With a wag of his tail and the gentlest of nuzzles, ‘Jigsaw Junior’ the cocker spaniel is bringing a smile to the faces of poorly children and young people.

Junior is a regular visitor at Jigsaw, Cumbria’s Children’s Hospice, with his owner Jacqui Clapperton much to the delight of patients, staff and visitors at the centre in Durdar Road, Carlisle and its sister Eden Valley Hospice.

“Once I put his work jacket on him, he seems to understand and does an amazing job in Jigsaw,” said Jacqui.

Junior is a registered Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog who has gone through assessment to confirm his suitability for the role.

His temperament, patience and willingness to be cuddled a lot is the most important quality for the role of a PAT dog.

He even has his own Instagram page, allowing his experiences be shared.

Jacqui bought Junior seven years ago to help with the grief of losing her father and sister within two months of each other. She had sadly lost her mum four years earlier.

She said: “Junior has helped myself and my family through some very sad times, he has helped us to create some happy memories, this was my inspiration for him becoming a PAT dog.

“He is perfect for the role and I’m sure he will help to create some happy memories with everyone in Jigsaw and Eden Valley Hospice.’’

Jacqui is an activities co-ordinator within Jigsaw and takes Junior into the hospice two or three times a week and on occasions visiting the adult unit.

“Some of our children and young adults have limited mobility, Junior is happy to sit beside them and allow them to stroke him and even brush his ears,” she added.

“He has been known to play hide and seek with some of our younger children! For those who have dogs at home, Junior brings some normality to their stay at the hospice.”

Staff at the hospice, on Durdar Road, have been impressed with Junior.

And they say the impact his visits have on the youngsters he meets - and their families - cannot be underestimated.

Rachael Kegg, Jigsaw team leader, said: “He’s so very well behaved and gentle.

“The children and young people get so excited to see him – it really is a special treat.

“He adds fun to the day and seems to improve mood and reduce anxiety in the children and young people.

“They love to stroke his golden coat and cuddle into him and provides comfort just by being present, which enhances emotional wellbeing.’’

Jigsaw is Cumbria’s only children’s hospice providing support to children and young adults with life-limiting conditions.