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Pet therapy

Meet Maggie, the DCAC’s therapy dog

Maggie, DCAC's therapy dog She has long, silky fur and always seems to be smiling. She is Maggie, a trained therapy dog, who is an associate, of sorts, for the Sanford Health Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC). Although she comes to work with her mom, Shannon Hilfer, licensed professional clinical counselor, and can occasionally nap in Hilfer’s office, Maggie’s job responsibilities are critically important to the children served by the DCAC.

Children who have suffered abuse often feel fear and embarrassment over what happened. Hilfer said children often feel anxious about having to tell their story. She finds Maggie’s presence key in relaxing them. When Hilfer brings Maggie into the room, she said most children’s faces instantly light up. After a few minutes of small talk, she said they are usually no longer scared.

“Maggie accepts the kids unconditionally,” Hilfer said. “She doesn’t care what has happened to them, how much money they have, where they live or how they look. She has a tail wag and lick for each of them and the kids are quick to return the affection.” Maggie’s universal acceptance of the children makes it easier for them to tell their stories.

Following the forensic interview and the physical examination, in situations where it was clear that abuse really did occur, a treatment plan is developed for each child. The plan focuses on helping the child fully recover.

When appropriate, Maggie is worked into the treatment plan. According to Hilfer, children who have been abused typically don’t like being touched. These children need to relearn what a safe touch is. Maggie is safe. Maggie loves to be brushed, massaged and petted, so she helps children learn how to trust and love again.

No matter how many months or years of therapy are required, all DCAC services are free. For information on how to help, call the Sanford Health Foundation at 701.323.8450.



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