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Some things never change, even with age. Whether young or old, many people love the feeling of stroking their hands through the soft fur of an animal and seeing that animal give them a dopey smile, or close their eyes in bliss or respond back with a gentle, thankful lick. Perhaps it’s the simple act of expressing how much they care for one another that conveys genuine happiness to both the animals and the people. Whatever the reason, associates at The Cardinal at North Hills have witnessed the pure delight that seniors living in the health care services building, The Pines at The Cardinal, experience during visits with animals and as a result, they ensure residents have weekly therapeutic visits from their furry friends. They don’t limit the visits to just dogs though. They have incorporated three miniature horses as well. The timing of the visits varies each week, giving the residents flexibility for when they can interact with the animals. The benefits that team members and family members have seen firsthand have been truly amazing.


“When residents engage with the animals, we see an immediate shift in their moods. As soon as they see the dogs with wagging tails, their spirits rise and their sense of well-being improves,” said Susan Drury-Rohner, wellness director of The Cardinal at North Hills. “For residents who cannot commit to having a pet full time, this gives them the opportunity interact with animals, which provides a different type of companionship than they get from interaction with friends and family. These visits encourage communication and improve social skills among residents as well. They are able to reminisce about their previous pets and share stories. There are so many benefits that the residents experience, which is why we make a point to schedule them each week or sometimes twice a week. These visits are very important to our residents.”


According to PAWS for People, a nonprofit that offers pet therapy, animal therapy provides the following benefits:


Physical Health: 

•             Lowers blood pressure

•             Improves cardiovascular health

•             Releases endorphins that provide a calming effect

•             Decreases overall physical pain, reducing the amount of medication some patients need

•             Relaxation (petting produces a relaxation response in the body)


Mental Health:


•             Lifts spirits and eases depression or anxiety

•             Decreases feelings of loneliness, isolation and alienation

•             Improves communication and socialization 

•             Reduces boredom

•             Motivates the patient to recover more quickly

•             In dementia patients, visiting with animals may recover memories with their own pets




•             Increases joint movement and improves recovery time

•             Maintains or increases motor skills

•             Motivates people to move more, stretch farther and exercise longer


“We are delighted to offer this therapy – among others – to residents living at The Cardinal,” said Tom Ford, executive director of The Cardinal at North Hills. “From the animal therapy to therapeutic art activities; from water exercises that are easy on the joints to music therapy and more, there is something for everyone to enjoy and help them find tranquility and meaning every day. We promote The Art of Living Well in everything that we do for residents as we want them to live the highest quality of life possible in our community. We seek to provide opportunities for growth, learning, serenity, new experiences and more. We live by a standard of conduct which encompasses honesty, accountability, personal development and a passion for excellence.”