When Brenda Cupitt was given just hours to live, her first thought was making sure that her final cheque was delivered to her beloved charity, Support Dogs.
Brenda, of Jordanthorpe, had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and when she developed a chest infection as a result of the chemotherapy, she became so ill, she was not expected to survive.
But from her bed in intensive care, Brenda was insistent that her annual cheque to the charity she has supported for the past 15 years was handed over.
Happily, 79-year-old Brenda has since made a ‘miraculous’ recovery.
The stalwart supporter of the Sheffield-based assistance dog charity, who has helped to raised £27,000 in just six years, has now been allowed back home, and has been reunited with her much-loved support dog, Nelson.
“I was given a choice of six dogs, but Nelson ambled in, lay down on my feet and looked at me with those eyes, and that was it,” recalls Brenda.
Like all trained support dogs, Nelson is trained to be Brenda’s personal carer and to keep her safe, as well as performing vital everyday tasks such as fetching post, picking up dropped items, loading and unloading the washing machine – and even helping Brenda to strip the bed and take off her socks.
Support Dogs instructor Tracey Moore, who trained Nelson and has known Brenda for many years, says: “Brenda is an amazing lady, well-known throughout Sheffield for her fundraising efforts and complete dedication to Support Dogs, but we can’t quite believe she’s made such a remarkable recovery; she stopped breathing three times and was literally on her death bed.”
Brenda had struggled with severe osteoarthritis in most of her joints but particularly in her spine, which limited her mobility, when she got her first support dog, a crossbreed called Millie, from Thornbury Animal Sanctuary.
Millie was trained by Support Dogs as Brenda’s assistance dog until retiring at the age of ten. The charity then sourced her second dog, black Labrador Nelson, and the pair have been inseparable until Brenda’s recent hospital stay.
“Millie, and now Nelson, changed my life,” says Brenda.
“Before I had them I hardly dared to go out, I was always dropping things that I couldn’t pick up, or reach for items on the bottom shelf of the supermarket, but the dogs do all that for me now – Nelson even finds my purse and helps me pay at the checkout.”
In fact when Brenda gives talks to local groups she takes along photos of Nelson in action, as her audiences could not believe just how much Nelson was able to do for her.
As a way of giving back to the charity that provided her with a lifeline, Brenda held her first coffee morning, which raised £250, and over the years the now annual event brings in considerably more. She has also assembled a group of friends who use their skills in sewing, needlework and knitting and painting to produce saleable goods, from bags to Easter chickens and Christmas stockings, which they sell to raise funds. Even during her recent hospital stay, Brenda didn’t stop knitting.
“Support Dogs have done so much for me I wanted to put something back, and to help someone else to have a dog,” explains Brenda, who built up a strong relationship with Sainsbury’s in Halifax Road, which has since adopted Support Dogs as its charity of the year.
“It costs £20,000 to train a dog, and there are so many people waiting for one.”
The Star launched its ‘Pounds For Pups’ campaign last month, to highlight the excellent work Support Dogs is doing in the city, and across the region. We’re asking our readers to help us raise £5,000 towards one dog’s training – and to help to change somebody’s life in the process.
Through its three training programmes – for disability support dogs, autism dogs and seizure alert dogs – the charity uses an entirely reward-based system to teach special dogs to carry out a wide range of tasks that make life safer and easier for its clients.
“I’m so impressed with the team at Support Dogs; they’re so professional,” adds Brenda, who is now back home and practising walking with a frame. And although she gets tired, she is doing remarkably well. She celebrated her 79th birthday recently with a family party - with Nelson as the guest of honour.
Support Dogs’ chief executive Rita Howson says: “Brenda is a real star, and we’re so pleased that she’s well on the way to recovery.
“We rely completely on the efforts of people like Brenda to keep on doing what we do, and she’s one of the absolute best.”
Visit Support Dogs to find out more about how you can help us reach our £5,000 goal. Alternatively, text SDogs15 (and the amount you’d like to give) to 70070, or call 0114 2617800.
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