Alliance of Therapy Dogs
Celebrating 30 Years of Sharing Smiles & Joy
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, Samson 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.
We have a wonderful group of 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 and 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.
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 current therapy dog, Tia, is a Golden Retriever and also a rescue. She was born and raised in Italy, shipped to the US in the hold of a plane and then her family could not keep her. I was lucky to be able to adopt her and teach her English cues, as she only understood Italian. She is now a bi-lingual therapy dog and loves the work of sharing smiles and joy. Samson, a miniature poodle, has just passed the ATD test and will joyfully begin visiting.
We have found our place bringing emotional support through our work with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. We now 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.
I am proud to be the President of 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.
Kimberly Williams – Vice President
Kim Williams with Rowan and Finnegan
Hello from Kearney Nebraska, the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World! I became a member of Alliance of Therapy Dogs in 2004, a tester/observer in 2009, and I joined the board in 2011. Each step of the journey has led me to a greater understanding of the power of the human-animal bond. I believe that education, healing, and comfort come from that very bond. I also believe that whether it is one-on-one or in a group, what we do in Alliance of Therapy Dogs isn’t just volunteering! Our teams are vital in contributing to the overall well-being of the communities we visit.
I have two dogs with very different personalities. Rowan, a Bernese mountain dog, is my team member who loves nothing more than to be pet all day but who also pulls a cart when things need to get from here to there. Finnegan is a mixed breed who is full of energy and interested in everything. He still needs a little seasoning before he dips his paw into the world of pet therapy.
I am very 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 those we visit. There is nothing like the joy we receive by working with our dogs to give back to our communities!
Kelsey J. 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! I first became involved in therapy dog work when Eddie, our Great Pyrenees/Golden mix whom we lost in May 2017, and I met ATD Past President Jane Hirsch in 2007 and the rest is history!
My passion for animals began early in life and now extends to my professional life. I am a licensed attorney and currently work to improve animal welfare as the South Carolina State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. In my spare time, aside from testing new ATD teams and visiting an assisted living facility with Pixel, I enjoy training for obstacle course racing, vegan cooking, and floating in the pool with my husband.
Our fur family consists of three rescued pups: Pixel, an ATD-certified Japanese Chin, Murphy, a retired ATD flat-coat mix, and Widget, a Japanese Chin whom we are socializing but who just may not have the outgoing personality that makes a great therapy dog. In July 2017, we lost Widget’s sister, Echo, to liver failure four months after being poisoned by the toxic sago palm plant, despite numerous blood and plasma transfusions. Please review the pet poison safety tips ATD publishes each year, which can now be found online, and check your yard to be sure your dogs don’t have access to toxic plants.
Thank you all for sharing your wonderful fur-children with people in need!
Don Vaughan – Treasurer
Theia and Don
Greetings from the Land of 10,000 Lakes! Originally from northern Illinois, my wife, Stephanie, and I have called Minnesota home for more than 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 16 years, the last eight as a tester/observer. I’m entering my fourth year on the board and second year as treasurer. I am honored by this opportunity and look forward to serving you and ATD.
Stephanie and I currently share our home with a rescued 2-year-old female Neapolitan mastiff, Theia Vesta, whom we adopted about a year ago. Theia still has some work to do, but if all goes as planned, she will become our next ATD-certified therapy dog.
Besides therapy work, Stephanie and I focus on rescuing giant breeds, especially rare mastiffs. We have owned a Tosa Ken (Japanese mastiff), a Dogue de Bordeaux (French mastiff), and a couple of Neapolitan mastiffs (sometimes referred to as an Italian mastiff, but different than a Cane Corso), as well as a Saint Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, and a Great Dane mix.
Our Tosa Ken, Saint Bernard, and Dogue de Bordeuax all had the honor of being registered ATD dogs. Over the years, my visits have included nursing homes, educational seminars, hospice, a local airport, hospitals, church services, and Girl Scouts. However, for the majority of the past decade, my focus has been on correctional facilities, including a federal prison, two county jails, and juvenile detention.
