October 29, 2015
Mel Rose, the new executive director for Home on the Range, proudly displays a sign in her office that reads, “Pray more…worry less.”
It’s a very simple sign, but signifies something big for Dr. Rose. She hadn’t planned to move to North Dakota—much less a very remote corner of it—but when the job opening came up, it sounded like a perfect fit.
“I’ve worked in the secular setting where things like prayer, forgiveness, grace and compassion are often talked about, but not applied,” Rose said. “That can be problematic and frustrating. Something just clicked when I came across an organization that builds that foundation on the Catholic value system, I knew I would be able to talk about and practice these values in a Catholic setting.”
Dr. Rose began at the facility on Aug. 1, the day of the annual Champions Ride Rodeo. It was a fitting day to jump right in and begin her new adventure.
She has lived in Colorado, Wyoming and most recently Alaska, working at other residential treatment facilities for at-risk youth. Her passion for animal therapy and hands-on treatment activities in an outdoor setting made for an easy transition.
She considers the new job at Home on the Range a gift from God. One of the main components that drew her in was animal therapy, which this facility is noted for. She’s always had an affinity for animals, specifically horses, and a deep appreciation for the effectiveness of animal therapy. She recalled her time working at Boston Children’s Hospital when a puppy was brought in for a terminally-ill little girl as a Make-A-Wish request. The puppy didn’t display typical, hyper puppy behavior, but was glued to the girl’s side.
“That experience really drove home for me the incredible comfort people can derive from this type of companion,” Rose said. “It’s about being in a relationship. You can develop an appreciation for how animals can be effective co-therapists.”
So much of our lives revolve around the relationships, Rose noted. Through the animals, the kids are able to recognize how their behavior influences relationships. They can then translate that to their personal lives and build on their successes.
Home on the Range is licensed to accommodate 46 boys and girls, ages 12–19, who have previously had issues in school, at home or involved the legal system. Father Elwood Cassedy began the home for boys in 1950 on donated ranch land in a remote southwest corner of the state near Sentinel Butte. Upon Fr. Cassedy’s death in 1959, Fr. Fahnlander took over and remained active until his death in 2001.
With the Catholic faith as the foundation, the ranch still runs on their philosophy that society has a moral responsibility to care for troubled youth. Those gifts of prayer, forgiveness, grace and compassion that Dr. Rose said go unspoken at other facilities are practiced here through the guidance and power of God.
In addition to further enhancing the animal therapy programs at the ranch, Dr. Rose is looking forward to assisting in the move forward to a trauma-informed system of care. This will be a fairly significant culture shift that acknowledges trauma and the role it plays in a person’s life.
“They each come to us having experienced some sort of trauma which can have physical manifestations,” Rose explained. “We want to move away from behavior deficits toward strengths. We look at how to build on those strengths to make the kids successful here and out in the world when they leave.”