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Precious pals

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer MarJane Morel, activities assistant, left, and Dorothea Renner, talk as Precious takes a ride on Renner's walker Friday at St. Benedict's Health Center.

Pets at St. Benedict's Health Center in Dickinson have touched the lives of many residents over the years, said Jon Frantsvog, administrator/CEO.

"The pets that come here do remarkable healing and do remarkable things for people here," said resident Corine Seidel. "If they're upset, you put an animal on their lap and it calms them."

Three dogs, four cats and about a dozen birds call St. Benedict's home, Frantsvog said.

"The dogs and cats are pretty much free to roam about the facility. They are kind of everybody's responsibility as far as caretaking," said Dani Russell, activities director. "The dogs and cats will go and visit with our residents and they'll sleep with them and cuddle up with them and go on walks and all that good stuff."

Russell said St. Benedict's is working on getting the animals and residents involved in more activities.

"We've seen that it's really improved the morale of some of the residents to just kind of have that companionship," Russell said.

Seidel said Buttons, a dog who used to live at St. Benedict's, got her outside and made her more active.

"Before Buttons came, I was in the hospital five times in one year," Seidel said. "Buttons kept me out of the hospital for over a year, so they're great therapy."

The only place that the animals are not allowed is in dining rooms, kitchens, medication rooms and other hazardous areas, Frantsvog said.

He said some pets are more attached to people than others.

"They seem to figure out those relationships," Frantsvog said. "We don't do anything to try to guide or force that. It all happens pretty naturally."

He said the pets help the residents feel more at home.

"A good part of any home is kids running around and laughing and dogs chasing cats and things like that," Frantsvog said.

The animals come to them from several places, including animal shelters, he said.

He said the animals go through temperament testing to see how tolerant they are, Frantsvog said.

However, not every pet that comes to St. Benedict's gets to stay. A resident did not like Buttons, so he had to be removed, Seidel said.

She is sad to let Buttons go, but hopes to eventually form a bond with another animal at St. Benedict's.

"The life and the joy that children and pets bring to a home, whether that's you're home or my home, or in this case a residence home, it's magical," Frantsvog said.