WDP - Poppy and Bramble


Jan is the proud owner of two lovely miniature Schnauzers, Poppy and Bramble. Jan has a very rare form of epilepsy and her two dogs are now fully trained therapy dogs and Bramble is also a self-taught seizure alert dog for Jan herself. Bramble is the first dog Jan has ever owned who can sense an attack and allow Jan to get to a safe point.

Jan loves this breed and it’s easy to see why. They are such charming dogs with a lovely nature. She has been around dogs for most of her life and Schnauzers for more than 25 years.

It has been a battle for Jan and her dogs, Poppy, in particular has faced setbacks and challenges through their time together, but now both dogs have become therapy dogs, even though their paths were very different.

Jan had Bramble from a puppy and she was a wonderful companion right from the start. They enjoyed their time training and socialising and Bramble gave Jan the confidence to go out and about too. Over time, Jan noticed how Bramble would react to her, not leaving her side if Bramble felt something was ‘different’. Bit by bit, it became clear that Bramble was aware when Jan’s medication was low or she was about to have a seizure and this has helped to keep Jan safe, even though that was never expected of her.

Often when they were on walks, people would stop to fuss Bramble, and some would say how they thought she would make such a good therapy dog. Jan took that as a compliment and really didn’t follow it up. She was just happy to have her companion around.

Then, one day, she decided to look further into it. It was still some months later that she plucked up the courage to apply and finally, Bramble became qualified as a therapy dog. Passing the stringent assessment tests and allowing Jan to volunteer and give a little back for all the medical help she has received down the years.

Soon after that, Poppy came along. Jan wasn’t really looking for a second dog but there was a nine-month-old black and silver dog that was looking for a new home. At first Poppy came to Jan on a trial basis, which proved to be testing for both.


Poppy and the rest of her litter had had a difficult birth which meant that the pups did not have the usual maternal contact that all puppies need. In addition, Poppy had been passed around to several different homes by the time she was less than a year old, and all of this can result in a dog taking longer to be trusting.

As Jan began socialising Poppy, she kept getting setback after setback. Poor Poppy had kennel cough and had to be isolated for five weeks and her training and socialising had to start all over again. Then Jan noticed a badly swollen eye which turned into a nasty infection. Once again there was a lot of recovery time with the socialising and training taking a back seat. It seemed everything was conspiring to set this dog back. Jan also noticed that Poppy was getting a lot of attention from male dogs. It was upsetting Poppy and high levels of hormone were diagnosed. A further hernia was discovered and required attention and to make matters worse all this additional, unwanted attention was not helping an already nervous dog.

Despite all of this, Jan decided that Poppy should stay with her and become part of the family and she worked patiently with her and today Poppy is happy, adorable and lovable. This was all that Jan ever wanted for Poppy, and it never crossed her mind that Poppy would be a therapy dog, but as it turned out, she was perfect and now she has been qualified for two years and is as excited to go to work as Bramble is.

Jan has had a lot of serious medical issues to deal with in her life and has had to lean heavily on the medical world at times. She felt this was a great way with therapy dogs to be able to give a little back.

Jan and either Poppy or Bramble visit a nursing home no more than 20 minutes’ walk from where they live. They enjoy meeting the residents and Bramble and Poppy bring so much comfort and joy to the people inside. Their visits are seen as an activity, something different for the residents and it’s lovely to get a visit from outside people especially with dogs that bring back memories and enrich their day.


Jan visits a nursing home and a residential home with either Poppy or Bramble or both dogs. She also visits a special needs school with Bramble. These school visits require experienced dogs and owners and not all dogs are the right fit, but Bramble loves it. Overall, they end up visiting someone pretty much every week.

Just recently, Jan and Bramble were one of 15 therapy dog partnerships chosen to visit the Houses of Parliament. Jan kindly wrote a piece about it for us: The event was covered by the BBC.

“Bramble and I were representing all North West areas. The event was hosted by MP Jo Johnson (Boris Johnson's brother). We were invited to de - stress high profile MP's and their staff. It was a ground-breaking visit as dogs have never been permitted entrance to The Houses of Parliament before. The dogs selected ranged from a Great Dane to a Chihuahua. No two dogs were the same breed. The reason being that dogs are non-judgemental, Therapy Dogs Nationwide accept any breed, any rescue or re-home as long as they pass our temperament assessments.

Our visit was the biggest and most important opportunity ever for our Charity. What seemed to many a daunting task to portray our Charity to its best soon eased as our dogs were fabulous and made the day a monumental privilege and a day never to be forgotten. We were greeted by high security staff for security testing. They fell in love with our dogs the moment we were allowed entrance.

It was an exceptionally busy day with endless amounts of MP's including Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Margaret Greenwood ... too many names to remember plus their staff. The MP for Health and Social care as de stressing events focus on wellbeing and mental health.

I remember glancing up at one point, there were queues waiting to see Bramble.

So many MP's and staff said they wished everyday could be like that one ... it was the best day at work they'd had. We were there for longer than planned, the day flew by .

Jo Johnson takes a keen interest in Therapy Dogs and the benefits they bring. As we were finishing, he said he'd never seen so many MP'S from across all parties in the same room before, all of them smiling. He also mentioned he hosts many events and mostly few people attend. Our visit had been the highest attended and by far the most successful event he had ever hosted.

Virtually as soon as we'd left. many MP'S were tweeting on what a fabulous day they'd had and why, who Therapy Dogs Nationwide are and the benefits our dogs give. They were still talking about our visit on twitter weeks after.


The day couldn't have gone any better. It was a fabulous promotional opportunity for our Charity which has led to many of us having further visits and contacts with our own local MP's. Our dogs did us all so proud, they worked so hard and were so well behaved. They made the day the success it was. It was an honour and privilege and an experience of a lifetime for me and all volunteers.

Therapy Dogs Nationwide are a friendly, well run Charity with a great and caring support network. As volunteers we all love what we do and put are hearts and souls into raising funds any way we can to keep our non-funded Charity going. Like dogs, we are non-judgemental. They don't have to be a pedigree. Just a friendly and calm dog who passes stringent temperament assessments.

When on duty both volunteer and Therapy Dog come with a high sum insurance each. This gives our establishments extra re-assurance, although I'm sure they would have us visiting regardless.

Our dogs are very special the way the reach people in ways that us humans can't no matter how well trained and willing we may be. The differences they make is humbling to see .

I began visiting to give something back, yet it is I who has gained so much. My life has transformed for the better from visiting. With Bramble (my confidence and guidance ) at my side, life is no more something to fear.

On a personal level I'm so proud of Bramble and Poppy and their achievements, especially with the challenges and hurdles we have faced.

Earlier this year Bramble, Poppy and Jan were awarded Therapy Dogs Nationwide Bonnie Burn Memorial Trophy for making significant differences to severe special needs children in difficult circumstances 2018 - 2019. They were presented with this award at Crufts in March this year where Therapy Dogs Nationwide annual awards day takes place.

Thank you to Jan for introducing us to your beautiful dogs and for taking the time to write about your charity and their visit to the Houses of Parliament. You can find out more about Therapy Dogs Nationwide by clicking on the link below.