About Us

Watch Our Short Film: Our Name, Our Promise

About Us

Dogs for Better Lives is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1977 by the late Roy G. Kabat. Roy worked with exotic and domestic animals for movies and television and had a small traveling circus. After retiring to the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon, he was contacted by the American Humane Association and their headquarters in Denver, Colorado.

A deaf woman in Minnesota had owned a dog that trained itself to let her know when sounds were occurring in her home. As she lost more of her hearing, her dog alerted her to more and more sounds. After her beloved dog died, the woman realized how much she had come to depend on the dog and began a search for someone to train a new dog for her.

The American Humane Association initiated experimental work trying to train dogs to help people who were deaf, and they contacted Roy for advice. After spending two weeks in Denver, Roy returned to Oregon and began Dogs for the Deaf.

Our first location was outside Jacksonville, Oregon, then moved in 1989 to our current 40-acre site at the base of lower Table Rock in Central Point, Oregon.

In 2017, Dogs for the Deaf was renamed Dogs for Better Lives and we are celebrating our 40th anniversary, recognizing the more than 1,300 dog placements that have occurred during our years of operation.

Why We Do It

At Dogs for Better Lives we believe it’s an honor to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and we’re impassioned with what we do. Operating as a team, we put the mission above the individual, trusting in one another to break through challenges and obstacles to maintain our mission of bettering lives by matching people with the amazing dogs we train.

Our Values:

Care for the dogs

by keeping their wellbeing (physical, emotional and mental) at the root of all decisions.

 Care for clients

by providing our services with kindness, compassion and patience.

Care for donors

by being responsible stewards of our “donor dollars” through mindful and conscientious use of company time and money.

Say hello to your Dogs for Better Lives team

John Drach

Training Director

John Drach has been the Training Director at Dogs for Better Lives since 2011, supervising the Assistance Dog Trainers, Kennel Techs, Client Services, and Adoption staff. He has spent 27 years in the Assistance Dog industry starting as an Apprentice Trainer at DBL.

John has trained Hearing Dogs, Service Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs, and Autism Dogs and has placed more than 350 dogs during his tenure career. John also spent 15 years at Paws with a Cause in Wayland, MI and has written Apprentice Manuals on Assistance Dog training for the U.S. Department of Labor and has trained numerous trainers on the proper training of Assistance Dogs of all types.

Harvey Potts

Development Director

Harvey Potts has more than 20 years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector and since 2016 has successfully overseen Dogs for Better Lives’ development, communication, and marketing programs. Harvey received his Masters in Environmental Education and Planning from Pacific Lutheran University.

Prior to joining DBL Harvey worked in senior managerial positions with several national nonprofit organizations, including Restore America’s Estuaries, National Wildlife Federation, and Washington’s National Park Fund. Earlier in his career Harvey worked internationally, serving a 3-year term with the U.S. Peace Corps in Poland, working in Bialowieza National Park (second oldest national park in the world to Yellowstone), overseeing their first-ever national grant funding program.

Outside of DBL, Harvey is engaged with several nonprofit boards including Sanctuary One and Northern California Weimaraner Rescue. Harvey rescued two of his five Weims, one of which came from NCWR, who now reside on his sheep ranch in southern Oregon.

Meagan Steahly

Finance Director

Meagan Steahly has been the Finance Director at Dogs for Better Lives since September 2018. Prior to that Meagan was the Finance Manager, a position she had held at DBL since 2016. Previous to DBL, Meagan had spent ten years in finance management within the medical industry. Meagan received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Southern Oregon University.

Meagan always wanted to help her community, so joining DBL was a desirable transition. She grew up hearing about Dogs for the Deaf and the impactful difference the national nonprofit has on hearing clients, among others and knew that she wanted to join their team. Meagan sees her contributions as part of something bigger, bettering dogs and their client’s lives every day. For several years, Meagan fostered one of DBL’s demo dogs, Keen, who is still a special rescue dog in her life.

Meagan grew up locally in beautiful Rogue Valley, where she met her husband Kenny, in elementary school. They enjoy spending their free time traveling, being on the water, and spending time with friends and family. Meagan and Kenny live on a hobby farm in the Applegate Valley with their animals and in November of 2018, welcomed their first child, their son Finn.

Trish Welch

Operations Director

Trish Welch is a graduate of Oregon State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise and Sport Science. She worked in the fitness world for nearly 10 years as a Group Fitness Instructor, Exercise Specialist and Fitness Director.

