About the Alliance of Therapy Dogs
We are an international registry of certified therapy dog teams. At ATD, we provide testing, certification, registration, support, and insurance for members who volunteer with their dogs in animal-assisted activities. Our objective is to form a network of caring individuals and their special dogs are willing to share smiles and joy with people, young and old alike.
Our Human Members
We do not rely on fundraising to succeed. No one you see in action nor our testers are paid nor can they charge any fees. Even our board of directors is made up of volunteers. Our only paid employees are our office staff. By keeping our membership costs low, we can provide therapy dog services at no cost to facilities that we visit.
Our Canine Members
We are focused on the well-being and the behavior of your dog regardless of age or breed. We look for well-mannered, well-behaved dogs that enjoy meeting people. While obedience training can be useful in a therapy setting, ATD doesn’t require formal training, certifications, or tests other than our own. All dogs tested for ATD’s certification must be up-to-date on vaccines and have a negative fecal exam in the last year. There is no restriction on diets or supplements given our canine members. Dogs may also be fed treats on therapy dog visits if the facility also allows treats. ATD is open to register any breed of dog except wolf or coyote mixes.
Our Testing Process
Unlike other therapy dog organizations, we have a unique testing process that involves handling your dog. Our testing is designed to make sure you and your dog have a good relationship with each other and that your dog has the right temperament for therapy dog work. After the test, a Tester/Observer (T/O) will monitor you and your dog during three visits to facilities that include two visits to a medical facility. During these supervised visits, the T/O will instruct you and your dog on the art of visiting and give you advice and guidance while observing you in action. If all goes well, the T/O will pass you and your dog and recommend you for certification with ATD.
Where We Work
Our teams provide therapy in many settings, including but not limited to airports, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehab facilities, mental health institutions, schools, hospitals, cancer centers, hospice facilities, college campuses and can also provide therapy in patients’ homes. ATD doesn’t restrict where our teams visit. ATD teams may choose to be members of local therapy dog groups. They may also participate in nation-wide therapy dog initiatives with organizations like the Red Cross and R.E.A.D. Additionally, we allow our members to visit with teams who may be registered with other organizations.
Registration is very affordable. For $30 a year (plus an initial one-time $10 new member fee), a team can be registered with ATD and covered by our insurance in order to share in the mission of sharing smiles and joy with their dog.
Pat Coglianese – President
Pat with Jessie and Tia
Greetings from New York. I live in a suburb about 25 miles north of Manhattan and so have the best of both worlds: access to Manhattan and the peace of the suburbs.
As the newly elected president of Alliance of Therapy Dogs, I am looking forward to working with the board to move the organization forward. We have wonderful board members who work tirelessly to make this organization the best it can be and support our members who, with their dogs, make such a strong contribution to the lives of others.
I have been an educator all my life. Initially, I taught in the New York City public school system and then moved on to the corporate world to became the Director of Education for JP Morgan Chase, a global financial services institution. When I was ready for a change of pace, I studied and became a dog trainer, combining my expertise in education with my love and knowledge of dogs to launch this new career. I now train people to train their dogs, am an evaluator for several service dog foundations and a tester/observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Working closely with dogs really opened my eyes to the benefit that dogs bring to people, both emotionally and physically. That started me on my journey working with therapy dogs. My dog, Jessie, a German Shepherd Dog, was released from an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind. She was just not focused enough to succeed. She was then adopted by a convent of nuns, who wanted a dog to protect them from intruders. She, once again, failed because she loves people and other dogs. She is now mine and we have found our niche in therapy work.
My second dog, Tia, is a Golden Retriever and also a rescue. She was born and raised in Italy and has had to learn English cues. She has recently become my second therapy dog and loves the work.
We have found our place, bringing emotional support through our work with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. We visit at West Point with soldiers, special needs children of deployed soldiers, during Red Cross blood drives and even with the cadets who need to de-stress during finals. We also visit local nursing homes, colleges, facilities for special needs children and adults and in school reading programs.
As much joy as my dogs bring to others, we get even more back from doing the work. I am proud to be on the Board of Directors and a part of this organization with so many members who have helped to improve the lives of so many people.
Carroll Colasardo – Vice President
Carroll with Flash and Denali
Hello, again, from sunny, hot Mesa, AZ! I’m looking forward to another great year serving on the Alliance of Therapy Dogs Board. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many of our members around the country. The common bonds I’ve found are the love of your special therapy dog(s) and your commitment to sharing smiles and joy with others throughout your communities.
