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Dying Rescue Dog Spends His Last Days Like A Superhero

Naliyah Kaya was not looking to add another dog to her family in 2015 when she first met Zeus, a 3-year-old Mastiff mix. She and her husband already had 2 large dogs – Jasper, a Shepherd mix, and Captain, a Catahoula. She was volunteering as a photographer at an adoption event when Zeus chose her.

At the event, Zeus was extremely nervous. He was shaking, pacing, and dragging another volunteer around when he was on leash. Kaya was sitting on the floor when Zeus backed up and sat in her lap. Kaya told iHeartDogs:

“I think he knew something that I didn’t – that I had room in my heart to love another pup…that I was missing something and didn’t even know it – him. I’ve fallen in love with a lot of dogs, but none with the right energy to fit into our family…As a dog with anxiety, Zeus sensed that I would protect and love him.”

Image courtesy of Naliyah Kaya


Captain and Jasper weren’t so sure about adding another dog to the family, but by the end of the evening, “they were all eating pupcakes together.”

Sadly, Zeus was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in September of 2016. Kaya and her husband made the difficult decision to amputate his front left leg in the hopes of saving his life. Pet insurance helped cover the cost of treatment, and Zeus was soon back on his feet.

About 6 months after the amputation, the cancer returned, this time in his lungs. The family helped Zeus fight it as long as they could, but it soon became apparent that he would be leaving them.

Image courtesy of Naliyah Kaya


Rescue volunteer photographer Virgil Ocampo had recently lost his beloved 14-year-old Boxer mix, Shogun. When Kaya reached out to him for support, he jumped at the opportunity to help Kaya have a final photo shoot and bucket list for Zeus – an opportunity he had missed out on with Shogun.

“For the last 2 years or so, (Shogun) had many different ailments and his list of meds grew. I knew it was coming but I thought we had at least a couple weeks left. He saw the vet that day and they did too, but I guess it was just his time…One thing I always wanted to do was do the hero shoot with him, but I always thought I had more time.”

So “Super Zeus Day” was born. Ocampo had bought a superhero cape for Shogun that he never got the chance to use, so he gave it to Zeus for his special day.

“It was meant to be,” Ocampo said.

Image courtesy of Virgil Ocampo


The day of the photo shoot, Zeus was able to cross many items off the bucket list. They went to a doggy beach, he ate ice cream and a snickerdoodle cookie, and he made pawprints with his brothers. He also did a nose imprint for a necklace for Kaya. She said:

“I loved in the morning when he would…jump on the bed and trample me and shove his nose in my face, sniff me really hard, then lay down or run off. That’s why my nose imprint necklace is so special.”

Image courtesy of Naliyah Kaya


The entire bucket list was done and photographed with Zeus wearing his special cape. The final item on his list, a cruise, was done on a different day. Kaya explained:

“The cruise was the last thing on the list and he held out for it. He was happy his last day and received so much attention on the cruise in his cape and came home, and it was not until midnight that his health went downhill and he had to be taken to the hospital.”

Image courtesy of Virgil Ocampo


Sadly, Zeus passed that night, but his family will have his memories and pictures of Super Zeus Day to help them through their loss.

Ocampo was honored to help with Super Zeus day. He’s already done one more photo shoot for a terminally ill dog and has another one lined up. He said:

“I think I’ll always do this in honor of my babies. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s such a treasure too, and I think I’m making my Shogun proud.”

Image courtesy of Virgil Ocampo


You can find a blog that Kaya writes about Zeus here. You can find out more about Ocampo’s photography here. Kaya and Ocampo have started a Facebook page called the Super Pup Project in order to help more terminally ill dogs have a superhero photo shoot like Zeus. Click here to see how you can help!


Special thanks to Naliyah Kaya and Virgil Ocampo for helping us share this beautiful story. 

(H/T: The Dodo)

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Written by Jennifer Nelson
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