Looking to further express her passion for serving people, Trish made a career change to the non-profit sector by becoming the Executive Director of The Arc Jackson County, For People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. During her 20 years at The Arc, Trish led the development of new programs and services unique to the area as well as other parts of Oregon and the United States. One of her signature community events was the creation of Live to Dance with The Arc Stars – an evening showcasing the talents and abilities of people who experience disabilities, while educating the local community that people who experience disabilities are no different from you and her.

Trish currently serves as a member of the Rogue Valley After Five Rotary Club. In her free time, she enjoys a variety of indoor and outdoor activities such as traveling, fishing, camping, golfing, water sports, and spending quality time with her rescue dog Floyd and close friends. Trish, along with her husband Jim, have three children – the oldest two are now attending her alma mater.

Bryan Williams

President & CEO

Bryan Williams became Dogs for Better Lives’ fourth President and CEO in August 2018. Prior to DBL, Williams was Canine Companions for Independence’s (CCI) Southeast Regional Executive Director in Orlando, FL since 2016.

During his time at CCI, the region achieved record-breaking placements including hearing dogs, significantly increased revenue, welcomed a new Chapter to the region, and unveiled and implemented a plan to improve campus grounds. Bryan is passionate about analytics and metrics, introducing several operational dashboards. He also served on the national Strategy and Systems Team which focused on improving business processes. Prior to CCI, Bryan was the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of South Lake (Clermont, FL), a nonprofit which focuses on providing leadership to enhance the quality of life in South Lake County by identifying community needs and seeking philanthropic support to meet those needs.

Preceding the Foundation, he worked as the Development Director and then CFO for Halifax Humane Society (Daytona Beach, FL), a nonprofit that exists to protect animals from cruel, neglectful and exploitative treatment.

Bryan and his wife Rachel have three young children and are looking forward to exploring southern Oregon and the Pacific Northwest as a family.

View The Whole Team

Fernando Ayala

Facilities Manager

Logan Balko

Kennel Technician

Kelly Cancilla

Development Coordinator

Danielle Cloutier

Kennel Technician

Wanda Cockey

Development Manager

Hannah Crane

Foster Puppy Program Coordinator

Laura Encinas

Certified Assistance Dog Trainer

Michelle Erwin

Media and Outreach Specialist

Sarina Duncan

Kennel Manager

Brittany Jensen

Finance Manager

Jackie Nielson

Finance Assistant

Linda Kendrick

Kennel Technician

Katie Knutson

Certified Assistance Dog Trainer

Emily Minah

Client Services Field Representative

Jenny Nickelson

Client Services Field Representative

Jess Reichmuth

Certified Assistance Dog Trainer

Jon Richards

Human Resource Coordinator

Mary Rosebrook

Corporate and Foundation Grants Associate

Ashley Rosenburger

Certified Assistance Dog Trainer

Destiny Johal

Kennel Technician

Brittany Peery

Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer

Amy Perrow

Operations Coordinator

Terrie Pinkerton Fuller

Executive Assistant

Mike Poremba

Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer

Monica Schuster

Marketing and Communications Project Lead

Kaylynn Shaw

Kennel Technician

Jenna Stafford

Donor Services Associate

Sena Johnson

Adoption & Foster Program

Nicole Tallman

Staff Accountant

Andrea Woodcock

Training Manager

Dana Wheeler

Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer

Anjanette Wright

Client Services

Board of Directors

Matt Dunbar

Board Member

Matt Dunbar graduated from Oregon State University in 2007 with a BA in Management and a minor in Spanish. He was fortunate to further his education by living abroad for several years teaching English in Spain and studying economics in Mexico.

Upon returning to Medford, Oregon, Dunbar established his career in the health insurance industry where he eventually opened his own agency, Rogue Benefit Planning. At RBP they specialize in helping employers understand the rules and regulations of the Affordable Care Act and finding a suitable benefit program that meets the needs of the business and the employees.

Dunbar is excited to be a member of Dogs for Better Lives’ board, a part of the organization, and its growing model in helping dogs and people alike. Dogs and people hold a special place in Dunbar’s heart. He knows the many values a dog can bring into a person’s life, whether living with a disability or not. He also feels that everyone should have the opportunity to live a full and happy life and enjoys helping people achieve that.

