Make-A-Wish sees rise in requests for pandemic puppies

A puppy named Coco made a young girl’s wish come true just in time for the holidays.Camila Vanderhost, a 6-year-old New York City resident who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 2 years old, initially thought she might ask for a trip to Walt Disney World when she qualified with Make-A-Wish America.But with the coronavirus pandemic making travel tricky, she decided what she really wanted was a puppy — specifically, a cute little Yorkshire terrier, aka Yorkie.“She said, ‘I should get a puppy. That way, I can have something to play with,’” her mother, Eliana Ramos, told TODAY. “She said, ‘I wish to have a Yorkie puppy.’”

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So she had a fun surprise after school on Nov. 10, when wish granters gave her a Yorkie she named Cocomelon, or “Coco” for short — plus toys, treats and other goodies.“You could tell on her face she was very, very happy,” Ramos said.
Camila Vanderhost, 6, holds her new puppy, Cocomelon, on Nov. 10, the day her wish came true.Courtesy of PuppySpot
Now Camila, who is in remission, loves Coco with all her heart. They watch Christmas movies together with Coco snuggled in a blanket on her lap. Sometimes Camila even calls her mom from school at lunchtime to ask how her puppy is doing.

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Coco has spread joy to the entire family, which also includes Camila’s 12-year-old brother.

“That dog brings so much happiness to us. Everything changed in the house. Everybody has a smile,” Ramos said. “I think Make-A-Wish changed my daughter’s life. When kids go through that kind of treatment, they remember. Every time she sees the scars on her chest, she says, ‘I got Coco because I used to be sick.’”

Camila adores her new puppy.Courtesy of PuppySpot
Wishes for puppies like Coco have surged during the pandemic. Make-A-Wish has already seen an overall increase of about 32% in animal wishes, according to Frances Hall, vice president of mission advancement at Make-A-Wish America. She attributes the rise not only to travel restrictions but to the same reason so many Americans started acquiring pets after March 2020.

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“I think for a child who has been isolated through the pandemic, a puppy gives them unconditional love,” Hall told TODAY. “It’s a source of incredible comfort for these kiddos and great joy. We’ve heard so many stories of how puppies just made them feel so warm and gave them a lot of strength during their illness.”
Puppies are a special wish and can offer comfort, strength and joy.JE Portraits Photography & Design / Courtesy of Make-A-Wish America
Make-A-Wish partnered with PuppySpot, a company that connects screened breeders with families, to grant nearly 200 puppy wishes.

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While dogs are the most requested species, the nonprofit also grants wishes for other pets. Earlier this year, a child who lives on a farm wished for two goats.