At Children's Hospital Colorado, we don't just focus on a child's illness – we focus on the whole child. And sometimes, love from a furry, four-legged friend is just what kids need to put them on the path to healing.
In 2019, Children's Colorado welcomed Ralph Lauren, our very first full-time hospital dog. We call him Ralph, Medical Dog – or Ralph, MD, for short. With the steadfast support of Kizzy, his partner and child life specialist, Ralph helps kids in our hospital on Anschutz Medical Campus heal from illness or injury and cope with the stress or anxiety that may come with a stay in the hospital.
As a highly trained therapy dog who has worked with children in hospitals for more than five years, Ralph is here to help motivate our patients to meet their goals, make the clinical environment feel more like home, and give kids a reason to play and smile, even when they're sick.
Medical benefits of therapy dogs for kids
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that animal-assisted therapy can help patients cope with and heal from health problems. Research shows that interacting with a gentle, friendly pet has benefits including stabilizing blood pressure, diminishing pain, reducing anxiety and even encouraging communication. Expertly paired with clinically-trained team members, hospital dogs like Ralph provide a gentle, calm presence in what can sometimes be a stressful experience for patients and their families.
Learn even more about Ralph and our growing Medical Dog Program through the frequently asked questions below.
Frequently asked questions about the Medical Dog Program
What training has Ralph received?
Ralph started his training at just 6 days old and spent a total of 22 months with Canine Assistants before he began serving patients. His specialized training and calm disposition make him the perfect companion for kids and teens who may be facing a tough time. While Ralph can perform many impressive tasks and tricks, his greatest gifts are patience and unconditional love.
Will more hospital dogs be added to the Program?
Our Medical Dog Program is growing! Please check back soon to meet our other canine caregivers.
How can I meet Ralph?
Ralph is a busy boy who spends most of his day helping the patients who need him most. That's why a medical provider must make a request for Ralph to visit, and then work with the Child Life Department to schedule his visit according to level of need and availability. While we do our best to accommodate all medical requests, we cannot guarantee a visit.
Fortunately for all patients, Ralph also visits Seacrest Studios and the T(w)een Zone (for kids age 10 or older) a couple of times each week. Ask your nurse or child life specialist to learn about Ralph's next appearance or how to watch him on TV.
And finally, if you or your child can't meet Ralph in person, you can always follow the happenings of the Medical Dog Program by following Children's Colorado on Instagram.
How is the Medical Dog Program different from the Prescription Pets Program?
While both programs make a world of difference for kids in our hospital, their aims are slightly different. The dogs in the Medical Dog Program are specially trained therapy dogs who work with clinical staff in our Child Life Department. These hospital dogs can help calm patients during some procedures, encourage kids to get up and move around even when they're feeling sick, comfort kids who have experienced trauma and even ease patients' fears by demonstrating how to take medications. In order to request assistance from a therapy dog, the child's medical provider must have a clinical goal in mind and then request a visit through the medical chart. The child life team then evaluates the request and works to accommodate it according to medical needs and availability.
Prescription pets are Children's Colorado's beloved four-legged volunteers who work with their humans to bring cheer and joy to patients in our hospital by visiting patients in common areas and patient rooms. More than 60 of these friendly pups and their owners visit our hospital at Anschutz Medical Campus several times per week. (They also visit our locations at South Campus in Highlands Ranch and Briargate in Colorado Springs.) Just like Ralph, the prescription pets make the hospital feel more comfortable for patients who are away from their own pets or who could benefit from a friendly presence. Unlike Ralph, prescription pets cannot be present during a patient’s exam or procedure.
Both medical dogs and prescription pets keep very busy visiting patients almost every day. While we cannot guarantee a dog visit during a child's stay, we will do our very best to accommodate your request through the Prescription Pets Program. To request a visit from a prescription pet, please call the Association of Volunteers at 720-777-6887.
How can I help?
The Medical Dog Program at Children's Colorado is supported by generous donations from our community. If you'd like to help the Medical Dog Program grow, please make a donation to Ralph's fundraising page through the Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation. Your donation supports ongoing care for Ralph, while helping us to add more medical dogs to our team.
Sit. Stay. Heal.
At Children's Colorado, we provide several opportunities for kids and teens to connect with animals while they're away from home.