I have been a member of Alliance of Therapy Dogs since 2002. Our household consists of four Shetland Sheepdogs and one cat. For several years, our Shelties were all registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. However, due to age and interests, two have been retired, and since last year, we lost one. Denali and Flash are still my active therapy dogs, and while their interests are quite different, they each do an amazing job making people happy. We have a new addition: an 11-month-old Sheltie, who hopefully will be joining the other two as an ATD member. His name is Dante. He’s full of life and love.
I visit two local hospitals with Gabriel’s Angels, an organization whose teams visit children in crisis throughout our state.
In 2006, I became a Tester/Observer and have worked with many wonderful teams for the last 10 years. I love meeting new people and their wonderful dogs and hearing how much they enjoy their many adventures.
I enjoy working with this organization to promote dog therapy and to help others gain the immeasurable benefits with which I have been blessed.
Kim Williams – Treasurer
Kim with Rowan, Penny, and Finnegan
I participate in pet therapy in Kearney, Nebraska. Kearney isn’t a large city, but it is a town dedicated to serving the community through volunteer work, including pet therapy. We go to the local hospital, psychiatric hospital, cancer center, library, homes, schools and numerous other events. One of our favorite events, Camp Bear, a grief camp for children who have lost a family member, is held each year in July. This can be a difficult, but truly rewarding day.
I became a tester/observer in 2009 because I believe strongly in the mission of Alliance of Therapy Dogs. I love encouraging others to participate in pet therapy, and I love to grow and develop through education and action that demonstrates the wonderful bond between dogs and humans.
I have three dogs with very different personalities. Penny, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, is my retired therapy dog. Rowan, a Bernese Mountain Dog, is my team member who also pulls carts when things are needed to get from here to there! Finnegan is a mixed breed who is full of energy and still needs a little seasoning before he dips his paw into the world of pet therapy.
I am proud to be a member of this board and to continue to serve our membership. There is nothing like the joy a dog brings to the lives of young and old alike.
Kelsey Gilmore – Futeral – Secretary
Kelsey with Murphy, Jasper and Eddie
Hey y’all! My family and I live just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. I moved to Charleston from South Dakota in 2003 to competitively ride horses in college. Once I landed in the Lowcountry, there was no leaving! Eddie, our Great Pyrenees/Golden mix, and I met in 2006 and have been participating in pet therapy since 2007.
My passion for large dogs began in fourth grade when my family purchased a Newfoundland puppy. My parents slowly accumulated large dogs and now, when we visit their acreage in South Dakota, we also enjoy the company of their two Great Pyrs, two Newfs and a Pyr/St. Bernard mix. My passion for small dogs began when I met my husband, Stephan, and his daughter, Maddie, who introduced me to their Yorkie mix, Bailey, who crossed the rainbow bridge at the age of 17. Now, a Pekingese (Jasper), a flat-coat retriever mix (Murphy), and a Japanese Chin (Pixel) complete our happy “little” pound-puppy family.
My passion for all animals began early in life, and in my spare time, I focus my energy on animal rescue, animal welfare laws and vegan cooking. Though I am a licensed attorney, I left private practice to work for our state’s department of social services, managing the outreach programs for the early care and education division. I still chair the South Carolina Animal Law Committee for the South Carolina Bar and manage Stephan’s law practice.
Jasper and Eddie retired at the end of last year at the age of 11. I have been so busy testing other teams that I’m sad to say Murphy and I haven’t had time to visit ourselves. We enjoyed visiting an assisted living facility where Eddie was a local rock star, Jasper waddled from room to room, and Murphy gave out kisses to whomever will have them. I enjoy bringing new teams into ATD but look forward to having more free time to continue visiting with our dogs.
Thank you all for sharing your wonderful fur-children with people in need!
Jan Cloutier – Director
Jan with Loki, Toby, Schultz and Fenton
Greetings from my new “Sweet Home Alabama!” This year has brought some big changes as we moved from our home of 23 years in New Jersey to Mobile, Alabama in January.
