Boy fighting leukemia with support of thousands of dog lovers

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix teen is fighting cancer with the help of some puppy love, and a Facebook campaign that has gone viral.

16-year-old Anthony Lyons loves animals and especially dogs. He's been in the hospital a lot the past six months fighting leukemia.  But hundreds of thousands of strangers are posting dog pictures to a Facebook page to give him a smile.

“Aww, she has socks on,” Anthony Lyons said, as a German shepherd named Seishan climbed onto his hospital bed.

Seishan is a therapy dog and was making the rounds at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.  Anthony said those pet therapy visits are the only good thing about being here.

“Most of my days here are sad and depressing,” said the teen. “I will just sit in my bed with blankets over my head and not talk to anyone.”

Anthony is on his sixth month of intense chemotherapy to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease keeps him out of school, and most days, away from the rest of the world.

“Makes me really sick in here,” he said, referring to the IV bag delivering the treatment.  “Uncomfortable, sick feeling.”

Dogs have always brightened his day, especially his three dogs waiting for him at home. “Willy, Mary and Jimmy,” he said their names.

Anthony's love for animals is the reason a friend of his mom started a Facebook page called "Photo Doggies for Anthony." 

“The next thing we knew, it was 300 people,” said Kristen Lyons, Anthony’s mother.  “And saying 300 people, and he's laughing and smiling.”

Word spread quickly about the campaign. And then, the page blew up over the weekend, climbing to more than 800,000 posts.  Kristen Lyons said she can no long keep up to say thank you.

“People are putting signs around their pet saying, ‘Get well soon Anthony,’” she said. “So you know they took the picture just for that site.”

“He's got glasses and a hat,” said Anthony with a laugh as he looked at one picture on the website.

Anthony said he loves seeing every picture.  He knows this fight against leukemia will take years. But with the shared love of dogs and their owners, he now knows he's not fighting alone.

“I love all the pictures,” he said. “No matter what their dog is doing, it can be a basic picture, it will make me smile, no matter what.”

Anthony has another six months of intense chemotherapy, then two more years of treatment before he might be clear of that disease.

You can visit the page online to contribute your own pet photos.