50,000 dogs from around the world ‘write’ to 7-year-old with inoperable brain tumor

Emma Mertens, a 7-year-old girl from Wisconsin, is fighting an inoperable brain tumor and would love letters from your dogs.
Emma Mertens, a 7-year-old girl from Wisconsin, is fighting an inoperable brain tumor and would love letters from your dogs. Screen grab of GoFundMe/Team Emma - Fight against DIPG

There’s a 7-year-old girl from Hartland, Wisconsin, who just last month was playing in the snow and wresting with her brothers, according to her family’s GoFundMe page.

On the Sunday after her “normal weekend playing with friends,” Emma Mertens’ head started to hurt and she had some flu-like symptoms, her family wrote on Jan. 26.

That week, she was rushed to a children’s hospital, where she learned she had a brain tumor, according to her family’s Caring Bridge page.

Emma went through three surgeries in three days, and she was in a lot of pain.

Emma is now fighting terminal brain cancer, and that brain tumor is not operable, her family wrote. She has a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DPIG) tumor, which is “highly aggressive and difficult to treat,” according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“Only 10% of children with DIPG survive for 2 years following their diagnosis, and less than 1% survive for 5 years,” according to the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation.

Emma is fighting her tumor with radiation, and her family is “seeking the miracle that it goes away.”

But there’s something else you should know about Emma.

“Emma loves Dogs!” according to an update titled “The Power of a Puppy!” on her Caring Bridge page. The post includes photos of Emma with Lily the therapy dog on a hospital bed, and she is smiling big with that four-legged friend.

“I haven’t seen this little girl smile this much in a while,” her dad, Geoff Mertens, wrote.

That’s why Emma has asked for “comfort in the form of letters from dogs,” according to Channel3000 in Wisconsin.

“If anyone has a 4 legged friend, who might want to write Emma, I am sure she would love to hear from them,” Dane County K9, Inc. posted to Facebook. “This terminally ill Wisconsin girl would feel better getting a letter from them.”

That flier made “the rounds” on social media, and dogs — and their human owners — responded, Channel3000 reported.

As of Wednesday, she has received about 50,000 pictures of dogs from all over the world, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“I’ve stopped counting, but we were at 20 different countries at one point and every state,” Geoff Mertens said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “We’ve gotten (pictures) from Australia, Venezuela, Japan, Italy, Russia — and actually a lot from Scotland and the Netherlands for some reason.”

Emma’s dad is thankful to have a truck to pick up all the mail that’s being sent to a special P.O. box, the newspaper reported.

“We’re getting about 2,800 emails each hour and mail by the truckload,” he said, according to the Journal-Sentinel. “I think that says a lot about dog lovers, that they want to take care of more than just themselves.”

Emma’s GoFundMe page is also filled with comments from humans and their dogs.

Mishka from Ireland sent “big licks” to Emma.

Cole and Nugget, from Canada, sent Emma “licks and kisses.”

Jolie the golden retriever says he would “wag my tail so hard” if he could meet Emma, but he lives in Texas.

Marley “would love snuggling” with Emma, and this Iowa dog sent “well wishes” to the 7-year-old Wisconsin girl.

If your dogs would like to “write” to Emma, too, you can reach her via her GoFundMe page, or the special email account and P.O. box made for letters from dogs.

“To share your pictures of dogs, mail them to Emma Mertens, P.O. Box 230, Hartland, WI 53209 or email them to,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

Courtney Gessford, 28, of Sacramento, Calif. lived out a dream when she was "showered" with puppies from the Front Street Animal Shelter. Gessford, who has been battling cancer for three years, said she felt like she was “in a dream.” Her family t

Kaitlyn Alanis is based out of Kansas and reports on news from across the Midwest region. She has been at The Wichita Eagle since 2017.