DOWNTOWN — Sporty, the dog who charmed thousands by walking himself around the Loop with his leash in his mouth, has died.
Sporty, a 12-year-old golden retriever, had been facing cancer for months before he died Thursday afternoon, his owner, David Duncan, said in an Instagram post. The much-beloved pooch was known for trotting around Downtown ahead of Duncan, delighting passersby.
The leash-in-mouth trick had made Sporty world famous over the years, and he amassed an Instagram following of about 79,000 people. Duncan regularly posted videos and photos of Sporty walking around the Loop and meeting fans.
“There is a hole in my heart right now and I don’t know how it’s possible to hurt this much but I try to take solace in knowing he lived an incredible life that most dogs can only dream of,” Duncan wrote on Instagram.
More than 10,000 people had already reacted to the post by Friday afternoon, leaving comments consoling Duncan and talking about how they had loved Sporty.
“Thank you for sharing his life,” one fan wrote. “You can’t imagine how much we will miss him, too.”
Sporty’s supporters raised more than $28,000 on GoFundMe to help cover Sporty’s vet bills during the last few weeks of his life. What’s left of that money will go to help other pets facing cancer, Duncan previously said, and the GoFundMe remains online.
Duncan said he hopes to fundraise in Sporty’s name in the future, though he’s currently focused on grieving.
Duncan kept Sporty’s followers updated during the dog’s most recent illness, chronicling when Sporty had to spend time at the animal hospital and how he experienced ups and downs.
Finally, as Sporty struggled on Wednesday night, Duncan looked into his eyes and saw “it’s his time,” he wrote on Instagram.
“He was able to come home and we spent the entire day snuggling and holding on to our final moments together,” Duncan wrote. “He went so peacefully on his blankets with his head on my lap, paw in my hand and surrounded by all his favorite toys.
“He knew it was his time and I know he’s in a better place.
“.. He is running free across the rainbow bridge holding his leash creating a wave of smiles in his wake.”
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