On the evening of June 2, Ralph Dorn came looking for his Goldendoodle, a certified therapy dog named Harley. However, he couldn’t find him anywhere.
But after looking out on the lake behind his home in Culpeper, Virginia, he spotted the 6-year-old pup about 200-feet from the shore swimming with another animal. After a few moments, Ralph realized that it was a tiny fawn.
Ralph, a retired Marine Corps pilot, wasn’t sure how the baby deer got there, but he was glad that the canine did what he had to do.
“Harley obviously didn’t ask why, he just jumped into action,” Ralph, 62, wrote in a Facebook post about the incident. His post has gone viral, having received over 117,000 reactions and more than 260,000 shares on the platform.
Harley paddled with the fawn until they reached the shore. Ralph waited for them to get to land and helped the baby deer up a steep ledge. After lifting her up from the water, he placed her on the grass, and Harley began to gently lick the fawn’s tiny body.
“Harley didn’t want to leave the fawn,” Ralph told PEOPLE. “He just kept interacting with it, licking it, caring for it.”
Shortly after they reached the shore, the fawn’s mother appeared on the lawn. When Ralph saw her, he took Harley inside their home nearby. The doe waited until both dog and owner were gone before walking off with her young.
The following morning, Ralph and his wife, Patricia, 64, were drinking coffee when Harley became frantic.
“Harley got restless running from window to window. I opened the front door and we could hear the fawn bleating,” Ralph wrote in his Facebook post.
The certified therapy dog then ran into the tree line and found the fawn. At that moment, the little one stopped bleating, and with their tails wagging, the two animals touched noses and sniffed each other. After their brief reunion, Harley calmly came back inside the house with Ralph.
The fawn also settled down, and by the end of the day, the baby deer and her mom were gone again. Ralph estimates the fawn was only a few days old, and ever since leaving for the second time, they haven’t seen the pair again.
Harley’s heartwarming gesture is nothing new to Ralph and Patricia.
“We could tell right away, even as a puppy, he had such a good heart,” Ralph said. “He has always been like that with children and animals. He loves them all.”
His gentle demeanor made him the perfect certified therapy dog, having worked before with the elderly in care facilities and sitting with kids during reading hours at the local library.
Ralph’s four grandchildren also love the dog to bits.
“He’s 100 percent glued to them,” he said.
But what surprised Ralph and Pat, a retired Navy nurse, are the thousands of positive comments their sweet dog has received on Facebook.
Pat said they were “amazed” and “had no idea of the reaction.”
People were just really glad to see a story about an animal’s kindness. Here are some of the comments they left on Ralph’s Facebook post.
“Aww…this is one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. Good job Harley!”
“Oh WOW! I think this is the most awesome real animal story I have seen! Thank you for posting this!”
“Awww that is awesome- he deserves a special treat! His instincts just kicked right in- he’s a hero!”
They even received direct messages from people who have shared Harley’s rescue photos and videos with their grief groups.
“We’re very happy that it has touched so many people and brought joy to so many as well,” Ralph said.
Here’s the footage of Harley and the fawn as they reached the shore.
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