Coco the Superpug Therapet

Posted by in May's Magazine

Regular Leither readers may be familiar with the pictured pug. Coco is also known as ‘the fitness pug’ as she works in my personal training studio on Balfour Street. By work, I mean she sits in the corner looking awfully sweet, and is always up for a pug hug at the end of a good workout.

Over the last couple of years many folk who were apprehensive about fitness have really warmed to the wee furry creature. She’s a real icebreaker. So when I heard about local charity Canine Concern and their work with Therapets, I decided to sign Coco up.



It’s a fairly straightforward process, starting with a number of forms to be completed and returned. Once the forms were posted off and the human owner signed up as a Canine Concern member, Coco was able to sit her Therapet entrance exam. This involved a local Canine Concern examiner coming to the studio to see how personable and well behaved the little duggy was. No jumping up allowed, and the canine has to be of a friendly (but not too rambunctious) disposition.

I was thankful that we’d taken her to puppy training lessons at Portobello with ‘Lynn the Dog Lady’ (highly recommended for puppy training and socialisation) and Coco passed the Therapet exam with flying colours. Then came the six-week process of getting my credentials checked with Disclosure Scotland to ensure I’m an upstanding member of society with no criminal record. All processes passed, we were then good to go.

I had in mind volunteering at the St Columba’s Hospice in Trinity, as they looked after a dear friend of ours a while ago, however they were over-subscribed for Therapets. No worries, we were offered a placement at Findlay House in Seafield, a NHS facility for patients with dementia and older folks with behavioural issues (meaning that they can’t go to a traditional nursing home). I have to admit I approached our first couple of visits with trepidation. Neither Coco nor I had done such visiting before and I think we were a bit overwhelmed initially. We’re getting to know the patients and nursing staff now and they are delightful.

Some people, including some vets, seem to believe it’s irresponsible to encourage the breeding of brachiophilic (flat-faced) pets due to potential health issues. It’s true some overweight pugs I’ve met have breathing difficulties that would be improved if they lost weight (and some humans too). Sadly people like to overfeed cute dogs, it’s not the dog’s fault, you have to be disciplined to be a responsible pug owner. Coco has had no health issues in her four years of living with us, and I like to think it’s because she is active with a good varied diet.

The video of her eating the tender kale plants in our allotment went viral with over 20,000 views, it’s the pinned tweet @cocofitnesspug, so it shows a healthy pug is a popular pug. Pugs are in fact one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world, during the Ming dynasty pugs were popular with Chinese emperors and were bred as companion dogs for ruling families. Pugs were brought from China to Eastern Europe in the 16th century and are well known for their affable nature. They love humans.

In fact, Coco seems to prefer humans to other dogs (perhaps because we are more likely to have food), and it was because of this I thought Coco would make a happy Therapet. And she loves it! Coco gets more and more excited as we make our fortnightly walk along Restalrig Path to Findlay House. She knows when the dedicated Therapet leash comes out that she will be getting lots of pats and attention. As she is only wee, it is very easy to hold her up so patients who are bed-bound or in wheelchairs can enjoy a pat. There’s something very special about seeing a patient respond to stroking the softness of her fur, and remembering dogs they have had as pets.

Coco was actually named after another pug my husband and I met in Australia. We loved the original Coco so much that we decided to get the same type of dog here in Leith. Coco the Second! And over the last four years she’s become my Constant Companion, Co-Conspirator and Confidential Colleague. She’s so CoCo!

Canine Concern Scotland Trust was formed in 1988 to help dogs and their owners, and to improve their position in present-day society. Its aims are to:

Provide an educational service to promote responsible dog ownership in Scotland by visiting schools to reach dog owners of the future, or to give talks, supply useful literature and advice to any interested Community Groups.

Establish and manage a service to be known as “Therapet”.

Further the role and care of dogs in Scotland, either directly or in co-operation with Government, Local Authorities and other organisations in Scotland, whether charitable or not.

Promote research into the therapeutic value of dogs to patients or others isolated from normal association with pets.

Canine Concern has also launched the ‘Reading with Dogs’ initiative, where youngsters practise their reading skills by reading to dogs. Find out more about Canine Concern at ν

Twitter: @griffenfitness

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