HARTLAND, Wisc. — An 8-year-old Wisconsin girl who had been diagnosed with a rare cancer has passed away.
Emma Claere Mertens passed away Sunday afternoon in the arms of her parents, according to a post on the “Emma Loves Dogs” Facebook page.
"She fought so hard but it was time to go home and leave the pain behind. In her final hours, we told her how many people love her and that it was ok to go. We will miss her dearly," her family wrote in the post.
Mertens, who absolutely loves dogs, went viral earlier this year after her family requested that people send letters and photos from their dogs to boost her spirits.
She received thousands of dog photos and messages from all over the world and nearly 40 Wisconsin police departments decided brought dogs to visit her in person.
In August, to honor her eighth birthday, her parents launched the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation, which aims to provide “financial assistance to organizations that share Emma’s passion for helping animals, such as police K-9 units and no-kill animal shelters.”
In lieu of gifts, her family is asking that people keep Mertens' memory alive by supporting her foundation.
"Through all of this battle, all Emma wanted to do was spread kindness and help animals," her parents said in their post.
Mertens' funeral service will be live streamed on her Facebook page so that "all who have shown her love over the last 10 months can participate regardless of where they live in the world."
Her family says they will announce funeral arrangements soon and thanks everyone who has supported their family during this difficult journey.
Mertens suffered from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a type of tumor found in the brain stem. Due to its location, her doctors were unable to operate on it. The disease primarily affects children, with most diagnoses occurring when kids are 5 to 7 years old.