The therapeutic benefits of having a dog is now well established.
But what if you can’t have a dog of your own?
Well dog groomer and pet behaviourist Thalia Counsell has come up with the answer.
She has opened Mix Mups Cuddle Cafe and where else than in the UK’s most dog friendly town, Malton.
Visitors can get much more than just a cup of tea and a cake. They can get a cuddle from one of the resident pups, all of which belong to Thalia.
“I have 12 dogs in total but not all of them have the temperament to be in the cafe,” says the mum of four who has rescued many of her dogs.
“I love Great Danes, but they are rather too big for the cafe. I tend to bring the smaller dogs, such as Nessy who’s a Scottie and Natty Nora who’s a poodle with dreadlocks. They love attention and some of them are small enough to sit on your lap.”
Thalia came up with the idea for her Mix Mups Cuddle Cafe after working with dogs in the are for 20 years.
“I used to take some of my dogs to work as a dog groomer and behaviourist. Some people would bring their dogs down and then someone suggested I should open a cuddle cafe and so I decided to do a pop up.”
Thalia was totally overwhelmed by the response.
“It was so popular that we decided to make it a permanent cafe at 8a Finkle Street in Malton.
“Malton is so dog friendly that it benefits the businesses in the town.”
Although it is all a bit of fun, Thalia says there is a serious side.
“You have to remember that the dogs are working and although they love nothing more than a good cuddle and lots of attention they do get tired,” she says.
Some people come to Mix Mups with their own dogs and puppies as part of their socialisation.
But there is a also a massive benefit to the human visitors to the cafe.
“We get people who for one reason or another can no longer have a dog of their own. They may be elderly and living in accommodation that doesn’t allow them to have a pet, or they are retired and have decided to travel a lot which is not conducive with having a pet either.
“They just love to come into the cafe and have a cuddle with one of the dogs.”
Thalia has been particularly surprised with the affect her dogs have had one young customer.
“A little girl came into the cafe who has autism and had also been frightened of dogs. She came up to me as I had one of the pups on my knee and she wanted to stroke her and then hold the dog herself.
“In the end she had her in her arms for about 20 minutes. Her parents couldn’t believe what a change they saw in her.”
Some of the dogs are allowed to wander around the cafe giving cuddles where needed and other are behind a small fence.
“Sometimes some of them can get a bit excited and so they go behind the fence where people can still see them and they can see the people
The kitchen is separate from the dogs and there is a special cuddle corner where no food is served.
But it’s not just a dog’s life at the cuddle cafe.
“We have a cat, Mr Tom, who just loves to be in the cafe. He isn’t bothered by the dogs at all.”
And it is a real family affair. All of Thalia’s children, Merry, 22, Maddie, 16, Adia, 13 and Griff, 12, are involved in one way or another with the cafe.
“Merry is a graphic designer and has helped with designing leaflets and signs and Maddie has helped with some of the photography.
“It is nice for them all to be involved.”
Thalia started out as a horse groomer for a private client, but when she had Merry she decided she wanted her own business.
“I became a dog groomer and then did an animal behaviour course. I have been doing both for the last 20 years. When I moved into Malton about 10 years ago. It is the food capital of Yorkshire which really bring people into the town and now they know they can bring their dogs too,
Mix Mups is open Saturdays and Sundays 11am till 4pm and is also available to hire for private parties, and is proving especially popular with hen parties. Customers can cuddle a variety of fur friends, French Bull Dogs, Maltese, Scotties, a Poodle and of course one cat.
Malton was named “The UK’s Most Dog Friendly Town” last October after winning the national Dog Friendly Award when the town saw off the other two finalists, Leek in Staffordshire and Keswick in the Lake District, to claim the coveted title at a ceremony in London.
Some of the reasons for the victory included the fact that dog first aid courses have been held (administering first aid to the dog), the majority of businesses are dog friendly, the Talbot hotel is supportive of dogs staying and have dog friendly rooms, the Work House Gym allows owners to take their dogs with them while they train and Willow Green Estate Agents has a dog creche for the dogs that their staff own so they can take their dogs to work. At the time Angela Egan, a campaigner for the award in Malton, said: “We are thrilled Malton has been recognised with this award, which we have campaigned so hard for. Here in Malton, we have a fantastic reputation as being Yorkshire’s Food Capital, and so now we’re thrilled to be able to add another string to our bow as The UK’s Most Dog Friendly Town.”