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A Significant Medical History

Listen to Poppy receiving her award at the Diamond Event

POPPY is not one of those pesky visitors who bring you grapes and then eats them all in front of you.

All she asks for is a biscuit when her work is done.

It's not much for all the pleasure she brings to the young patients at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

At four, Poppy, a beautiful Springer Spaniel, is still a bit of a kid herself but she knows how to behave with decorum because she is an important member of the Therapet service run by the charity, Canine Concern Scotland Trust.

"She just loves people. She is a cuddly dog," says Poppy's owner, Anne Macdonald.

"She will ‘coorie’ up to them and can be reluctant to leave."

Poppy is an expert in bringing a smile to the saddest little faces.

"Parents will say to me: ‘That's the first time I've seen them smile in days'," Anne says proudly.

"Poppy will know when she walks into the ward that this is serious work."

And children tell Anne: "My mum won't let me get a dog."

"Or they have a dog and are missing it," she says.

Poppy has a lot of experience. She has made hundreds of visits over three years after taking over from Anne's first Springer Spaniel, Eilidh, who is now retired.

Anne, 49, of Neilston, East Renfrewshire, who is married with 17-year-old twins, started volunteering when the children started primary school 12 years ago.

Eilidh was a puppy then and Anne had read about Therapets, which uses animals, mostly dogs, to cheer up or help heal hospital patients.

Some handlers and dogs even visit prison psychiatric units too, where they can help with patients' rehab. For some they are the only visitor.

Anne and Poppy visit at the Southern General spinal injuries unit and the rehabilitation unit.

They have also done sterling work among children with serious dog phobias.

Sometimes, she says, a child can be so anxious about seeing a dog they run across a road heedlessly to avoid them.

She said: "Within half an hour, I have always managed to get the child speaking to the dog and able to touch it."


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Poppy is Ann's second Therapet and knows her job is a serious business

Poppy was happy to visit Freya Murdoch, 9, and her mum Aileen from East Kilbride

Poppy comforts with Rachel Hood, 13 from East Kilbride