Kevin Riordan: Sweet help from 'smallest service dog'

Cupcake helps Moorestown woman after loss of a hand.

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Cupcake, the world's smallest service dog, according to Guinness World Records. She lives in Moorestown with her human, Angela Bain.

"I had two hands back then," Angela Bain says.

She's recalling life before she lost her home, family, and left arm - and before she found a Chihuahua named Cupcake, a calling, and a bit of celebrity, too.

Cupcake's petite dimensions (6.25 inches, 2.2 pounds) and peerless talent (for love, for fetching necessities) have earned her a 2013 Guinness world record as "the world's smallest service dog."

The long-haired, apple-headed teacup Chihuahua stars on a Guinness home page video; she and Bain also appeared on Good Morning America Sept. 13, sandwiched between a gargantuan Great Dane and a dude with the "world's tallest Mohawk" hairdo.

"Cupcake is my blessed angel," says Bain, 47, who became homeless a decade ago after a series of personal calamities.

"She loves to give people hope and encouragement, not to give up like Mommy did, once before. And she's also a vegetarian."

I meet Cupcake at the cozy Moorestown apartment she and "Mommy" share. Bain's boyfriend, Kevin Davis, 55, is visiting as well, but the space clearly belongs to a tiny Chihuahua with a huge personality.

"Cupcake thinks she's a human being," Bain explains as the dog gives me what I swear is a knowing look.

"Set pretty, Cupcake," Bain says, attempting to adjust the position of the squirrel-size puff of fluff in her lap.

Having lost my fear of inadvertently stepping on the endearing little pooch, who seems to be everywhere at once, I take a look through binders of photos showing Bain and Cupcake in matching outfits.

Debbie Knapp of Clayton, a member of Bain's extensive network of friends, has sewn about 100 of the themed costumes, at cost. "Angie is a very special person," she explains.

"This is what we do," says Bain, who worked for years as a nursing home aide but who is now disabled, having lost her left arm below the elbow after complications from wrist surgery 10 years ago.

"We get dressed up and visit people . . . older people who are alone, people in nursing homes, sick kids.

"Before I met Kevin, who drives us now, it used to be me and Cupcake on the bus," adds Bain, who carries a business card titled The smile makers . . . Cupcake, Angie and Kevin. "We do it all for charity."

The St. John of God School is a favorite stop.

"It really is such a positive, exciting experience," says Debranne Quinn, program supervisor at the Here We Grow Learning Center at St. John of God's Deptford campus.

"Kids who aren't saying many words at all have started saying 'Cupcake' and 'dog' after the visits," she says.

Bain put $3,000 on a credit card to buy Cupcake online from a Georgia breeder in 2006. The dog was four months old and weighed 10 ounces.

"I had to hand-feed her, because she wouldn't eat nothing," Bain says. "I tried everything, and then one day I gave her some carrots and broccoli. Mommy is a big vegetarian. And that was all it took."

Cupcake also seemed to know by instinct when Bain was in pain from her condition, which is similar to muscular dystrophy.

"She's very intuitive," Davis observes.

"I didn't have to train her," Bain adds. "She does it naturally."

She and Davis also gave Cupcake CPR after she was injured by a falling shelf. They rushed her to the Maple Shade Animal Hospital.

"Angela has kept Cupcake alive," veterinarian David Heller says, noting that the dog - who requires regular liver scans and other checkups due to her size - helps her caretaker immeasurably in return.

Bain doesn't know the whereabouts of her grown son, and she lost her only brother to leukemia three years ago.

"I've had a lot of tragedy," she says. "After living on the street, I appreciate every little thing."

Including a very little thing named Cupcake.

 


To see a video of Cupcake and Angela Bain, visit www.guinnessworldrecords.com/

Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845, kriordan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the Metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.phillynews.com/blinq.