Ralf got two-year-old Claire Couwenberg to walk for the first time
since her surgery to remove a cancerous kidney
Ralf is a Giant Schnauzer known as somewhat of a miracle worker around Royal Chidren's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. The companion dog visits sick children each week and as he makes his rounds, he administers his own special "medicine" to his young wards. He sits in with kids during their chemotherapy sessions, lets them give him pats and hugs and makes them smile.
Zeke Harrison, a 15-month-old boy suffering from a rare genetic disorder, smiles each time he sees the dog. "He went straight for Ralf, he loves dogs," said Zeke's mum Jazmin Hall.
Zeke gets a "helping paw" from Ralf at the Royal Children's Hospital.
When Claire Couwenberg caught sight of Ralf, she was inspired to walk for the first time in the five days, since her surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. Claire's mother, Marie McPhee said: "As soon as she saw him, she stood up, and she very slowly, very wobbly, got on her feet started to walk, and now you can't stop her. I'm lost for words. In a way, I can't believe it."
The Melton toddler, diagnosed with a Wilms' tumour eight weeks ago, amazed everyone when she stood up to take Ralf's leash when handed it. She took Ralf for a walk and led him up and down the hospital.
"It's nice to see her smile today after everything she's been through," McPhee said. "She's got a big dog at home and she loves him to pieces ... she's a real fighter, and she doesn't let much hold her back."
Brenda Kittelty, who organizes the visits and runs the volunteer program, says Ralf is one of a handful of dogs who visit young patients throughout the week. "The dogs bring normality to children in an abnormal, difficult and stressful situation," she said.
Caroline Lovick, who is a volunteer from Lort Smith Animal Hospital, says she brings eight-year-old Ralf to the RCH every Monday. "Today he made a little girl in a halo turn and look without moving her body, and he made a little girl walk, and he sat with another little girl while she was having chemo," Lovick said.
All in a day's work for the four-legged "doctor", who will be back on his rounds again next Monday.