Yes, this is Jan. Originally from Maryland, I’m enjoying the slower pace of life here in the south with my husband and 4 dogs. Back in New Jersey, I was a volunteer puppy raiser for the Seeing Eye® for 16 years, and raised 12 puppies. I have “canine kids” working as guide dogs in over half a dozen states. I also have many “canine grandkids” out there working, as two of the puppies I raised were chosen as “the best of the best” for breeding. For 10 years, I have served as co-leader of the Gloucester County Seeing Eye® Puppy Raisers. So, it seemed I always had a new puppy around the house, along with doggy visitors and resident canine boarders. A regular doggy B & B. I also visited with “Paws for the Soul” pet therapy group, and I was co-founder of “Paws of Joy,” our church’s therapy dog ministry.
The move to Mobile has been a good one for us, but I do miss puppy raising. I’ve only been here a few months, so I am presently getting back into visiting. I’m also working to get the word out about ATD. Seems I’m the only T/O around for 100 miles!
This year begins my fifth year as a member of your board of directors. As I hear of the wonderful stories of what our teams are doing, I am always amazed and touched. You all do such an incredible job, and so many are blessed and uplifted by your kindness and sharing. We all know our dear canine friends are magical and have seen them work miracles day after day. How about sharing your stories with all of us as an article for our magazine?
To my dear friends in south Jersey who are continuing the mission of ATD, know that I miss you and think of you often. To my new friends and those I have yet to meet here in the Mobile area, we shall have a good time getting things going. And to all our members and your precious pooches, a very special thanks for all that you do. You are what make this organization great. God bless.
Stefanie Giese-Bogdan – Director
Stefanie with Johnny and Gracie
Hi, everyone, from River Falls, Wisconsin. If you could hear me talk, you’d notice that I have an accent! Though I enjoy living in Wisconsin, I am originally from Germany. I came to the USA over 16 years ago and since then have become a U.S. citizen. Shortly after moving here, I started therapy dog work, joining Alliance of Therapy Dogs with my Shepherd mix, Champ. Champ was often the subject of articles in the ATD Newsmagazine, but has since passed over the rainbow bridge. Gracie, my 9-year-old mix, was a therapy dog until this year when her allergies became so bad that she wasn’t able to go out for most of the fall, and I decided to retire her. Johnny is a 2-year-old rescue dog. If he ever gets over his initial shyness (we’re working on it!), he’ll make a wonderful therapy dog, as he loves being petted. If not, he’ll still be a wonderful companion. In terms of my “human” family, I am married to Axel, my wonderful husband who not only puts up with my love for our animals (dogs, horses and cats) and all the work that comes along with that, but is also is active as a tester/observer. I am thrilled to continue working with and supporting this wonderful organization in this new and different capacity and look forward to the journey ahead!
Peggy Grookett – Director
Peggy with Cody, Hunter and Jenny
Hello from Philadelphia!
I am privileged to be able to serve for another year on your board, and I am excited to work with our new president, Pat. Lots of great ideas to move our organization forward in the next year were discussed at our annual board meeting, and it was an honor to welcome our two newest board members, Dusty and Don. Unfortunately, I lost my beagle, Ben, on July 5. He had a good, long run and was almost 18 years old. My beagle, Cody, just turned 17, and he still goes to work on his good days but will retire at the end of the year. Jenny is fully recuperated from her surgery and is back to work visiting the local hospice facility once a week. Hunter also shares visits when Jenny stays home to keep Cody company. We also visit Rydal Park Nursing home each week and do an occasional program with children.
Hunter earned his beginner novice title this year and continues to compete in Rally.
Jenny is also back in the obedience ring and working toward her preferred open title and rally excellent title.
Hunter was filmed for the National Geographic special, “Whose Doggie is this?” and is happy to give out paw prints since he has some film credits to his name! Thank you for doing what you do with your wonderful dogs. Each time I am able to pass a team in their test and observations, I feel like these dogs are my grand-dogs! I enjoy having a part in getting more registered teams out there to experience the joy I have felt in many years of making people smile with my four-legged pals!
Monica Callahan – Director
Hello from the Cleveland, Ohio area! I am so excited for this opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for ATD. I have always carried an extreme amount of love for animals of all species, but especially our canines. After graduating from The University of Findlay with my Pre-Vet and Biology degrees, I decided to pursue animal behavior and training. I currently help owners train their dogs in the Cleveland area.
In 2011 I became interested in therapy work with my male Dalmatian, Doc. After registering with ATD, we focused on crisis response work and library reading programs. He adored kids. I did end up retiring him a few years later due to some behavioral issues he came upon. I felt it safest for everyone if he took a step back from therapy work. During his time as a therapy dog, I also registered my female Dalmatian, Delta. We currently love to visit a local nursing home and a local college. She has also dabbled in crisis response work.