Dunbar and his wife are parents to two beautiful little girls, and owners of a Black Lab, Shi-Tzu, and a Calico Cat. In their spare time, they love going to the mountains, fishing, and backpacking.

Doug Hexter

Board Member

A dog owner all his life, Doug is proud to have joined the Dogs for Better Lives’ board of directors in August 2018.

Doug Hexter was raised in New England and currently resides in Western Massachusetts. He is CEO and founder of WoofTrax, a brand engagement platform that promotes healthful dog ownership by connecting pet brands, pet parents and animal non-profits in a mutually beneficial way. WoofTrax is a pet-focused fitness app designed to engage pet owners around their daily dog walk, by linking each walk with the chance to earn donations for their chosen animal non-profit.

Prior to founding WoofTrax, Doug was in technology development for several small and large companies including America Online and GE Capital.

Doug received his Masters from Cornell University and a BA from Franklin and Marshall College.

David Hollingsworth

Board Member

David Hollingsworth is a founder and VP of Business Development at Ascentron, a company that rose from the ashes of the high‐tech industry crash of 2001. Ascentron supports customers throughout the country in the aviation, medical, military, industrial and instrumentation industries by providing Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS).

David holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration/Marketing from Southern Oregon University. Founder of two sales representative businesses, he has been active in the electronics industry since 1987.

David and his wife Sandy own Mother Earth Pet Products, makers of SuperEssentials, a health supplement for dogs. A holistic veterinarian recommended the product to them to boost the health of their pet boxer, Tucker, following two bouts of cancer in 2012.
They purchased the business in 2016, after the founder moved to Europe. Since Tucker is alive and barking today, Sandy and Dave
want to make sure other pet owners can use the product to help keep their dogs healthy.

David and Sandy are known to spoil their animal companions, including their horses, dogs and cats. They love their Boxer Boys, Tucker & Bodie. Tucker is a rescue dog that enjoys singing and opening the front door, while Bodie just wants to play all day.

Community service has always been important to David. He currently serves on the Board of Craterian Performances in Medford and formerly served on the Board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley. David spent many years coaching youth soccer in Southern Oregon and enjoys working with young people.

Being involved with Dogs for Better Lives enables David to give back to the community, helping both people and dogs to have better lives. David joined Dogs for Better Lives’ national board in Winter 2019.

Ron Holzkamp

Vice Chair

Ron Holzkamp was born in South Dakota and raised in Salem Oregon. Upon graduation from Oregon State University in 1964 with a degree in Finance and Accounting, Holzkamp served a 3 ½ year term in the Finance Corp in 6th Army in Europe, from April 1965 to August 1968 as a Captain.

Once Holzkamp returned to civilian life in Oregon he worked for Yergen and Meyer a CPA firm in Portland for 4 years before moving to Medford Oregon as a partner in 1973. In 1999 the firm merged with Moss Adams, a large regional CPA firm. Holzkamp retired from the same firm in June 2006.

Holzkamp and his wife Carole have three daughters and sons-in-law, and nine grandchildren in the Portland area. He has served on numerous boards over the years in Medford, including: Asante Hospital Foundation Board, Ascension Lutheran Church Council (twice), Southern Oregon CPAs, Rogue Valley Country Club Board, The Peter Britt Board, Medford Jazz Festival Board and the Medford Rotary Board, to name a few.

Al Lane

Chair

Al Lane was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, received his BA in Economics from The Ohio State University in 1990. Following that, Lane received his MBA from Baker University, based out of Baldwin, KS.

Lane began his career working in the insurance industry, though found his true calling in the mid-1990’s when he accepted a position in the movie theater industry. Lane currently serves as President/COO of Coming Attractions Theatres, Inc., based out of Ashland, OR. In this capacity, he oversees 17 movie theaters, 2 fun centers, and 1 mall, across a 4-state west coast region of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska.

Lane and his wife Kim, and their beloved rescue dogs, Barney and Ziggy, moved to Oregon in 2013. They have long had a passion for animals, working with various rescue and nonprofit groups (canine, feline, and equine) over the years in the Kansas City area. The mission and goals of Dogs for Better Lives align closely with their hearts, as they love the idea of helping dogs help people.

Lane is excited about his forthcoming opportunities, continuing to work with such a wonderful organization!

Brian J. McQuade

Board Member

Brian McQuade worked as a Design Engineer for five years after college, followed by operating his own business for a period of time, and more recently working 33 years as the Corporate Sales Manager for Umpqua Dairy in Oregon. McQuade retired in 2012 after 50 years in private industry.