Besides therapy work, our Saint Bernard enjoyed hiking and carting. He even gave weight pulling a go. I love to hit the open road with my wife riding shotgun and our dogs in the backseat, ready to explore. If I’m not on the open road, there is a good chance you will find me in the kitchen cooking, my other passion. Last, but not least – 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!
Carroll Colasardo – Director
Carroll and Dante
Greetings from Arizona. I’m looking forward to another busy year serving on the Alliance of Therapy Dogs board. We all work hard to help you achieve your goal of becoming a valued ATD team in your community. Your time and commitment to making someone’s day more enjoyable are invaluable. Thank you for choosing to join us!
I’ve been a member of ATD since 2002. In 2006, I became a Tester/Observer; in 2009, I joined the board, and I have worked with many wonderful teams for the past 13 years. I love meeting new people, their dogs, and hearing how much they enjoy their many adventures.
Our household consists of two Shetland Sheepdogs and one cat. Denali has retired after a 12 year therapy dog career, and Dante has accomplished almost 3 years of visits. We go to two local Banner hospitals, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in their Navigator Buddies program, and to Arizona State University as a Devil Dog team.
I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization, to promote dog therapy, and to help others gain so many benefits while sharing their wonderful dogs with others.
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 18 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 11-year-old mix, was a therapy dog until 2017 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 4-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, Hunter and Jenny
Greetings from Philadelphia! Another exciting year is ahead! Working with our present board of directors is a pleasure! Our board meeting in Cheyenne this year was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun!
I lost my little beagle, Cody, last year 12 days short of his 19th birthday! He served 14 years as a therapy dog before he retired. I was blessed to have him so long. Although blind and deaf, he was still in charge of the other two dogs! Jenny is continuing on her dock diving career. She doesn’t have a new title, but she’s having a lot of fun! Hunter earned his Graduate Novice title, but we are still struggling with his Open title! If only I could take cookies into the obedience ring, then he would have his utility title by now! Both dogs continue to visit a hospice facility where the nurses spoil them with cookies at the end of each visit.
It is an honor to serve as a director for such a great organization!
Monica Callahan – Director
Monica, Disco and Orio
Hello from the Cleveland, Ohio area! I have so enjoyed these almost two years of serving on your Board of Directors. We are comprised of some amazing individuals whom I enjoy getting to know better. We have so many talented teams in this organization and I love getting to meet so many people who love their dogs just as much as I do.
I currently share my home with my lovely husband of almost 12 years, my 7-year-old daughter, and my 5-year-old son. Together, we enjoy spending time with our three dogs, retired therapy dog Dalmatian, Doc (9 years old), Windsprite, Disco (1.5 years old), and Dalmatian, Orio (almost 1 year old). My two youngest will begin therapy dog testing soon!
Besides therapy dog work, I enjoy helping others train their dogs in the Cleveland area, spending lots of quality time with my children, and participating in various forms of exercise, including teaching a dance fitness class a few times a week.
Please feel free to reach out to me about anything! We are all available to hear your comments. That is my favorite thing about ATD: how accessible this organization is to hear comments and concerns from its volunteers. As we grow, we always strive to keep our mission in mind!
Tosha Aldridge – Director
Tosha with Louie and Lily
A big ol’ hello from Rocky Mount in eastern NC. It is a privilege to have joined the Board of Directors with ATD, and I look forward to all of the wonderful opportunities ahead. I have been involved with dogs in some way, form, or fashion since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I cannot remember a time in my life without dogs! Currently, we have one certified therapy dog named Lily. She is a 5-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier who holds her R.E.A.D, CGC, CGCA, CGCU, TKN, and THDX titles and is Miss September for the 2018 Pinups for Pitbulls. We also have a 3-year-old American Staffordshire mix named Louie, and we foster numerous pit/bully breeds with our local rescue, Odin’s Orphans.