I am also currently a puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind. I currently have an 8 month old Labrador named, Olive. She will go back this summer to hopefully become a Leader Dog. She is our second Future Leader Dog we have raised. Our first did graduate and is currently working as a Leader Dog.
This summer my family (my husband, 5 year old daughter, and 4 year old son) plan on welcoming a new puppy into our family. I am so excited to add to our family and hopefully pursue therapy work with her. My daughter shows a lot of interest in animals, so I hope she can also go on to do some therapy work with our next puppy also.
I am very thankful for this opportunity to help Alliance of Therapy Dogs and all of their amazing members. I am so proud of this organization and I cannot wait to help them grow. I hope we can all continue to share smiles and joy to everyone we visit!
Tosha Aldridge – Director
A big ol’ hello from Rocky Mount, NC over in Eastern NC. I am one of the newest members to join the board this year with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. I have been involved with dogs in some way, form or fashion since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Currently, we have one registered therapy dog named Lily. She is a 3.5 year old APBT who holds her R.E.A.D, CGC, CGCA, CGCU, TKN and TDX titles and is Miss September for the 2018 Pinups for Pitbulls. Our plan for 2018 is to test our 2 year old American Staffordshire named Louie, so that he will be able to join in on the fun.
Majority of my adult life has been involved in rescue and advocacy work. In early 2016, my husband and I stepped into therapy work and later that year I was able to become a T/O.
As we got our feet wet and learned various aspects of the therapy dog world, we quickly learned that therapy dogs were not only new to our area in particular, but for numerous surrounding areas as well. To date, we have numerous teams in our area that actively visit nursing/rehab facilities, churches, 911 centers, a local children’s home, schools and more. To add a cherry on top, beginning February 14, we will begin a pet therapy program at our local hospital!
For fun, you are liable to find me anywhere!! I enjoy exploring new places, pet photography and I love to sit back with friends (dogs too) at the fire pit and throw something on the grill.
Keith Pettway – Director
Keith with Abby and JJ
Greetings from the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta. I have just finished my third full year on the Alliance of Therapy Dogs board and attended my fourth board meeting. I am feeling quite comfortable in my job, and still love what it involves. This board is a hard working group that is very dedicated to dog therapy. It is endlessly working to keep Alliance of Therapy Dogs as the premier registering organization in the country.
My dog history started fairly late in life. I was a professor of music and a performing classical flutist. My life seemed to be so busy that it would not be fair to try and fit a dog into it. I have always been a dog lover, but just never owned one in my adult life. When I was about to retire, my wife put out an ultimatum: it’s time to get a dog, or else. After much research, we decided that a standard poodle would fit our lifestyle. My first reaction was, “What? A poodle?” But, after 10 years with J.J., it turned out to be just the right choice. He is now my ATD registered therapy dog. J.J. was joined four years later by his half-sister Abby, who was my personal therapy dog. She is very loving, but became excited about new people and new dogs. After some hard work, Abby is doing well and is now my therapy dog number two. She has proven to be a great therapy dog. We have now become a whole ATD family. My wife is now registered with J.J. and goes on visits with him and I take Abby.
I came to pet therapy by accident. My mother had to be moved into an Alzheimer’s unit and I started to take J.J. to visit when he was quite young. When I started to see the wonderful reaction of not only my mother, but also the other residents, I knew that there was more to this than I had imagined. After researching dog therapy, J.J. and I soon became registered as a therapy dog team. We now make over a hundred visits a year to all kinds of facilities and Abby makes almost as many.
We live in a very under-served area when it comes to dogs doing therapy. We have been working hard to get others involved in ATD and at last we are starting to make some real progress at getting Mississippi on the radar as an ATD state. We now have three T/Os in the state. Both of our other T/Os are in a central location that has a much larger population than the delta where I live. ATD numbers are growing and I am sure will continue to grow. I am deeply honored to serve ATD. I want to thank each and every one of you for all the “smiles and joy” you share every day.
Stacy Plummer – Director
Stacy with Diezel
Hello to everyone from the Pacific Northwest, specifically the beautiful state of Oregon, where I live with my wife, Brandy, and seven active children. I feel especially fortunate for the opportunity to work with a great group of people who hold the same passions for dogs as I do.
