(CHICAGO) — Amid chemotherapy, radiation and a 26-hour long surgery to fight cancerous tumors, 12-year-old Johnny Martin only wanted to talk about one thing.
“He would talk about [corgis] to everyone,” Michelle Boyer, Johnny’s mother, told Good Morning America.
The seventh-grader from Joliet, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, wanted nothing more than a corgi to call his own.
In June 2018, Johnny was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumors. After suffering a severe stomach ache that stripped him of his appetite and made his belly protrude for weeks, Boyer knew that her son was sick, but she didn’t expect what illness was to come.
Doctors didn’t catch Johnny’s cancer diagnosis until his third hospital visit — but this time it was during a visit to the emergency room.
“When [the emergency room doctor] came in to tell us, she was already in tears before she was even able to get a word out. That’s how severe it was,” Boyer said.
During his first inpatient stay — which lasted for over two months — Boyer said that Johnny liked to look out the window to a park down below where people would jog and walk their dogs. Although she had already been looking to add another dog to the family for years, Boyer noticed that with his new view, Johnny started to up the ante in his quest for his favorite corgi puppy.
“He would always just come back around, ‘Yeah that would be great mom, but so would a little puppy,'” Boyer said.
Johnny’s love and chatter about his “dream dog” caught the attention of a hospital social worker who submitted his wish for a puppy to Little Wish Foundation.
Liz Niemiec, the founder of Little Wish Foundation, told Good Morning America that since 2010, the foundation has worked with children’s hospitals across the country to grant wishes under $1,000 that will bring “immediate joy” to pediatric cancer patients. One of their specialties is giving kids their dream dogs.
“Whenever we get a puppy request, it’s extra special. … We were super excited and all over it,” Niemiec said.
Puppy requests mean a lot not only to the foundation, but also to Niemiec personally. She started the foundation when she was 16 after her friend Max died of cancer. His last wish was for a puppy.
Last Thursday, Niemiec and some volunteers from Little Wish Foundation presented Johnny with a black-and-white corgi puppy — a “Max wish,” as they call it.
“She was so sweet. … She knew she was going to do a job and that was to make him happy,” Niemiec said.
Niemiec asked Johnny of all the puppies he could have, why a corgi?
“He’s like, ‘You know I just really like corgis. The Queen has a corgi,'” Niemic said.
And who could argue with him? He later decided to name his new furry friend “Twinkie.”
Both Niemiec and Boyer said the pair’s bond was instantaneous.
“It was unbelievable — just the smile on his face and the way [Twinkie] just took to him immediately. You could tell that they had a special connection,” Boyer said.
Boyer also said that she’s hoping her son, who turns 13 in December, will be a good dog parent.
“I just kept thinking of, ‘Oh I hope he picks up all this dog poop,'” Boyer said with a laugh.
She added that the gift of a new puppy not only fulfilled Johnny’s dream, which kept him motivated through over a year-and-a-half of treatment, but also gave much-needed inspiration to the whole family.
“Those little tiny touches can be what a family hangs on to, to keep making it one more day,” Boyer said.
At the moment, Johnny is still undergoing chemotherapy, but he is “doing well,” according to his mother.
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