In early 2019, Children's Hospital Colorado welcomed our very first full-time hospital dog, Ralph Lauren. We call him Ralph, Medical Dog – or Ralph, MD, for short.
With utmost pride for our beloved boy, Children’s Colorado announced today that Ralph, MD, is retiring from clinical patient care. After more than seven years of service to kids – that’s 49 in dog years – Ralph, MD, is hanging up his service vest. Though he will no longer see patients in the hospital setting, Ralph leaves a legacy that will guide thousands of children and teens through their health challenges for years to come.
An outsized legacy
As a steadfast partner to his human handler, Kizzy, and a beloved member of our Child Life Department, Ralph, MD, has accomplished a lot in his career. He was instrumental in launching Children’s Colorado’s growing Medical Dog Program, the first of its kind in the region, featuring multiple highly trained service dogs who work as full-time team members. Other notable milestones include:
- Helping 19,500+ patients.
- Working 14,750 hours in the hospital.
- Enjoying approximately 2,800 bananas – his favorite treat and a frequent token of appreciation from patients.
- Standing in for dozens of mock medical procedures – from a teeth cleaning to a sleep study, an MRI scan to an ambulance ride – to demonstrate what kids can expect and to show that if he can do it, they can too.
- Self-publishing more than 20 picture books about these procedures, which are used all over the hospital, helping to prepare many more patients than he could see alone.
- Hosting 150+ “office hours” sessions with colleagues, inviting his fellow team members to stop by his office for a laugh, a cry or a lie-down when they needed a break.
- Giving innumerable hugs and fist bumps, and hearing countless secrets from kids who have put their trust in him.
Ralph and Kizzy have created a beautiful program with two other full-time medical dogs, Halo and Galaxy. Two additional medical dogs will join our pack later this fall.
From teammate to ambassador
Several months ago, we learned that Ralph was facing a battle of his own when he was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma. While he was able, he and Kizzy remained focused on what Ralph does best: helping kids get better and relieving their worries.
Now, Ralph and Kizzy will focus on his health and comfort. He will remain a part of our community through the end of his life, serving as an ambassador of the Medical Dog Program. Ralph will continue to attend work with Kizzy, though he’ll greatly miss his favorite activity – seeing patients.
The healing power of hospital dogs
As a medical dog, Ralph has been there to motivate our patients, provide a calm presence and give kids and caregivers a reason to smile, even on hard days. He helps anxious children to take their medications, walk after surgery, and hold still during difficult procedures.
Recently, Ralph helped five-year-old Piper through a cancer diagnosis and treatment in our renowned Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Bedecked in his signature bow tie and an occasional unicorn cap, Ralph was with Piper every step of the way, until – finally – she got to ring the “warrior bell,” marking the successful completion of her cancer treatment:
Join us in celebrating Ralph’s life and legacy
We invite the thousands of Ralph’s friends, colleagues and fans to join us in honoring and celebrating Ralph, MD, in his retirement. You can join in the following ways:
- Send your favorite photos, memories and stories of Ralph: Email your notes and photos to us at TheDogtorIsIn@childrenscolorado.org and a member of our child life team will share your message with Ralph and Kizzy.
- Visit the “We Love Ralph!” art exhibition: Next time you have an appointment at our hospital on Anschutz Medical Campus, we invite you to stop by a temporary exhibit in the Ace Hardware Gallery, located on the first floor in the hallway between the Family Health Library and the patient elevators. There you'll find a compilation of fan mail and photos highlighting the career and impact of the one-and-only Ralph, MD.
- Make a financial donation to fund the Medical Dog Program: The Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation has created a fund for financial contributions in honor of Ralph’s work and legacy. All donations will go toward the continuation of the Medical Dog Program to help kids for years to come.
Resources for former patients and families
Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy, and children who feel close to Ralph may need support processing this news.
Our experts are providing the following resources to help parents and caregivers share the news of Ralph’s retirement with their children:
- Read Ralph’s online storybook: “A Legacy of Love: The Story of Ralph, MD.”
- Learn tips for helping children process grief.
- Join in an art activity for Ralph’s retirement: We're providing an art therapy activity to help patients process their feelings and commemorate Ralph. Patients with existing appointments at Anschutz Medical Campus are invited to pick up a pre-packaged art activity at the Association of Volunteers office, while supplies last. Our team will compile patient artwork into a community art piece dedicated to Ralph. You will be able to visit the community art piece in the hallway between Seacrest Studios and the chapel during your next appointment. (View a hospital map.)
- Join in virtually: If you won't be at the hospital, we invite you to join in a virtual activity by downloading this coloring page. Then, you can share it with Ralph and Kizzy by emailing a photo to TheDogtorIsIn@childrenscolorado.org or sharing a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #PagingPuppyMD.
We love you, Ralphie. Who’s a good boy?