Canine Champ Bring Smiles to Sick Kids at the Ronald McDonald House
Quickly, Rufus's owners, Tom and Barbara Bishop of New Jersey, changed their dog into his first outfit: a Yankees baseball cap and jersey, and a snazzy black leather collar with his named spelled out in sparkly rhinestones. "The children get a kick out of it," Barbara tells PEOPLEPets.com. "They call the collar his 'bling.' "
At nine and a half years old, Rufus has the distinction of having won Best in Show at both the prestigious Westminster Dog Show and The National Dog Show presented by Purina within the same season. "In 374 dog competitions, Rufus has only lost eight times," says Tom, proudly.
Having retired from the show ring, Rufus, who weighs a solid 75 pounds, now spends his days as a certified therapy dog visiting nursing homes, schools and hospitals. "We go wherever we're asked," says Barbara. "Rufus loves the attention and loves getting dressed up. He's a clown." At home, Rufus's favorite outfit is a Burberry coat. "It's his prized possession," says Barbara. "He wears it around the house, prancing, and he won't take it off, even if he gets hot."
At a playroom at the Ronald McDonald House, children gathered around Rufus, petting and hugging the dog as he lapped up the attention. They giggled when Rufus clambered from one sofa chair to the next, his legs sprawled out behind him. "I love dogs," said one of the children, Reitza Rosado Salgado, as she hugged Rufus, waiting for her mother to take a picture.
"A lot of our child patients are in Phase I clinical trials," Cherilyn Frei, Chaplain and Director of Family Support at New York City's Ronald McDonald House, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "They have rare childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma and osteosarcoma." The facility has a regular dog therapy program that brings therapy dogs to visit children every night. The occasion marked Rufus's first visit to the Ronald McDonald House, where he was an unqualified hit.
The children were delighted when Rufus changed into his second outfit of the day: a black and white tuxedo ala Cat in the Hat with a tall, red and white striped hat. "He doesn't know he's a dog," Rufus's owner, Barbara, told the cluster of children. "He likes to be talked to."
"Hi Rufus," they said, shyly, petting the dog's head.
See more inspiring animals on PEOPLEPets.com:
Pit Bull Pups Abandoned in Dumpster Bounce Back After Rescue
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