For the majority of my adult life, I have been involved in rescue and advocacy work. In early 2016, my husband, Shayne, and I stepped into therapy work and I became a T/O later that year. We quickly learned that therapy dogs were not new just to our area in particular, but for numerous surrounding areas as well. Now we have several teams in our area that actively visit hospitals, nursing/rehab facilities, churches, 911 centers, a local children’s home, schools, colleges, and more.
Outside of ATD, I own and operate a local dog specialty store with my husband and teach a variety of training classes. While we love any and all furkids, our heart and passion are with the pitbull breeds. We get the great honor of sharing our love for the breed with others through therapy work in hopes that one day we will have helped make an impact of tearing down BSL.
I am very thankful to get the opportunity to work with this amazing organization and continue to help it grow. Always remember, every day is an opportunity to create a positive change!
Keith Pettway – Director
Keith, Frodo and Abby
Greetings from the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta. It seems only a short time ago that I attended my first board meeting now I am a seasoned veteran. I am still excited about the work that we are doing for ATD. 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 accrediting organization in the country.
This was a painful year for our family. We lost our first therapy dog J.J. November 30, 2018. He was my first dog to die, and I now know the pain that comes with losing an exceptional dog. We are trying to move on and now have a new puppy, Frodo, who has all signs of being a great therapy dog someday. Abby turned 10 in 2019 and continues to be very active as a therapy dog, doing three to four visits a week.
We live in a very under-served area when it comes to dog therapy. We have been working hard to get others involved in ATD, and at last we are beginning to make real progress at getting Mississippi on the radar as an ATD state. This year we added a fifth T/O and have a prospect of others. Alliance of Therapy Dogs’ numbers continue to grow in this area. 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 Presa Canario, Diezel, and our newest family member Gracie, a 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 Salt Lake City, Utah! I really love getting to be involved in so many aspects of therapy dogs as a handler, a trainer, a Tester/Observer, and as a director. It is a part of my life I really value, and I will never stop being amazed by all the wonderful things therapy dogs are doing for so many people.
I still have three dogs of my own – Dolly (9-year-old Beagle/Boxer mix), Blitz (6-year-old Aussie/Border Collie mix), and Emme (2-year-old Beagle). I continue to enjoy being a “grandpawrent” to my daughters’ dogs – Elphie (Dolly’s sister), Rafael (3-year-old Shih Tzu), and Auggie (1-year-old Cardigan Corgi). I am privileged to be certified to do therapy dog work with Dolly, Elphie, Rafael, and Emme. They all have their loves, so I get to do lots of different types of visits!
My husband, Karl, and I have four children between us (three daughters and one son) – and we are starting to add in-laws to our family. Our son got married last year and as I write this, we are preparing for our oldest daughter to get married next month. Karl and two of our children are also therapy dog handlers and our future daughter-in-law is planning to get involved too! We still have our suburban “farm” with chickens and a rabbit, and we always keep our eyes open for other potential animal family members. The brick and mortar dog training center we opened in June 2018 is doing well, and I love being able to do more to help people as a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant with our own training center. It is truly wonderful that I get to spend time with great dogs and their awesome people in both my job and as a volunteer.
As always, it’s an honor to work alongside all of you sharing smiles and joy!
Jeanette Sinohui – Director
Jeanette Sinohui and Rata
Hi! I’m a native of Phoenix, Arizona where I serve as the Volunteer Dog Therapy Team Leader in the same hospital where I was born – Banner – University Medical Center. As a board member and a T/O for ATD, I have been able to hel to improve the program at Banner. It has been a privilege to work alongside teams that truly care about visiting with patients, families, and staff.
