Watch Our Short Film: Our Name, Our Promise
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.
We opened our Northeast Campus in 2022, located in East Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Dogs for Better Lives has trained and placed more than 1,600 dogs since 1977 and has been recognized 8 times as a 4-star charity with Charity Navigator.
As a national nonprofit, Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) is comprised of regional campuses and satellite offices across the United States. Currently DBL’s West Coast Campus is located in Central Point, Oregon, which includes shelter dog acquisition, breeding program, Assistance Dog training, puppy raiser/breeder caretaker programs, and the majority of administrative staff.
In May 2021, DBL acquired property in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is now the organization’s Northeast Campus. The facility includes Assistance Dog training, puppy raiser program, and doggie daycare services.
Satellite offices are currently located in California, Washington State, Arizona, and New Hampshire.
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.
Continuing to be thoughtful stewards of our donor’s dollars, we’re proud to share that 100% of every dollar raised goes towards programmatic services. Administrative and fundraising expenses are fully funded by our endowment, specifically the annual interest earned from it, made possible by the past generosity of our Guardian Society members.
Dogs for Better Lives’ mission is to professionally train dogs to help people and enhance lives while maintaining a lifelong commitment to all dogs we rescue or breed and the people we serve.
by keeping their wellbeing (physical, emotional and mental) at the root of all decisions.
by providing our services with kindness, compassion and patience.
by being responsible stewards of our “donor dollars” through mindful and conscientious use of company time and money.
100% of Your Donation Supports Programmatic Services. Learn more here.
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.
After years in the tech space, she wanted to find more meaning in her work and found a home in the nonprofit space. Prior to Dogs for Better Lives (DBL), she led marketing for a national lung cancer organization where she helped grow fundraising for lung cancer research and focused on telling the stories of lung cancer survivors in an effort to break down the stigma with the disease. She also worked at the Center for Healthy Minds helping to communicate the emerging research on meditation, well-being, and mental health.
Joining DBL was a natural fit for her, because she has a strong desire to help people and dogs. Dogs have always been a central part of Sara’s life. She is committed to rescuing dogs through her local rescue where she has fostered multiple dogs and manages their website. Sara lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her boyfriend and her little rescue dog, Ruby. In her free time, she loves creating art, hiking, biking, and getting outdoors.
During her time as Program Director, Sarah oversaw the construction of their brand-new facility in the South Central Region as well as established and maintained program operations for the region. Under her leadership, the region was able to surpass all yearly placement and operational goals and also implemented a new PTSD program that provided assistance dogs to Veterans.
Sarah is a Massachusetts native and recently moved back to the area with her husband Travis and their two dogs, Bowen and Karmen. Outside of DBL, Sarah enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors by kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking.
Prior to joining DBL Harvey worked in senior managerial positions within 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 enjoys peak bagging our PNW volcanoes and 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.
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” - John F. Kennedy
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.
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.
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.
Bill holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History with a minor in Business Administration from Southern Oregon University. Bill and his wife are raising four daughters and have a small Maltese/Poodle named Toby who was a career change dog.
Bill's family has been involved in serving families affected by disabilities for years and looks forward to helping as Dogs for better Lives continues to expand in this area.
“I am very honored and humbled to join the board. Having grown up in southern Oregon I have a great love for this area and the community and certainly have a familiarity with this great organization. I look forward to contributing to DBL for many years to come.”
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.
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.
Tim is the Director of Finance and Administration for the Department of Ophthalmology at University of Washington School of Medicine. He has worked in medical school administration roles for more than twenty years.
“I believe in the mission of Dogs for Better Lives and its ability to engage with different groups and provide needed services,” stated Tim Cibula. “I appreciate the opportunity to work with this excellent organization and look forward to watching it grow.” Tim’s longtime love of dogs, passion for the critical work nonprofit organizations endeavor on, and his desire to help create an impactful difference, make him a great fit for the DBL board of directors.
The Cibula family lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Sherry and Tim Cibula have three kids: Joe, Ben, and Clare, all of whom are in college currently. The family enjoys camping and hiking together in the Pacific Northwest. They recently lost their beloved Trixie, a Blue Heeler / Border Collie mix who herded them for thirteen years.
Tom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Lithia Motors Inc., one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers operating dealerships across the U.S. Prior to joining Lithia, Tom practiced branding and regional marketing at advertising agencies BBDO and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Tom has a B.A. in Advertising from Michigan State University and a M.B.A. from the University of Oregon.