I have been working with, and training dogs, both purebreds and mixed breeds, for the past 25 years. I became an Alliance of Therapy Dogs member in March 2003, and in July 2004 became a tester/observer. I co-founded a local therapy group with my own dog and I have enjoyed the experience of visiting hospitals, nursing homes, local centers for abused children, daycares, elementary schools and our local juvenile detention center. In addition to therapy work, I am the founder of the Northwest Mastiff Breeds Rescue and I volunteer with other rescue organizations. I have also established a Canine Crisis Response Team working with the local county school district.
I retired my therapy dog, Simba, about five years ago, and shortly after that, faced losing him as he came to the end of a full life. I’m looking forward to registering our 5-year-old Presa Canario, Diezel, and our newest family member Gracie, a 2-year-old Boerboel. When we brought each of the dogs into our home as rescues, they quickly decided they had already found their forever home.
I thoroughly enjoy the experiences I have had volunteering with my dogs in the community and my time as a tester/observer. I look forward to many years ahead serving on the board and working with therapy dogs.
Laurie Schlossnagle – Director
Laurie with Daisy, Elphie, Dolly and Blitz
Hello from Utah (the Salt Lake City area)! My first full year on the Board of Directors was exciting and fun with so many wonderful learning opportunities. I am looking forward to another great year!
Sadly, we lost Daisy (my beloved Beagle and first therapy dog) this last year – she leaves very big paws to fill! I continue to visit and test/observe with my other three therapy dogs: Dolly (6-year-old Beagle mix), Elphie (Dolly’s sister, also a 6-year-old Beagle mix), and Blitz (3-year-old Australian Shepherd mix). In Spring 2016, we added a Shih Tzu puppy to our family, Rafael. We are busy preparing him for the wonderful world of therapy dog work! Each of the dogs has their loves and strong points in therapy dog work, and I love working with them in their different preferences.
I continue to work as a dog trainer and behavior consultant, balancing that with therapy dog work, crisis response and family. My husband, Karl, and I have four children – all with jobs and all going to school (one in high school and three in college), and they keep both of us very busy!
Here’s to another great year of therapy dogs and the people who love them!
Jeanette Sinohui – Director
Jeanette Sinohui and Rata
Hi! I’m a native of Phoenix, Arizona, where Rata and I serve the patients and families in the same hospital where I was born – Banner – University Medical Center, formerly known as Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
After 28 years, I retired from teaching and, because of my precious dog, Rata, I have found a whole new career. I am beginning my third year as a member of the board for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. I have enjoyed my time both as a T/O and on the board. I have had the opportunity to meet many people who have helped to develop our organization. This has also helped me to educate people on the benefits of therapy dogs and what a great joy these dogs are to all of us.
Being on the board of this organization has given me insights which have further driven my passion for safety in dog therapy and increased my desire to continue to improve the program at Banner – University Medical Center, where I serve as the Volunteer Dog Therapy Team Lead. Additionally, I feel that I have learned the importance of listening to the handlers and of improving communication with dog therapy teams. Working with my teams helps me know which areas we need to continue to improve for all of our teams that volunteer their time with ATD. I have gained a broader perspective on the importance of dog therapy through the many people with whom I have had the privilege to work and meet throughout the year.
My sweet dog, Rata, who is now 13 years old, has been retired from Gabriel’s Angels. However, now we keep busy going to a school where students read to her, volunteer in animal assisted therapy and continue to visit patients, families and staff at Banner. To relax, I play golf, read and work in my garden.
Don Vaughan – Director
Don with Napolean
Greetings from the Land of 10,000 Lakes! Originally from northern Illinois, my wife, Stephanie, and I have called Minnesota home for the past 10 years. A photojournalist and photographer by trade, I also spent a couple of years specializing in equestrian event photography. I have been a member of Alliance of Therapy Dogs for over 13 years, the last five as a tester/observer and now as a newly elected member of the board. I am honored by this opportunity and look forward to serving you and ATD.
My first therapy dog with ATD was a Tosa Ken (Japanese mastiff) named Majo. I had the honor of visiting a number of nursing homes, educational seminars and a local adult detention center for nine years with her. Sadly, earlier this year, we had to say goodbye to our second registered dog with ATD. Gaag (pronounced gawg), was a rescued Saint Bernard who enjoyed visiting an adult detention center, juvenile detention, hospice, church groups, Girl Scouts and educational seminars during his five-year career. Besides therapy work, Gaag enjoyed hiking and carting and even gave weight pulling a go.
