PHOENIX — It's a viral phenomenon that Phoenix Children's Hospital welcomes: People from all over the world have posted more than half a million pictures of their dogs on Facebook to help 16-year-old Anthony Lyons keep his spirits up as he fights leukemia.
Anthony — who was diagnosed in July and faces 3½ more years of agonizing chemotherapy treatments — said he always perks up whenever therapy dogs visit because "they're always happy, so just seeing the dog always being happy makes me happy." He said the dogs are the only thing that makes him feel better when he's in treatment.
So last month, Roberta Lucero-Koron, a family friend, got on Facebook and put out a request for pooch pictures for Anthony for the days when the dogs don't come.
"It started off just us thinking it was going to be some customers at a place I used to work, and it got to be 300, and we were so excited," Anthony's mom, Kristen Lyons, said of the campaign, which has gone internationally viral. "Then out of nowhere its almost a million, and we cannot believe it. We're so excited.
"We're always looking at it trying to keep up with it every day," Lyons said. "We see the cutest dogs."
Photos have poured in from everywhere — from England, from Dubai, from Alaska, even from U.S. troops in Afghanistan. "They all make me smile as I scroll through it," Anthony said. "It's not a single one that doesn't make me smile."
For Kristen, the outpouring of love and cuteness has "restored my faith in humanity big time."
"You always see the bad stories about abuse," she said. "So many people are reaching out [now], and it just really shows a lot, and it means a lot to us."