"We will never be able to thank them enough for all of the joy they brought to patients, families, and staff members during their time with us."
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Children's of Alabama Therapy Dog Retirement
Credit: Hand in Paw

In his seven years as a therapy dog, Duke made a huge "pawprint" at Children's of Alabama in Birmingham. When the time came for the Great Dane to retire last week, Child Life Specialists hosted a party for him and his handler to honor and thank them for their volunteer service.

Duke and Carol Ritter became a Hand in Paw Therapy Team in 2015. According to a news release from Hand in Paw, the team made hundreds of therapeutic visits throughout their seven years, including visits at The Exceptional Foundation, Glenwood Inc, and UAB's Emergency Room.

Duke's favorite place to visit, however, was at Children's of Alabama. In his younger years, Duke and Carol would visit the patients and staff every single week, providing moments of comfort and joy to those who needed it.

During the party, several Children's staff members stopped by and thanked Carol and gave Duke farewell pets, treats, and gifts including a custom collar which had "Dr. Duke" engraved on the tag. There was even a photobooth.

Duke Therapy Dog
Credit: Hand in Paw
Duke Retirement
Credit: Hand in Paw

The retirement party was orchestrated by Courtney Wells, a Child Life Specialist who worked closely with Duke and Carol in the ER.

"It was such a pleasure to celebrate the legacy Duke and Carol established at Children's of Alabama throughout the years. We will never be able to thank them enough for all of the joy they brought to patients, families, and staff members during their time with us," Well said in a statement. "Duke and Carol will be dearly missed, but the impact they left on our hospital will never be forgotten."

Good boy, Duke!