If you haven’t noticed a theme, my heart is with the giant breeds – especially rare mastiffs. My wife and I also focus on rescuing giants in need. Shortly after losing Gaag this year, we said goodbye to a rescued female Neapolitan mastiff, Vita. We currently share our home with a 13-year-old Great Dane mix, Dizzy, who was willed to us a few years ago, and recently added a 5-year-old rescued male Dogue de Bordeaux (French mastiff), named Napolean. Napolean will hopefully be our next registered therapy dog with ATD, with whom we plan to continue our focus on visiting correctional facilities.
Besides my involvement with dogs, I love to hit the open road to explore and I also love to cook. And, if there is snow falling from the sky, I am usually one happy camper! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!
Please continue sharing smiles and joy!
Teri Meadows – Past President 1992 – 2012
Teri with Lucie & Mickey
I have been with Therapy Dogs Incorporated, now called Alliance of Therapy Dogs, for so long it is part of me – part of my life and part of my family. With having 11 therapy dogs over the years, my many years of memories with Therapy Dogs Inc. began in 1990 when the founder, Jack Butrick, told me that he wanted to start an organization and call it Therapy Dogs Incorporated and honored me with a request to be his vice president. My dog, Rocky, was the first American Pit Bull Terrier to become a registered therapy dog with Therapy Dogs Inc. and was one of the three dogs used in the original Therapy Dogs Inc. logo; he was the dog being hugged by a child. Less than two years after starting Therapy Dogs Inc., with the sudden passing of Jack in 1992, I suddenly had to step up as president and continue this young organization. I knew a great deal of time, effort and strength would be needed to bring it to its full potential. Some achievements include: a standard test and tester/observers for prospective members, official rules and regulations written in published handbooks, an informative DVD about pet therapy and the organization, a beautiful publication, the Newsmagazine, a website and Facebook page – so many accomplishments over the years for this grand organization that began so small and has grown to be so large!
If there is anything I have learned from being president of Therapy Dogs Inc. for 20 years, it is to have strength when needed, to always have patience and to go for anything that you feel is worthwhile deep in your heart. The time you spend will bring you great satisfaction and happiness. I could not have been as successful as president without the support, strength and dedication of the Therapy Dogs Inc. officers, directors and, of course, our membership.
I do not miss all the work, but I do miss the friendships I have made through Therapy Dogs Inc.
I know that each of us really LOVES sharing our special dogs with others. True happiness only comes through sharing. Never let that end! If more people were like all of you, there would be more smiles, more adventures and more love in the world; there would be more dreams flying free; more hearts that could feel and share love; more laughing, more sharing and more understanding that life’s greatest gifts are friendship, love and sharing unlimited kindness with others.
Each moment in life is a precious gift. Hold on tight to your special dogs and cherish each day you have with them. Treat them with kindness, give them your love and the gift of good health. Keep them forever close to your heart. May all your days be touched with sunshine and your heart overflow with love. May everything in your life sparkle with a radiance that comes only from happiness. May you always walk in beauty among loved ones and friends.
Jane Hirsch – Past President 2012 – 2016
Will, Jane and Ben
It seems strange to be writing this as past president! My four years now seem to have flown by! It was a wonderful ride and I miss it already!
I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, an avid animal lover and serious tennis player. After college and several stints on the tennis circuit, I resided in Orlando, Florida for 22 years, playing and coaching. Three bouts of melanoma cancer from 1996 to 1998 forced me to cut back on court time. So, I acquired an Australian Shepherd puppy and named him Rafter after Aussie tennis star, Patrick Rafter.
In 1999, I moved back to Charleston. My life revolved around Rafter’s schedule and I was devastated when, at the age of 2, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Against all odds, he lived a miraculous seven healthy years before succumbing to the return of osteosarcoma on Christmas Eve, 2008. During those seven years, he was an active therapy dog and a poster dog for raising awareness and funds for canine cancer research. Rafter’s passing left a huge hole in my heart, but not in my passion for therapy work or helping in the fight against canine cancer.
My retired therapy dog, Will, celebrated his second anniversary of losing a leg to osteosarcoma in mid-August, and is currently participating in a Colorado State University clinical trial for metastatic bone cancer. I’m keeping fingers crossed for him!
Ben and I have several canine freestyle titles, but the day he passes his therapy test will be one of the best “titles” we could get!
Thank you for being such wonderful, supportive members!
