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Want to help a local dog with a terminal diagnosis complete his doggy bucket list? Here’s how

Banjo is checking off his dog-year one fun item at a time, but he needs the community’s help to do it.

Banjo is a 9-year-old large-breed dog who has spent the past few years in and out of Bishop Animal Shelter, SPCA of Manatee County. He has a few health problems like some issues with his hips and a heart murmur. But recently, shelter staff got a disheartening diagnosis, his foster mom and shelter kennel manager, Maggie White-Domain, said.

After noticing a lump on his neck, testing showed that Banjo had skin cancer. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like he had much time, since the cancer had spread.

So, White-Domain and staff at the shelter — inspired by a similar movement on social media — decided to make what could be Banjo’s last days some of his best.

“We wanted to make the time that he does have left really fun for him. We don’t know what experiences he’s had in his different homes,” White-Domain said.

They created a bucket list, similar to one White-Domain saw on Facebook of another senior dog, that includes several typically fun dog experiences like eating peanut butter and and going on a boat ride. There is one item, however, he needs a little help completing.

Banjo’s bucket list includes taking selfies with 100 new friends. There are 29 posted to his bucket list Facebook page as of Friday, but there’s still a ways to go.

One of the easiest ways to help him reach his goal? Drop in and visit him at Bishop Animal Shelter. White-Domain brings him in every day and he often greets guests in the lobby. (On the shelter’s website, he is officially listed as a staff member with the title “door greeter.”)

Another way to help is to follow his Banjo’s Bucket List Facebook page, which was created after his diagnosis in November, and meet up with him on his adventures.

“When we started it, it was absolutely for Banjo but it was also important for staff here because we all fall in love with these animals and treat them like our own,” White-Domain said, tearing up.

With the help of his foster mom, Banjo has been able to cross six of 15 items on his bucket list. Most recently checked off, White-Domain took him to a dog beach in Venice where he was able to soak up some sun and swim in the ocean (which was also a bucket list item).

Shelter staff are optimistic Banjo will live to see his next birthday in September. They want to throw him a party, which is naturally another bucket list box.

Bishop Animal Shelter adoption coordinator Heather Lear remembers when Banjo first came into the shelter at 6-years-old. He was adopted out and later returned in March 2017. After his return, staff noticed the mass on his neck.

“It’s not the outcome you want for the dogs in your care, you want them to go into a good home and be with their family,” Lear said, through tears.

He had surgery in August to remove it.

“And after that he pretty much right away started to have what felt like another mass in the same spot,” White-Domain said.

By November, the vet estimated Banjo had about two months to live.

“He was still happy and we wanted to let him be happy for as long as we could so we decided to place him in foster care,” White-Domain said. That’s when Banjo went home with her.

Banjo went back for another vet appointment just before Christmas, where the vet had some optimistic news: The mass on his neck was no longer noticeable. White-Domain and the staff became cautiously optimistic one of their favorite dogs was in remission.

“He most likely does sill have cancer cells somewhere in his body but no large masses right now,” White-Domain said. “We’re just keeping him comfortable.”

Lear said the staff is happy to see he’s not suffering and added that he has “perked up” since he’s been in foster care with White-Domain.

If Banjo is able to knock off every bucket list item, White-Domain said they will likely add more.

Sara Nealeigh: 941-745-7081, @saranealeigh

Fundraiser for Bishop Animal Shelter

What: Bishop Animal Shelter will receive 15 percent of the restaurant’s proceeds from the day.

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 3

Where: 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, 6220 14th St. W., Bradenton

More information can be found on the 1000 Degrees Pizzeria Fundraiser! Facebook event page.

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