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Pets bring joy to work in Butler County

Therapy dog Henrietta at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Summit Township on June 13. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

Cranberry Veterinary Hospital has two black domestic shorthair office cats, named Bella and Raven. Bella, who is about 15 years old, has lived at the hospital for about five years. Raven, who is around 6 years old, came to the hospital after Bella as a stray after being injured, possibly from a car accident.

“We took (Raven) in since we didn't know anyone who wanted to adopt a black cat that was semi-feral. She stayed here and has very well adapted to hospital cat living and now runs this place,” said Heather Buchino, a head veterinary technician at the hospital.

Bella’s former owner was a client of the hospital who gave her up because they could no longer take care of her. Bella’s former owner still comes to visit her.

“Bella is the sweetest, most gentle, little old kitty that there is,” Buchino said. “She’s got more medical problems these days, but luckily living at the hospital she gets all of the care that she could ever want, even though she probably doesn’t want the extra care that she gets.”

Raven, on the other hand, is more energetic with hospital staff describing her as “feisty.”

“She will literally around like four, four-thirty just stand on the corner of the table over there and just meow and demand food. And if you're trying to work at the computer station over there, she will literally smack at you until you feed her. So she gets very demanding whenever it's food time,” Buchino explained.

Raven is more social than Bella, and often sits on top of cat carriers to look inside and greet the inhabitants.

Bella and Raven live at the hospital in the back treatment area. They have access to roam the exam rooms when the hospital is closed.

Touch of style

Remi, short for Remington, is a 12-year-old male border collie who goes to work with Deb Schultheis at A Touch of Style beauty salon, located in Cranberry Township.

Remi, whom Schultheis lovingly refers to as her “assistant,” accompanies her about twice a month, usually on Fridays. He is an avid greeter and rushes to the door to meet entering patrons.

“He just wants to greet everybody,” Schultheis said.

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Beth Rhodagerger, RN, Dr. Victor Onufrey and Patti Shirilla, RN, visit therapy dog Henrietta on June 13. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

Schultheis said she has brought Remi to A Touch of Style for over a decade, since he was a puppy. She initially brought Remi to introduce him to the rest of the staff, and he became popular with patrons.

“I’ve actually had people come back and ask, ‘where’s Remi?’” Schultheis said. “He’s pretty popular. He grows on people like that.”

For one of Schultheis’ clients, the love for Remi went a step beyond. Betty and Fred Abdon, who have been married for nearly 75 years, occasionally dog-sit Remi. Schultheis has cut Betty’s hair for over 20 years.

“They had lost their beagle, so it was kind of like a timeshare dog for them,” Schultheis explained. “They got to walk the dog, and she got to fuss over him and they loved it.”

“It’s nice to be greeted by Remi,” Betty said. “He loves to be with you.”

Schultheis is mindful of people who don’t like dogs. She checks with her coworkers to make sure they don’t have any clients coming in who are uncomfortable with dogs.

“I’m usually pretty cautious … I don’t want to upset anybody,” Schultheis said.

Therapy dog

Henrietta is a 2-year-old female golden doodle who is a registered therapy dog at Independence Health System. Her caretaker is Stacy Meyer, who is an oncology patient navigator. Henrietta goes home with Meyer each day but is considered an employee of the health system.

Henrietta mainly greets patients in the waiting room and will sometimes accompany them in the exam rooms. Meyer said patients sometimes specifically request to see Henrietta.

“(Henrietta) met with a patient and wife, and it was their second time seeing Henrietta. They just couldn't wait to see her,” Meyer said. “She said, ‘I think we're gonna start looking for a golden doodle. I am in love with her, and I want what you have.”

Henrietta was adopted using a monetary donation from Rosie Hanna, the wife of former cancer patient John Hanna. Rosie held a fundraiser to adopt Henrietta for Independence Health System because she thought it would be helpful for the cancer support group to have a therapy dog. After Henrietta was adopted, Rosie fostered a dog, named Macie, for the first time.

Henrietta has come to work with Meyer for two years and is registered as a therapy dog through the American Kennel Club.

“In order to become a therapy dog, you must be at least a year old and be able to pass the test, which is a lot of work,” Meyer said.

Henrietta is named in honor of Dr. Henry Sinopoli, who was a member of a cancer support group.

“(Dr. Sinopoli) was always friendly, welcoming and most of all enjoyed educating others about cancer innovations and findings,” Meyer said. “He certainly was a group advocate and motivator. He will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Henrietta has toys, a dog bed and food bowl at the office so that she can relax when not working with patients, families and staff.

“Henrietta definitely changes the mood in the work environment, especially for our patients. She can't wait to see our patients. She definitely knows her job,” Meyer said.

Stacy Meyer walks the halls with therapy dog Henrietta at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Summit Township on June 13. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Therapy dog Henrietta visits Jack Paganellia at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Summit Township on June 13.Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle)
Candice Bricker, Stacy Meyer and Traci Osterling are greeted by therapy dog Henrietta at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Summit Township on June 13. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Therapy dog Henrietta visits with Jack Paganelli, a patient at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Summit Township on June 13. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

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