A 5-year-old Mesa girl's only wish as she fights a rare and aggressive form of cancer was to have a dog and her family and an animal rescue granted her wish.
A 5-year-old Mesa girl's only wish as she fights a rare and aggressive form of cancer was to have a dog. So, while medical experts give her only weeks to live, her family and an animal rescue granted her the small gift of companionship.
Allyana Patterson has grown close to Boots, her new pet, in the weeks since she received the rescued Chihuahua mix that is as watchful over the small child as she is over it.
Last week while Ally painted using water colors, Boots sat nearby, watching.
He gingerly stepped around Ally's coloring book, the medical tube that carries her oxygen, and her thin legs to find a comfortable spot next to her on the other side of the family's couch.
Ally named Boots after a monkey cartoon character on her favorite television show: "Dora the Explorer."
Ally's mom, Jennifer Patterson, said the dog has fit neatly into her family at a time of great upheaval.
"When they first brought him to our house, he came in sniffing around like he owned the place," she said of the Chihuahua miniature pincher mix. "She (Ally) fell in love with him.
"She stays tired most days. But Boots lifts Ally's spirits."
Boots arrived in Ally's life after officials at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA learned of her one wish to own a dog.
Shannon Blizzard, the director of operations for the animal rescue, said she could not recall the last time her group got to grant the wish of a terminally ill child.
"We were so happy to be a part of helping her," Blizzard said of Ally.
She said several people were involved in connecting her group with Ally, including a church and a business, and several parties chipped in to donate the dog and supplies.
Blizzard said she was holding Boots in her lap when she received the call in December about Ally, and it took one day to deliver the diminutive dog.
Ally's mother said her daughter deserved the pet because she had already faced more challenges in her five short years of life than most people experience in a lifetime.
Ally was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 15 months, a rare form of a malignant (cancerous) tumor that ravaged her nerve tissues and adrenal glands, requiring her to have two bone marrow transplants by the age of 2, her family said. Afterward, Ally experienced three good years, before the cancer came back - more devastating than the first time.
"They found a mass the size of a grapefruit and a mass the size of a golf ball and other cancer cells in her wrist, ankle and pelvic bone," the 25-year-old mother described. "She had stage 4 cancer - the last stage - and the doctors were left scratching their heads."
Patterson said Ally was given a grim prognosis by medical professionals. Her daughter recently spent 21 continuous days in the hospital.
Boots has brought a much needed distraction to Ally, who receives pain killers to stem the debilitating, throbbing headaches and frequent nose bleeds she suffers.
Ally's grandmother, Maggie Thompson, said Boots and his big personality fit perfectly into the small apartment she shares with her daughter and granddaughter. They moved into the apartment after losing a home in Maricopa because of medical costs.
In these leaner days, the mother and grandmother choose to surround Ally with things she likes: the many artistic creations from her own imagination, "Dora the Explorer" coloring books, and images from Ally's favorite Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog."
Judging from the artwork Patterson keeps around the house created by her 5-year-old, the family is awash with bright, whimsical, pink, purple and lime green patterns - some of Ally's favorite colors.
Blizzard said it was her hope that Boots also helps to brighten Ally's world.
"Animals have an ability to heal, comfort and inspire," Blizzard said. " ... They are a source of inspiration and hope."