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Seniors bake doggie treats in challenge

ABERDEEN, S.D. >> Many of the residents at Primrose Place have been baking their whole lives.

So this autumn, the life enrichment coordinators at different Primrose properties in town challenged some of the residents to try a new recipe — one for the dogs, the Aberdeen News reported.

“We basically want to instill quality programming — more like purposeful programming,” said Kelsey Hunt, the life enrichment coordinator for Primrose Place.

On a snowy October Friday, Gina Breitling, Mary Ellen Heitmann and Alene Hilsendeger were mixing up dough for dog treats — something none of them would have made before moving to the assisted-living facility.

I asked them about what they thought about baking for dogs, adding that I know what my own 91-year-old grandmother would think of it. She’s a woman who likes pets outside, and I’m pretty sure the only thing she’d ever feed a pet from her kitchen is scraps.

“I think I’d be with your grandma,” said Breitling, who previously lived in Ipswich.

The residents do bake for humans quite a bit, Hunt said.

“Sometimes we’ll do baking where they’ll make a treat, and maybe we’ll send it with them to a doctor’s appointment,” Hunt said. “Especially around the holidays we do that quite frequently just because it’s such a nice surprise.”

It was something they did out of necessity when they were younger, raising families.

“If I wanted sweets I had to bake them,” said Heitmann, who lived in Eden before moving to Aberdeen.

The dog treats will head out to the animals awaiting adoption at the Aberdeen Area Humane Society, she added.

Not only do the residents get to make the dog treats, they go out and visit the dogs when the treats are dropped off, said Erin Paulson, life enrichment coordinator at Primrose Cottages, which is on the south side of town.

Making the treats was a group effort. Each lady measured a different ingredient. Breitling ended up having to measure out the sticky peanut butter. The dough is stiff, but that’s needed for the crispy crunch dogs like in a treat.

There are dogs that visit Primrose Place quite frequently, and one resident has a cat, Hunt said. And many of the bakers previously had pets.

Hilsendeger, who has lived in Aberdeen since childhood, didn’t have pets after her husband died. That was when her youngest son was 5. But it was a different story when he was alive.

“When he was around, he had more dogs than kids, I think,” said Hilsendeger, who had six kids.

While the dog treats are safe for humans to eat, they’re likely much more tasty for canine companions.

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