ATLANTA - Five days a week, Izzy, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta facility dog, waits in the Egelston campus family library center, her handler Vandie Enloe nearby, for patients like Michael Rhone to drop by.
"Usually I can walk into the door and just start talking and she'll notice who it is and walk right up to me," Rhone says.
The met 5 years ago. Michael was 11 and sick. Izzy was 3 and new to working in a children's hospital.
"She had this happy look on her face, just very lovable," Rhone remembers.
Rhone, who is now 16 and from Monroe, Georgia, has cystic fibrosis, or CF.
"It's a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system," he says.
He battles constant infections in his lungs and digestive system, caused by a thick mucus that makes it difficult to breathe. Rhone has been hospitalized here at Children's at least 50 times.
"I think the longest I've stayed is 3 weeks," he says. "It gets very boring and stressful."
But, then, there is Izzy,
"I come down here every day when I'm in the hospital," Rhone says.
Michelle Wynn, his mother, says Izzy has become Michael's lifeline.
"He will find the courage, when he just feels awful, to come down and see her," Wynn says. "He's like, 'I am going down to the library. We're going to go see Izzy!'"
This is where Michael was 2 years ago when something strange happened.
Hospitalized with yet another lung infection and complaining of stomach pain, he came to see Izzy.
But this time, instead of being calm, she seemed agitated.
"She had her paws on his stomach, and her nose kept nudging on his stomach," Michelle Wynn remembers.
"I really didn't think nothing of it at first," her son says.
But the next day, Izzy did it again. Pawing at him.
"Just sticking her nose right here on my ribcage," Rhone says. "My mom says she thinks she was trying to tell us something was wrong, trying to get our attention."
This went on for a couple of days.
"They were doing scans and stuff of his stomach, and sure enough it was his gallbladder," Wynn says.
Soon Michael was in surgery, having his gallbladder removed. Complications like this are common with CF, but Michelle Wynn thinks Michael may have been so used to being in pain, he didn't realize his gallbladder was failing. But, she says, Izzy sure did.
"She made me a believer; It's really amazing that an animal can do," Wynn smiles.
Today, Michael and Izzy are back into their old routine: two friends, hanging out, here for each other. He is out of the hospital now, going to an alternative high school that allows him to focus on his medical needs.
He hopes to qualify soon for a lung transplant.
And he feels certain, no matter what lies ahead for him, Izzy will be there by his side.