Windsor – Everyday our residents and staff light up with smiles and exuberance when they get to see “Denver,” a 16-week-old Golden Labrador Retriever puppy as he visits around our buildings.  Denver is the newest regular pet visitor to our skilled nursing facility and rehabilitation center. His owner is Milissa Howard, our Human Resources Director, who enjoys the happiness her puppy brings.

Cedar Hill’s residents can be found petting and holding our many furry visitors with a look of joy even for the most reserved of residents.  At the Village, you will be welcomed by our Administrative Assistant, Barbara Greer and her Shih tzu “Diva.” Diva camps graciously at the Village front entrance where visitors, resident and staff stop to pet her and, of course, give her treats.  Diva has been coming to work for four years and makes her fans’ days a little happier.

Studies have shown that holding or petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, release strain and tension, and draw a person out of loneliness and depression, according to Therapy Dogs International, Inc.   Pet Therapy has expanded to include cats, bunnies, birds, and even more animals. Therapy animals are trained to be particularly gentle and to enjoy being patted by different people. They are trained to tolerate wheelchairs, walkers, canes and any assisted devices in most health care settings. In, short, pet therapy animals bring a truly special animal-human bond to people in assisted living facilities, memory care units, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other places where residents no longer have easy access to pets. 

At Cedar Hill, one of our trained pet therapy animals is Milo, a coon hound whom mingles easily among residents, staff and family members. His owner, Claire Falcone, found the abandoned 2-year-old dog and nurtured Milo in her home. Claire is part of a local 4-H group. Milo then became a registered Pet Therapy dog whom our residents have gotten to know well.  Milo’s 100th Pet Therapy visit in the community will be to Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community on October 23, 2019.

The Cedar Hill campus does have a few rules around animals that visit or are part of the community.  Prior to an animal moving into our community or first visiting, a veterinarian must have examined the animal within the last 3 months and must write a statement that the animal is in good health and all vaccinations are current.  

Throughout the Cedar Hill campus – which includes not only a nursing and rehab center, but independent and assisted living and memory care — we encourage local farmers and family members to bring in their family pets to visit so residents can feel that Cedar Hill is more like living at home.  We have hosted a variety of animals, including miniature donkeys, “GU Gus” the baby lamb, “Minnie” the bunny, and “Bonnie & Clyde,” our resident cockatiel birds. Many residents on campus express wonderment and joy over having animals in their lives. “I think soft, cuddly animals are worth looking at each day. I’ve had dogs my whole life, yet guinea pigs are my favorite.  Animals make me feel happy and not so alone “, states Betty Appleton. As for Judy Voghell, she easily shares her love of birds watching a birdfeeder right outside her room window. “I look at the birds and feel like I’m home again. Mostly I love to open my widow here at Cedar Hill and listen to the birds sing, especially the Baltimore Orioles.”

Cedar Hill’s ability to incorporate Pet and Plant therapy into our daily activities is a fundamental part of our ongoing philosophy for improving senior living experiences.   Mary Louise Sayles, founder and principal owner of Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community, has been a lover of animals and plants from an early age. Her very first dog was a stray female German Shepard who had delivered 13 puppies. As Mary Louise’s career in nursing led to her to nursing home administration in both Vermont and New Hampshire, she has incorporated Pet and Plant Therapy into all of the nursing homes and assisted living she has owned or run. 

“I have had animals my whole life. They are a big part of my life and go everywhere I go. I would not want our seniors to live without their animals,” she said. “Pets bring that wonderful unconditional bond of love and joy that we all need in our lives.”

Cedar Hill’s Assisted Living campus encourages residents who have cats or small dogs to move in with their animals and avoid that separation anxiety. 

The Village at Cedar Hill is home to nine cats (four of which live with residents in the Memory Care Unit) and one dog.  Family member and staff often bring in their pets from home as they visit their relatives and residents alike.

As Sayles puts it: “Animals bring us that sense of LIFE and home.”


Cedar Hill, located on Route 5 in Windsor, offers Independent and Assisted Living residential care with a Memory Care unit, and a Skilled Nursing Facility for short-term rehabilitation and long-term care with a dementia care unit.