OGDEN -- Carly gets excited when it's time to go visit the hospitals with her owner, Debbie McAllister.
The female golden retriever always responds happily when Debbie asks her if she wants to go visit the behavior, physical therapy and pediatrics units at McKay-Dee Hospital. She seems to know whenever she's going.
Then, once the 10-year-old dog arrives, she is greeted with as much love as she gives -- often with treats and generous petting and play.
But those visits nearly came to an abrupt end in 2010 when Debbie was rubbing Carly's neck and felt some lumps. She immediately took Carly to the veterinarian and was referred to another veterinarian who could care for dogs with cancer.
Debbie and her husband, Lee, have always had dogs, many of them therapy dogs. Two of their dogs have had cancer previously. One was easily cured, but the other dog's cancer was found too late to treat it.
The McAllisters weighed their options for Carly once they knew she needed surgery and possibly chemotherapy. The financial burden was large, as was the responsibility of care, with no guarantee for a positive outcome.
"We just weren't ready to say goodbye," Debbie said.
They couple decided to go ahead with the surgery and the treatment.
"We were quite lucky we were in a situation where we could provide her the help she needed," Lee said of the monetary and emotional cost to help Carly.
They knew Carly was in good health otherwise and was still young, so the odds were in her favor.
Carly underwent surgery two days after the initial contact with Dr. Pam Nichols. Carly then started chemotherapy.
Lee would sit with Carly during the four-hour treatments that started in December 2010 and ended in March 2011.
"She is my buddy," Lee said of the dog.
Carly's lymph nodes eventually shrank back to their normal size, and she has since been doing great.
"She's famous there now," Debbie said, referring to the Animal Care Center in Bountiful where Carly was treated. "She is a great success story."
Today Carly is an inspiration to all around her.
Catherine Diamond, a recreation therapist in the behavioral unit at McKay-Dee Hospital with both the adult and child centers, loves to see Carly walk through the doors.
"Every day that Carly comes is an added day of sunshine," Diamond said.
Diamond told a story about a woman who was having a psychotic episode and hadn't been communicating other than yelling and crying. Carly came up to her and started licking her face and licking her tears.
"She started sobbing and every tear that fell Carly licked her face," Diamond said.
The woman soon became calm, Diamond said.
"Carly was made to be a therapy dog. She just knows who needs love," Debbie said.
Debbie said Carly will walk into a group therapy room, and she sees how people respond.
"Carly is like a sponge and takes away the negativity and sadness," Debbie said.
Debbie started training with Intermountain Therapy Dogs about 10 years ago and said she loves every minute of it. On a volunteer basis, she spends many hours a week preparing the dogs for their therapy sessions. She bathes them or prepares their coats, brushes them out and makes sure they are ready to go to the therapy sessions.
Debbie said a woman in her 90s in an assisted living center showed great delight when Carly came in for a recent visit.
"The woman said, 'Oh, Carly, I really needed you today!' That is my reward," Debbie said. "I am making a difference ... well, we are."