By Lucy Notarantonio
A pink poodle has helped to put a smile on hundreds of hospital patients’ faces after training as a therapy dog.
Seven-year-old pooch, Cupcake, has been a therapy dog for four years and her striking appearance never fails to make people smile.
Her doting owner, Karen Simmons, 62, retired from the ambulance services but wanted to continue to help people.
Karen – who owns 11 dogs – says her pooches lift her spirits daily, but Cupcake has always had a gentle persona which is why she trained her to become a therapy dog.
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.
“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.
“She goes from patient to patient and puts her head on their laps and it puts a huge smile on their face.
“I was distraught when I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2012 and had to leave my job, but Cupcake and my other dogs keep me going.
“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.
“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 gives them an opportunity 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.”
Cupcake is register 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.
All dogs have been vaccinated and patients must use anti-bacterial gel before and after stroking to avoid passing germs between patients.
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 gives 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.
“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 brightens up everyone’s day and we are so grateful for their visits.”