PHOENIX, Ariz.—

16-year-old Anthony Lyons was diagnosed with leukemia in July and is currently undergoing chemotherapy in the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Therapy dog visits are the one thing that has helped Lyons perk up throughout the ordeal. “They’re always happy, so just seeing the dog always being happy makes me happy,” Lyons said.

When family friend Roberta Lucero-Koron requested dog pictures to cheer Lyons up, a deluge of photos was posted on Facebook: more than half a million.

“Hey Anthony and family!” one respondent said. “This is Betsy from Ohio. I’m not supposed to be on the couch but do I look worried about that rule? My human had acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 2 1/2 years old. Now he’s 18!! You can do this thing! Hang in there buddy! The good part is that you get to spend a ton of time with your family!”

“Hi Anthony, this is my partner K-9 Kira,” a police officer posted. “She is a five year old German Shepherd Police Canine from the New Milford Police Department, Connecticut. Get Well Soon!”

The family has been both surprised and delighted by the response.

“It started off just us thinking it was going to be some customers at a place I used to work, and it got to be 300, and we were so excited,” Anthony’s mom, Kristen Lyons, said. “Then out of nowhere it’s almost a million, and we cannot believe it. We’re so excited.”

“We’re always looking at it trying to keep up with it every day,” Lyons said. “We see the cutest dogs.”

Photos have been submitted everywhere from England to Afghanistan. “They all make me smile as I scroll through it,” Anthony said. “It’s not a single one that doesn’t make me smile.”

His mom added that the flood of pictures and encouragement has “restored my faith in humanity big time.”

“You always see the bad stories about abuse,” she said. “So many people are reaching out [now], and it just really shows a lot, and it means a lot to us.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.