Lifestyle & Human Interest

Girl Granted Final Wish, Receives Thousands of Dog Photos Before Losing Battle with Brain Tumor


Dogs are a good thing. Any dog lover will tell you that, and anyone whose day has been bettered by the presence of a dog knows it to be true. Even some of the best, brightest and purest offerings of the internet include dog pictures.

One little girl named Emma needed that canine brightness in her life. She was diagnosed on Jan. 23 with a rare tumor in her brain stem called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, which typically is found in children aged 5-7. The 7-year-old underwent radiation treatments for the rare, inoperable brain tumor.

The problems came on quickly, according to her GoFundMe page.

“Last weekend she was having a normal weekend playing with friends, playing in the snow, and wrestling with her brothers,” the page read. “On Sunday though, she got a headache and started having flu like symptoms. By Wednesday, she was rushed into surgery to reduce swelling on the brain.”

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While neither the family nor the doctors knew how much time little Emma had left, she had a request: She wanted to get pictures of and letters from dogs.

According to WISC-TV, the family received “tens of thousands” of the requested letters and pictures, and she even developed a special bond with Drago, a police K-9 who came to visit her, and Drago’s handler, John Parker.

She made it to her 8th birthday, which was on Aug. 30, according to a post on her Facebook page. To celebrate, the family created “Emma Loves Dogs,” a charity whose mission is “to provide financial assistance to organizations that share Emma’s passion for helping animals, such as police K9 units and non-kill animal shelters,” according to the website.

On Sunday, the 8-year-old girl passed away, leaving an empty spot in the hearts of all who love her. Even the Fitchburg, Wisconsin Police Department posted to recognize her brave and kind soul.

“Tonight, the hearts of thousands of humans and canines around the world ache with the passing of Emma Mertens,” they wrote in a Faceook post on Sunday.

“While so many of us were fortunate to be able to follow and be inspired by Emma’s bravery, a select group, including Officer Parker and K9 Drago, were even more fortunate to meet and call this amazing little girl a friend. Officer Parker and K9 Drago had the chance to spend time with Emma on several occasions, including during her hospital stay in Madison, and at her home on her eighth birthday. When Emma returned to school this fall, she drew this picture which Emma’s dad shared with Officer Parker.”

“While she may be gone, Emma will clearly never be forgotten. May we all remember her bravery, kindness, and compassion. May we also remember, through her eight years, that no one is too young or too small to make a difference in someone else’s life, or for that matter, the world. Most importantly, let us all remember that kindness matters.”

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Her Facebook page displays many of the dog photos that Emma loved, and she’ll continue on in the memories of those who helped provide her with a bit of dog-related light and levity in a difficult time.

“She’s really taught a lot of people, especially Drago and I, how to appreciate the simple things in life and find happiness in the worst situations,” Parker told WISC. “She’s done so much in her little time on earth. It’s amazing how a little 8-year-old has had such an impact.”

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