McQuade’s education and professional experiences are helping him in contributing to Dogs for Better Lives as the nonprofit grows and adds a new training facility. Currently McQuade serves on three nonprofit boards, including Dogs for Better Lives. Being a Board Member with DFD is tremendously rewarding for him as he enjoys helping and being a part of such a well-run organization.

Brian McQuade lives in Ashland, Oregon. Married, with 3 children and 5 grandchildren, he has owned many dogs over his lifetime and in recent years has enjoyed two Labs, Royceman and Siskiyou (over 20 years combined) as his running partners each morning. McQuade’s wife was a Speech Pathologist, and continues to help him better understand the needs of our Dogs for the Deaf clients.

Keva Meyer

Board Member

A lifelong animal lover, Keva joined the Dogs for Better Lives’ board of directors in April 2019.

Keva currently resides in the Twin Cities. She is the Director of Marketing for Amplifon Hearing Health Care where she works with health insurance companies to provide hearing benefits for their members. Prior to joining Amplifon in September 2016, Keva did both marketing and product strategy for Blue Cross plans in North Carolina and Minnesota, as well as pharmaceutical sales. Keva uses her diverse experience to uncover new ways to make health care better, easier and affordable. She welcomes the opportunity to do the same thing for DBL.

Keva graduated from Marquette University with a BA in Marketing and Public Relations, and earned her Master of Business Communications degree from the University of Saint Thomas in 2009. She is passionate about learning and truly believes, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do (Steve Jobs).”

Keva and her significant other, Rick, are proud parents to their three dogs, Jack, Russell, and Lucy, and their cat, Angel.

Kenneth Reeder

Secretary

Ken Reeder’s professional career has encompassed several senior-level management positions, including commercial real estate lending and credit administration functions at a northwest regional bank in Portland (OR). Reeder has also held the position of COO with a multi-state hotel/resort management subsidiary, as well as for a real estate development firm.

Following his relocation to the southern Oregon in 1992, Reeder enjoyed a senior management position with a community bank. Current, Reeder is engaged in the Rogue Valley as a real estate broker, specializing in commercial real estate sales, leasing and consulting.

Reeder is active in community affairs and in addition to serving on the Board of Dogs for Better Lives, he has held various directorships and chair positions for Rotary, Britt Festival, Board of Realtors, and Habitat for Humanity. Reeder has been a past recipient of the Outstanding Community Service Award by the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

Ken is married to Linda and they have two adult children. Reeder attended Northwest Nazarene University and is a graduate of a banking industry course of study at Brown University. He feels privileged to serve on the Board of Dogs for Better Lives and is especially interested in advancing the organization’s Autism Assistance Program.

Dr. Danielle Rose

Board Member

Dr. Danielle Rose came onto Dogs for Better Lives’ national board in Fall 2018.

Dr. Rose is an MD Physician and joined Salisbury Pediatric Associates in 2012. She has a special interest in special needs children and integrative medicine. Dr. Rose has studied with several Naturopathic physicians and integrates supplements, herbs and homeopathic treatment into her pediatric treatment plans.

Dr. Rose completed her undergraduate studies at Salem College and medical studies at Medical College of Georgia followed by the completions of her internship and residency at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Since 1996, Dr. Rose has been a Hearing Dog client of Dogs for Better Lives. Now with her third Hearing Dog Delight, a 3-year old black Labrador, Dr. Rose continues to be alerted to the phone, smoke alarm, oven timer, alarm clock, name call, and door knock. Delight does this by tapping Danielle’s leg with her nose and then leading him to the sound. With bringing her Hearing Assistance Dog to work each day, Delight is not only able to benefit Danielle, but also comfort the young patients she visits with who may have anxieties about visiting the doctor’s office.

In addition to being a Dogs for Better Lives’ client, Dr. Rose also serves as a National Ambassador for DBL, regularly presenting about the organization to local and regional community groups, such as her state chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America.

Dr. Rose is excited about Dogs for Better Lives’ development of their Autism and Facility Dog programs for people who experience Autism and other disabilities. Serving as a Board Member for Dogs for Better Lives is providing Dr. Rose with a wonderful opportunity to speak with community groups about the value of an Assistance Dog and how they better people’s lives, including her own.

Dr. Rose lives in Mooresville, NC with her husband Cameron, Hearing Assistance dog Delight, and their cat Earl Gray.

