Photos and letters of support have been pouring in daily from dogs all over the world for a 7-year-old Wisconsin girl who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
It all started when a family friend sent Emma Mertens, a photo and note from her dog as an act of love after her diagnosis.
"She's just always loved puppies and a friend of our family ended up wanting to reach out and spread some love for Emma knowing that we were home and had this diagnosis," Tammi Mertens, Emma's mother, told WITI-TV. "That friend told her friends and so on. Soon the idea went viral and letters and pictures of furry friends starting arriving by the truckloads, Emma's father, Geoff Mertens said.
"If you knew Emma, you would know that's exactly what she likes to do for other people, she's just a kind big-hearted kid who just likes to do nice things for other people," Geoff said.
The Billings (Montana) Police Department even heard about the cause and enlisted its K-9 unit to help brighten her day.
"This was a special way; we have these thousand and thousand dollar dogs that are trained to do all kinds of things and we figured, well, we can do something to kind of give back and make that little girls day," Billings Officer Jared Lausch told KULR-TV.
The officers have also sent Emma a special care package.
What is Emma's story?
In late January, the Hartland first-grader had been sick with what her parents believed was the flu.
Her parents took her to the hospital for some IV fluids, but soon learned the girl's condition much worse, Geoff explained to WDAF.
"They saw a mass, had an MRI and determined the next day that mass was a DIPG," Geoff said.
DPIG, or diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, is an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer found on the brain stem. It is inoperable and there is no cure.
The family said they receive a truckload of letters daily and thousands of emails an hour.
"We're receiving about 3,000 emails an hour," Geoff said. "It's beyond overwhelming."
So far, Emma's parents believe they've received more than 100,000 pictures of four-legged friends from at least 50 countries.
"I think the letters give us an opportunity to forget about it [her illness]," Geoff added.
Where can I send a picture of my dog to Emma?
Photos and letters can be sent to Emma Mertens at P.O. Box 230, Harland, Wisconsin, 53029. Message and photos can also be sent to Team Emma's Facebook page.
A GoFundMe fundraiser has also been set up to help the family with Emma's medical expenses.
Letters for Emmayoutu.be