Throughout his career, Tom has served a variety of non-profit organizations. “The commitment of the Dogs For Better Lives team to their clients and their dogs is impressive. I’m eager to support them to help even more people.”
Tom and his wife have three children and a German Shepherd named Nala. “I’m amazed by the symbiotic relationship between people and dogs and I believe we’re just beginning to understand the full benefits of these partnerships.”
Michelle is an entrepreneurial-spirited, visionary executive whose nearly three decade career is hallmarked with CEO, Chief Marketing Officer, and Board of Director roles for iconic retail brands, including Sommsation, Harry & David, BevMo!, Smith & Hawken, West Marine, and PetSmart.
Michelle was recognized as a Top Women in Retail in 2019 and one of San Francisco’s Most Influential Women in Business in 2016. She earned an MBA in entrepreneurship from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, Babson.
"I believe it is important to give back. Dogs for Better Lives' values and their passion for dogs align well with my values and passions. I believe Dogs for Better Lives provides a valuable resource for several categories of people in need. DBL is making a positive impact and enhancing lives every day. I am honored to be a part of this growing organization."
First developing her love of dogs as a child, it wasn’t until Michelle, and her husband trained their current dog to be a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and completed Therapy Dog Training that she genuinely appreciated the impact a dog can have on a person’s life. Michelle’s team would repeatedly ask her to bring her golden retriever to work with her.
“You can see the health and well-being of people improve when they have the love and support of a service dog with them. I am honored to work with an organization focused on the well-being of their clients and the dogs that will improve their lives for years to come.”
Michelle is an avid (and a wee bit competitive) sailboat-racing enthusiast with her husband, Ross. She also loves hiking and spending time outdoors with her golden retriever Theodore (Theo, lovingly referred to as Theodorable).
Michelle joined DBL's Board of Directors in April 2022.
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.
She started her career in Chicago but ended up finding herself in Southern California. While working as a manager of a large publication design department, she headed over to Epson to work as a merchandising manager. She met her husband, who is a Creative Director, and owned his own marketing and design agency, in the early 1990s. Jensen joined his agency and added many more clients, mainly in consumer electronics industry.
Jensen’s initial interest in Dogs for Better Lives was sparked by their work with Autism Assistance Dogs. She worked with children with autism while in college and has several friends and acquaintances with children on the spectrum. She also has a love for dogs and understands how their fierce sense of loyalty and unconditional love can bring so much joy and comfort to anyone’s life.
“I’m so grateful to Wanda Cockey for nominating me for this position on the board of directors for Dogs for Better Lives,” stated Patty Jensen. “This organization is a perfect fit for my professional background and my passion for dogs. I look forward to participating in helping DBL further their cause and expand their reach."
Jensen is excited to join the board of directors for Dogs for Better Lives and contribute on many different levels. Patty brings a strong knowledge of marketing, networking, and design to the table. Furter she is interested in helping to recruit for the Young Professionals Board (CA) as well as promote the National Ambassador program to prospective new volunteers.
She and her husband have one adult son and have always had dogs as part of their family. First there was Sophie the Great Dane–a kind and gentle giant. Then came Lucy a Jack Russell Terrier. Lucy came to work every day until a mailman complained of her barking at him. So, when Lucy had to stay home, we adopted a companion for her, a Pomeranian with three legs named Desi. Lucy passed away and they are now looking to increase their family once again.
Patty Jensen joined the board in July 2021.
As a lover of all animals, it was only later in life, that she realized the importance of the animal/human connection; CarrieJo trained her dog Shep to receive his Canine Good Citizen (CGC), allowing them to visit Memory Care Units. Seeing the joy, love, and connection a dog can make with humans has forever changed CarrieJo.
“Through my own experiences, it was important to me, to join an organization that represents a blend of dog lovers, and people who want what’s best for their well-being,” stated CarrieJo Hoelzel. “It's an honor and privilege to serve on the Dogs for Better Lives’ Board.”
Over the past 13-years, CarrieJo’s career in the hearing health industry has allowed her to work closely with providers and doctors who serve patients with an array of hearing health challenges. Currently, CarrieJo works as the Senior Director, Customer Experience, leading the Customer Experience Team for Lantos Technologies 3D ear imagining.
CarrieJo joined the board in April 2021.
At 80 Henry is a retired journalist and still active author, having written ten books, including Traveling with Service Animals: By Air, Road, Rail and Ship Across North America, with Christine Goodier, also a DBL client. They are at work on a new post-pandemic edition of that book.
