There’s something special about your pet cuddling up to you when you feel your worst. And no one knows that better than 16-year-old Anthony Lyons of Arizona, who was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia last year.
Here’s our little Maximus… We call him Max. I hope he makes you smile. (Photo: Jen Mellon / Facebook)
During his inpatient chemo treatments, the dogs that stopped to visit him in the hospital cheered him up the most. “It really helps, the pet therapy,” Anthony told Fox 10 Phoenix. “Like I can be in here having a really bad day and then one of the dogs will show up and it will be the highlight of the day.”
When Anthony’s loved ones realized how sad he would get when the dogs weren’t available to visit, family friend Roberta Lucero-Koron set up a Facebook page titled “Photo Doggies for Anthony” to encourage photo submissions of dogs to cheer him up. The page reads: “Hi all, my friend Kristen Lyons has her son Anthony at Phoenix Children’s hospital. Some days he gets doggy visits and some he does not. They make him smile. I thought if I create this event, you can post a picture of your dog to help make him smile. His mom shows them to him and he smiles.
Hello Anthony! Lucy, Leila, Ella, Izzy, and Maggie send you a big hello from Tennessee! (Photo: Scott Kemp / Facebook)
Since the page was created, more than half a million people have posted pictures of cute animals and warm wishes. “When I’m in the hospital bed all day my mom goes through all the pictures, she sees them all,” Anthonytold Fox 10 Phoenix. “She’ll show me them all, doesn’t matter, but the special ones are the funniest ones.”
Sure, these photos demonstrably cheer up Anthony — but research shows that the positive effect animals have on humans and their well-being is very real. For people in the hospital, e vidence shows that visiting with a pet enhances mood and well-being, reduces anxiety, and sometimes even shortens the length of the hospital stay.
"For a patient like this in particular who is hospitalized, looking forward to seeing dogs is one piece of escape in their day," Pamela Barlow, senior animal behavior counselor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), tells Yahoo Health. "Animals bring you out of yourself, so you can stop feeling the physical and emotional pain for a moment."
Hi Anthony , this is Rocco he is a timber wolf/ malamute mix he weighs in at 225 pounds from North Dakota hope you feel better soon. (Photo: Carl Olson / Facebook)
Plus, touching and petting animals lowers blood pressure and helps patients feel less fatigue and pain. There’s a strong emotional component, as well — staring at white walls all day can be very depressing, after all. “We know from pet ownership that it can lift your spirits and make you happier,” Mary Margaret Callahan, senior national director of program development at the nonprofit Pet Partners, explains to Yahoo Health. “Animals are in tune with the people they are visiting. And we know that there are physiological, emotional and psychological benefits to animal interactions.”
Hey Anthony this is Oso and his sister Haley. Get well soon bud. (Photo: Joe Medina / Facebook)
Do you want to help cheer up Anthony? You can post a photo of your own pet to the page to the Facebook page.
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