be able to be up for adoption,” said Matherson. “If the next tests show improvement, she’ll be diagnosed kidney disease instead of failure and she’ll have an outlook of five to seven years.”

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