My sweet 16-year-old Rata passed away May 10, 2018. She was known as the “Diva” of the hospital and played her role well. She was truly my very special girl who taught me so much. I have always known what a difference therapy dogs make; however, after losing Rata, I saw our teams in a different light. The dedication of our teams to share their dogs with others is beyond any words. When I test a new team and send them out to visit, I know I have helped to bring some happiness to not only the person they are visiting but also to the handler. Observing the powerful impact therapy dogs make on anyone they visit has made me realize how much I miss visiting with a therapy dog, and I know it is time to pass on Rata’s legacy. I have adopted two Cockapoos, Pancho and Frida, who are in training to hopefully become members of ATD to continue the kindness Rata passed on to so many.
To relax I play golf. Some people wonder if this is a way to relax and I must agree that sometimes it does not feel like I am relaxing. However, as many golfers know it just takes one good shot per round to bring a golfer back. I can proudly say I do have a hole-in-one; maybe this is the shot that keeps me coming back.
I look forward to the new year and want to make sure we can all help to make Alliance of Therapy Dogs an even better organization.
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
Zing, 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
I have to say this has been one of the more difficult years for me as an employee, member, and T/O for ATD. ATD has endured staff turn-over like never before and had to deal with a lot of change, both good and bad. All in the office are basically in learning mode, which is going to help move us as an organization forward and give us a stronger support system for all our members.
As a member, I am having to adjust to working with just one therapy dog now. Topaz has made it clear that she is no longer interested in leaving the house at the old age of 14. She deserves a rest now as she has been working for 13 of those 14 years and was the second-best therapy dog I ever had. She was so small and easy to work with. I will miss working with her a lot! Miss B. Haven on the other hand is a star at the Denver airport and has a great time no matter where she is visiting. I love working with her and watching people watch her. She is very much “this is all about me” and goes to everyone for attention. She is now a THDD with 405 visits under her belt. We will carry on the therapy work together and look for another partner to join us later so we can start training. As a T/O I am finding it difficult to recruit more members in this area and I know many of you share the same problem. When I move to my part-time hours, I am going to put an ad in our paper and do the animal shelters Dog Jog this year to see if I can find a few more good teams. There are new venues to open and we certainly can’t meet the need without burning out the few totally dedicated teams we have now here in Cheyenne. The organization is kicking into high gear for marketing efforts and getting out the Alliance of Therapy Dogs name and brand, so we should all see a boost in membership soon.
Thank you all for all the wonderful visits you make happen every day and for sharing smiles and joy. God bless, stay healthy and let us know if you need anything from the office end; we are always here to help.
Amy Brockel – Office Manager
Born and raised in Cheyenne Wyoming. I grew up showing horses, cattle, roping and participating in 4H and FFA. My family always had a dog or two along with the livestock and animals have always been a big part of my life. After graduating high school I attended the University of Wyoming and graduated with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in marketing.
Upon graduation the first thing I did was get a puppy of my own. Nala was the sweetest lab/golden mix and she had a real intuition for peoples moods and feelings. She opened my eyes to how much comfort and joy a dog can bring, she was the best dog and everyone she met loved meeting her. Sadly we lost her last year due to health complications and old age. After returning to Cheyenne from college I married a fellow Wyoming native who shares my love of dogs. My husband Bryon and I have a three year old daughter, three rescue German Shorthaired Pointers and a rescue Doberman. We started fostering dogs in 2012 and have had 109 foster dogs in our home so far. We enjoy helping with a local rescue and foster as much as we can.
I have worked in insurance, finance and for the last ten years I was a Workforce and High School Equivalency Education Manager for the State of Wyoming. I have worked with dogs in a variety of capacities through rescue work and personal hobbies such as bird hunting, agility and our latest adventure is dog sledding. I do enjoy training and investing time and effort into my dogs. We adopted our Doberman in 2016 and as we progressed in training it was apparent Leroy had a very outgoing and friendly temperament which led me to Alliance of Therapy Dogs to register him as a therapy dog.
