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Schnauzer Dog Doctor Ralf Is Patients' Best Friend At Royal Children's Hospital In Melbourne

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Zeke Harrison takes a stroll with Ralf at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne | REX Features

A doggy doc has been making his rounds at a children’s hospital in an attempt to help his patients feel less WUFF.

Ralf, a giant schnauzer, has a reputation as a miracle worker at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

He often sits with children who are having chemotherapy and was recently on hand to perk up one-year-old Zeke Harrison, who suffers from a urinary disease.

The caring canine also helped two-year-old Claire Couwenberg walk again just five days after surgery to remove a cancerous kidney.

Claire’s mother Marie McPhee told the Herald Sun: “As soon as she saw him, she stood up, and she very slowly, very wobbly got to her feet and started to walk, and now you can’t stop her.

“I’m lost for words. In a way, I can’t believe it.”

Ralf is one of a handful of animals who attend the hospital each week on behalf of Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

Brenda Kittelty organises the visits and says: “The dogs bring normality to children in an abnormal, difficult and stressful situation.”

There have been numerous studies into the therapeutic benefits provided by animals.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the brainchild of Boris Levinson, a psychologist who discovered his dog Jingles was able to engage an autistic child in a way humans were unable to.

Dogs are the most frequently used therapy animals, but cats, birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, llamas and even pigs and snakes now take part in various programes.

According to research, when people hold and stroke an animal - or in some cases just see one - they feel calmer, their blood pressure drops and feelings of loneliness and low-self esteem decrease.