'One-in-a-million' dog who transformed St Albans man's life to receive award at Parliament

PUBLISHED: 10:06 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:11 25 October 2018

St Albans man Paul Phillips and Ralph, the golden retriever who has won an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Picture: Paul Phillips.

St Albans man Paul Phillips and Ralph, the golden retriever who has won an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Picture: Paul Phillips.

Archant

When St Albans man Paul Phillips was released from hospital after a car crash left him paralysed from the chest down, all he had to look forward to was a life of 24-hour care living with his parents.

His dream of becoming a carpenter ended when he was involved in a late night crash six years ago and received a severe spinal cord injury; all of which caused him to fall into a deep depression. Until he met Ralph.

Paul had seen another wheelchair user attend a football match independently with the aid of an assistance dog and thought such a companion could help him too.

He found Canine Partners, a charity which pairs disabled people with suitable assistance dogs, then two years ago he met golden retriever Ralph and an instant bond was formed.

Paul, 26, said: “Ralph immediately chose me. He came in the room and when told to say hello he immediately jumped up on me and licked my face then sat by my side for the rest of the day.

“We had a two-week training course together and since then he has completely transformed my life.”

While many dog owners can content themselves with a dog which sits and goes outside to use the loo, Ralph is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a dog.

He fetches remote controls, picks up dropped items and helps remove Paul’s jacket by tugging the sleeve with his mouth, but only when given a special command.

Having Ralph has also allowed Paul to move into his own flat and get out and about in an off-road wheelchair, with Ralph jumping up to press the button on pedestrian crossings.

Paul said: “The main thing he’s done for me is massively improve my health and outlook. I used to feel anxious about everything and stay in bed half the day or just play computer games.

“Ralph has given me purpose and made me more sociable. Before if I did go outside in my wheelchair, people would look the other way, but with Ralph by my side, people stop to talk to us and I feel more confident to do new things.”

Ralph is now being recognised with the Animal of the Year Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at an awards ceremony at the House of Lords today (October 16).

IFAW’s UK director Philip Mansbridge said: “Ralph is a genuine dog in a million and a very deserving winner.”

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