Loree Seibert

Board Member

Loree Seibert has lived in the Rogue Valley for over 30 years. She is a Registered Nurse and spent much of her professional life working in the specialty field of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing. Seibert has worked most of her professional career for a local hospital, home health, and hospice. Seibert is currently an RN Surveyor for The Joint Commission which allows her to do one of her favorite hobbies---travel.

Seibert and her family have had a love for dogs for many years. Her daughter raised puppies for both Guide Dogs for the Blind and Dogs for Better Lives while in high school. Both her daughter and son have also volunteered at Southern Oregon Humane Society. Her daughter now lives in Florida with a career change dog from Dogs for Better Lives, named Barnum. Her son lives here in Southern Oregon with his best friend whom he adopted from SoHumane, Louie.

Local community service keeps her busy and she has volunteered in training events with ACCESS and is an active member of the Rogue Valley After Five Rotary Club.

She is a graduate of Fresno State where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and earned her Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga.

Gary A. Sherwood

Treasurer

Gary Sherwood’s professional career includes a diverse background of work experience, including more than 35 years of line and staff assignments in all aspects of hospital operations and medical practice administration. For more than twenty-five years Sherwood progressed into senior management positions, including policy making, planning, and broad operational responsibility.
Sherwood’s academic background includes a B.S. in Pharmacy from Oregon State University and a M.B.A. from Miami University (Ohio).

In addition to serving on the Board at Dogs for Better Lives, Sherwood has served on several other boards of organizations providing services in education and arts and human services. Personal interests include: traveling, cooking, spectator sports, and family activities especially involving his five grandchildren.

Sherwood has sincerely enjoyed his opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for Dogs for Better Lives. Accomplishing Dogs for Better Lives’ mission of professionally training dogs to help better the lives of others and empower them to become even more productive along the way, is a real joy.

Blake Thurman

Board Member

Blake Thurman joined Dogs for Better Lives’ board of directors in August 2018.

Blake joined Rogue Credit Union in 2013 and in 2014 assumed his current role as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He received his Masters of Accountancy from Brigham Young University and received his CPA designation in 2001. In his current role with the bank Blake oversees Investment Services, the accounting department, investments, asset liability management and business analysis functions of the Credit Union.

Blake has more than 18 years of experience in financial services including auditing of community financial institutions while with Price Waterhouse Coopers and Deloitte & Touche. He also held positions as a Controller for six years and a Treasurer for two years at two different community banks.

More recently Blake has sat on several boards and been engaged in his local community, including a homeless shelter for women and children, working with United Way, involved with Junior Achievement, and volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America.

Richard Walter

Board Member

Richard Walter is retired from the insurance industry where he worked in sales management in central California. Richard received his AA in Agriculture from Delhi A&T, and his LLB from Southwestern Law School (Los Angeles).

Since 2006, Richard has been a Hearing Dog client of Dogs for Better Lives. Now with his second Hearing Dog Noni, a 3 year old yellow Labrador, Richard is able to be alerted to the phone, smoke alarm, oven timer, alarm clock, name call, and door knock. Noni does this by tapping Richard’s leg with her nose and then leading him to the sound.

In addition to being a Dogs for Better Lives’ client, Richard also serves as a National Ambassador for DBL, presenting about the organization to local and regional community groups, such as Rotary. In addition, Richard has also gone out on behalf of DBL and interviewed prospective clients for the nonprofit.

More recently, Richard has become interested in DBL’s Volunteer Canine Recruiter (VCR) program, helping the national nonprofit with advance survey and notification of prospective rescue dogs that might be suitable for one of the organization’s Assistance Dog programs. Currently this program is just working with animal shelters in California.

Richard is excited about Dogs for Better Lives’ development of their Autism and Program Assistance Dog programs for people who experience Autism and other disabilities. Serving as a Board Member for Dogs for Better Lives is providing Richard with a wonderful opportunity to speak with community groups about the value of an Assistance Dog and how they better people’s lives, including his own.

Richard and Noni live Bass Lake, CA, near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, where they enjoy boating, fishing and the outdoors.

Apply to the Board

Dogs for Better Lives is a founding member of Assistance Dogs International.

The Assistance Dogs International Standards and Ethics Committee has developed minimum standards and ethics which all member programs must follow. This active committee updates existing standards and develops new ones. These standards are the backbone of the ADI accreditation and guide programs.