Cupcake the therapy poodle visits hospital to help patients feel better

Cupcake the therapy poodle visiting patients in hospital
We love Cupcake (Picture: Caters)
When Karen Simmons, 62, developed epilepsy and had to retire from her job in the ambulance service, her 11 dogs helped her keep going. But she noticed that one of her pooches, Cupcake, was particularly good in stressful situations.

She decided that Cupcake would make a great therapy dog and now the poodle visits care homes and hospitals to make patients feel better.

Seven-year-old Cupcake has been a therapy dog for four years now and her striking appearance never fails to make people smile.

Cupcake visits the Lister hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where she puts a smile on both staff and patients’ faces. Karen, from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire said: ‘As we walk through the hospital corridors, there is a sea of smiles and it makes me happy knowing we are cheering other people up.
=Karen Simmons with Cupcake visiting a hospital patient
Karen Simmons and Cupcake visiting a hospital patient (picture: Caters News Agency)

‘Cupcake is an amazing dog who is calm and obedient – she is perfect for the job.

‘She loves meeting new people, but she is so well trained and would never jump up or bark, she knows exactly how to behave in the hospitals.

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‘She goes from patient to patient and puts her head on their laps and it puts a huge smile on their face.’

Karen developed the long-term condition epilepsy in 2012 and had to give up her job but Cupcake and the others helped her.

When she started to improve, she wanted to do something to carry on helping people.

Cupcake visiiting a hospital patient
Karen has been experimenting with colours to make Cupcake stand out on her visits (Picture: Caters News Agency)

She continued: ‘I was determined to keep on doing my bit to help other people and considering I love dogs so much it only seemed right to appoint the calmest poodle for the job.

‘She has always had something special about her and a natural ability to remain calm in stressful situations.’

Cupcake is registered with Therapy Dogs Nationwide – a charity which assesses dogs and owners for voluntary roles in hospitals, elderly homes and schools.

They have a team of 12 therapy dogs to mentally stimulate, entertain and distract the patients.

Seven-year-old pooch, Cupcake the therapy poodle
Seven-year-old pooch, Cupcake (Picture: Caters News Agency)

All dogs have been vaccinated and patients must use anti-bacterial gel before and after stroking to avoid passing germs between patients.

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Karen said: ‘We previously used to visit in nursing homes, so Cupcake is excellent with the elderly – many of which have dogs of their own at home.

‘A visit from Cupcake helps them when they are missing their pet and allows them to forget they are in hospital for a while.

‘It is fantastic to see patients’ faces light up as she walks in the room and they are always impressed with her coat.’

‘It can be hot in the hospital, so I have to keep on top of her grooming, but I recently started experimenting with colours which the patients adore.’

Jane Shaw, who is the Patient Experience Project Coordinator, at the Lister Hospital, said: ‘Hospital days can be long and a bit boring for patients, but a visit from Cupcake and the other dogs is a real highlight.

‘Patients’ faces light up when they see Cupcake and her visits give them a touch of normality and helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

‘Sometimes staff tell us that the first time they have seen a smile from a patient is when Cupcake walks on to the ward.

‘It isn’t just the patients, but the staff too who are thrilled to see Cupcake.

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‘They have very busy and intense jobs and seeing Cupcake gives them a moment to regroup and re-energise before they return to a busy day.

‘Cupcake and the other dogs brighten up everyone’s day and we are so grateful for their visits.’

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