Billie Smith – Executive Director
Billie with Topaz
Therapy work has been very different this year now that I am back to two therapy dogs. Each of them, just as the ones I had in the past, have their own little niche in therapy work. Topaz remains rock-solid and very content just being with the elderly and doing hospice visits. Haven, on the other hand, finds that venue a bit boring and likes to go where there’s a little more action. She’s proven to be very good in all venues, but she does have her favorites. I hope to have the opportunity to work her at the Denver airport in the next year or so. I love the airport setting and have witnessed such awesome scenes at LAX, Reno, DIA and Albuquerque. People really are drawn to the dogs and even the people just sitting there watching the dogs get petted are smiling. Therapy dogs are in 43 American and international airports now. I find it hard to believe that the only places we had to visit 24 years ago were hospitals and nursing homes. We are literally everywhere now. The board of directors will be putting some emphasis on marketing this next year to help get the Alliance of Therapy Dogs name out, and I’m sure we will hear from many other parties wanting therapy teams to visit in their facilities. I find it interesting that in the last couple of months we have had several requests (even here in podunk Cheyenne, WY!) for therapy teams to go to work places for employee stress relief. Just another sign of the limitless opportunities that lie ahead for all of us. Keep up the good work that all of you are doing in your communities, it is sooooooooooo appreciated by those you serve. ATD also appreciates all the hours that each and every one of you have given in 2016 and wishes you all the best for a new 2017. God bless, stay healthy and let us know if you need anything from the office end; we are always here to help.
Adriana Boyer – Office Staff
Adriana stealing Topaz
Hi, everyone! My name is Adriana Boyer. I just recently became part of the ATD family. I currently do not own a dog due to allergy reasons. I do have a dog at work, Topaz, who belongs to Billie, but she needs to come live at my house. I have a daughter who loves Chihuahuas because they fit inside purses. In one or two years, my family and I plan to adopt one. We just can’t decide if it will be a Siberian Husky or a Chihuahua. As a child I was around dogs all the time. We had Lobo and Chocolate, our black Labs. Lobo was the first and best pet ever. I believe animals are like children, they need love and care 24/7. It’s a great thing what you members of ATD are doing: helping others by sharing their loved ones.
Tia Fitzgerald – Office Staff
Tia with Tugg
Hello, my name is Tia Fitzgerald. I have been a part of ATD since last fall and I love it! I live in a small apartment so unfortunately I cannot have a dog of my own, instead I have a cat named Gatsby who plays fetch, walks on a leash and acts much like a dog. I also spend a lot of time with my parents’ dog, Tugg. We are working with Tugg so that he will hopefully be a therapy dog soon. I love dogs and take every opportunity to dog sit for friends and family. I can’t wait to have my own dog and be able to bond with him/her the way our ATD members do with their own dogs!
Jared Wadley – News Magazine Editor
Jared with Legend and Bella
Greetings from Michigan! I’m honored to be an editor of the Therapy Dogs Inc. News Magazine. I joined Therapy Dogs Inc. in 2010, nearly two years after seeing a group of therapy dogs bring smiles to students at the University of Michigan. (Go Blue!) As a long-time dog lover, I realized that pet therapy could be a fulfilling volunteer opportunity.
I’m the proud “parent” of two wonderful collies – Bella and Legend. We go to the U-M Mott Children’s Hospital and VA Hospital, as well as schools and libraries for the READ program. Visiting people in therapeutic and educational settings is exhilarating, especially knowing that I inspire them to have a greater appreciation for their own dogs. Sharing information about pet therapy and training makes me feel as if I’m a “dog whisperer.”
These teaching moments have extended to my family. I helped my oldest son Jordan work effectively with Bella and, at age 12, he became a registered Therapy Dogs Inc. junior handler in 2013. We visit the VA Hospital on weekends. What an amazing experience I share with him while thanking veterans for their years of service. In 2016, my youngest son Devin plans to become a junior handler at age 13. I look forward to that time when our home will have three registered therapy dog handlers.
The most recent chapter is serving as president of Therapaws of Michigan. I enjoy representing this local organization, which has more than 140 teams. I also celebrate my therapy experiences as a member of the Greater Brighton Collie Club and with regional collie rescue organizations.
Overall, I can’t imagine a volunteer program that’s more rewarding on many levels. I meet new people during every visit while walking Bella and Legend, who both relish the petting moments. Plus, as a former journalist, I’m among the first to read the uplifting stories for the News Magazine. I look forward to editing your submissions.