When I was on the ATD website to get my volunteer paperwork I saw a job opening in my home town that would allow me to use my degree, office experience along with my dog knowledge and passion to work with animals. I interviewed and accepted the job as office manager with the hopes of moving up to the Executive Director role in late 2019 when Billie Smith retires. Since starting at the office I have completed testing with my second ATD dog Hank. I have so much to learn but Billie, the board and the staff have all been so welcoming and helpful that I know I’m going to be fine as long as I’m wise enough to ask for help when I need it. I look forward to getting to know more of our members and I appreciate the warm welcome I’ve experienced so far. I feel very lucky to be a part of ATD and I know that I have really big shoes to fill when Billie retires next year.
Tracy Duck – Office Assistant
Tracy, Ella and Simba
Hello from Wyoming. My name is Tracy Duck and I just recently joined the ATD Office in January 2019. It has been a pleasure to be part of an organization that brings joy to so many people. In addition to working with dogs, I am also a visual arts graduate working in the theatre industry. I currently work with all three performance theatres in Cheyenne and occasionally work with a few in Colorado. When I’m not working, I enjoy creating art with just about any medium I can get my hands on.
Working with dogs has always held a special place in my heart. I have volunteered with a local animal rescue since 2009 and have fostered over 30 dogs. As a foster mom, I helped many dogs overcome trauma from abuse and neglect to find their forever homes. Although I no longer foster, I still love helping in any way I can.
I have two wonderful 8-year-old boxers of my own, Simba and Ella. Boxers make wonderful family pets. Due to their unique personalities, they have always been my breed of choice. Simba is my needy 60-pound lap dog who can always make anyone smile. Unfortunately, he loves people a little too much and is not cut out for therapy work. Giving face kisses is his favorite activity. Ella is my more laid-back child. She loves attention and loves to have her belly rubbed. She always knows when something is wrong and is always there to make you smile. I have always wanted to have my dogs do therapy work and I’m very excited to start the process with Ella. We can’t wait to join the mission of “sharing smiles and joy!”
JoLynn Eckhardt – Office Assistant
JoLynn and Shiloh
Hello, my name is JoLynn Eckhardt and I have been a part of ATD for a short time now, joining the office team in May 2019.
In that short time, I can honestly say I have found my dream job! My husband and I have a 12-year-old Miniature Dachshund named Shilo who is my shadow and my husband’s nemesis! Through our 22-year marriage we have been blessed with two amazing cats and a sweet Beagle-Dachshund mix puppy, although Shilo has become the heart of our little family. He is definitely NOT cut out for therapy work but I love him anyway! ATD has been a blessing to me. Being able to work with our members to help them do the amazing things they do for others has brought me great joy. I hope to be able to continue providing that support for many years to come.
Jared Wadley – News Magazine Editor
Jared, Jordan, Legend and Devin
Greetings from Michigan! I’m honored to serve as an editor of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs Newsmagazine. I joined the organization in 2010, nearly two years after seeing a group of therapy dogs bring smiles to University of Michigan students. (Go Blue!) As a longtime dog lover, I realized that pet therapy could be a rewarding volunteer opportunity.
I’m the proud parent of a wonderful collie named Legend — although some people like to call him “Lassie” from the popular TV series. We visit the U-M Mott Children’s Hospital and the VA Hospital, as well as schools and libraries for the READ program. Visiting people in therapeutic and educational settings is fulfilling because I share information about pet therapy and training.
These teaching moments extended to my family. My older son, Jordan, became a junior handler in 2013 and is now a regular member. We occasionally visit the VA Hospital on weekends. What an amazing experience we share while thanking veterans for their years of bravery and service. My younger son, Devin, has been a junior handler for several years. It’s gratifying to have three therapy dog handlers under one roof.
I’m an active member of Therapaws of Michigan — a local therapy dog organization with more than 130 teams — and the Greater Brighton Collie Club. Overall, ATD is rewarding on many levels. I share Legend with people young and old. Plus, as a former journalist, I’m among the first to read the uplifting stories for the Newsmagazine.
Thank You for Helping Us Share Smiles & Joy!
We want to thank these organizations for their generous financial contributions to help us increase the number of certified therapy dog teams who are out there working daily to visit those in need!