He is a graduate of Trinity College (Connecticut) and Northwestern University, and spent a 41-year newspaper career as an editor, critic and columnist for the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, the Chicago Daily News, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He, his wife Debby, and Trooper winter in a retirement community in Evanston, Illinois, and summer in a log cabin on the shore of Lake Superior near Ontonagon, Michigan.
Henry joined the board in April 2021.
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.
Emily Nelson graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, then earned her law degree from Boston College Law School. She has practiced law for over 10 years and specializes in labor and employment law, spending the last several years working as in-house counsel for national corporations.
Through this work, she has seen the incredible value that Assistance Dogs can provide in the workplace and more broadly in daily life. Along with her in-house practice, Emily provides pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence and serves as a volunteer alumni interviewer for Harvard.
After living in Austin, Texas, where she worked at the headquarters for Whole Foods Market, Emily returned to the Boston area with her beloved rescue dog, Decker, an American Village Dog/Catahoula Leopard Dog mix. Emily is an avid reader and is passionate about fitness and the outdoors, including playing tennis and finding new hiking trails with her dog.
"It is incredible how many unique ways dogs can bring joy, comfort, and help to humans,” stated Emily. “I am thrilled to help expand DBL's East Coast presence and new center in Massachusetts and to help further its wonderful mission of enhancing the lives of both humans and dogs."
Emily Nelson joined the national board in January 2022.
For more than seven years, Rich has been working in the commercial shipping industry, as the Claims Department Manager for Charles R. Weber Company. Prior to this, Rich worked for one of the premier tanker owners in the world, OSG Ship Management (NY) where he was AVP of Commercial Operations and managed a team of five commercial operators, coordinating the international movement of 45-50 tankers.
Rich's first job after college was with Caltex Petroleum Corporation (in NYC) working in the Computer Operations Department where he remained for five years when a position in the Supply & Distribution Department became available. During his tenure with Caltex, the company moved to Dallas, TX and offered Rich an opportunity to relocate. Six months after accepting this opportunity, Rich met his future wife Cynthia Day, a Texas native.
Cynthia and Rich had been annual donors to DBL for nearly 10-years, when Cynthia passed in 2017. In 2019-20, Rich made a significant gift in support of the future Puppy Sensory Park to be located on DBL’s West Coast Campus in Central Point, OR. The now Cynthia Perlman Puppy Sensory Park was dedicated with a ribbon cutting in Spring 2021, and is used regularly in training and presenting various environments to puppies, helping to orientate them to textures, smells, and experiences that they may encounter later on in training and/or with their human.
Rich is very active in giving back in his local community, where he is a weekly volunteer at the Gurwin Nursing home (Commack NY), where Cynthia spent the final four weeks of her life.
Rich joined DBL's national board of directors in October 2021.
Lisa has a close connection with the mission and vision of Dogs for Better Lives. She has friends and family who are deaf, on the autism spectrum, or have a service dog due to other health challenges. “I am very honored to have the opportunity to join the DBL Board,” stated Lisa. “I’m looking forward to working closely with DBL in the pursuit of placing more Assistance Dogs with people whose lives will be significantly benefited by having a wonderful, loving dog to assist them.”
Lisa has always been an avid dog lover and currently has 2 black lab mixes she and her husband, Tom, adopted from local animal shelters. One of the dogs, Coal, has become an excellent hiking partner on weekend trips.
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.
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 her 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.
Stacy is an avid runner, having completed a dozen marathons, as well as a long-time motorcyclist and former motorcycle instructor. She enjoys traveling to explore new places and after many years of supporting DBL finally got to tour the facility and see its growth while on a 27-state cross-country road trip in early 2019.
Stacy has served on a number of nonprofit boards in the past and is excited to help lead DBL into the future. Dogs have brought joy and richness to her life and she is constantly awed by what they can do for people as part of a DBL team.
"I'm always amazed at what dogs can do in service of us humans, and I'm thrilled to join the board of an organization I've long supported to help guide it in the continuation of its excellent work."
Garrett received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as an Executive Editor of the Georgetown Environmental Law Review. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics, Political Science, and History from the University of Oregon’s Robert D. Clark Honors College, where continues to be active in supporting the mock trial team and forensics program.
“DBL is a forward-thinking organization that is actively working to transform the way that persons with disabilities and dogs interact with the world,” said Garrett. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of such a cutting-edge program and to help change lives. I am committed to ensuring both its growth and long-term success.”
1. ADI-Assistance Dogs International
A coalition of members representing organizations and individuals training and placing Assistance Dogs. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of Assistance Dogs.
2. IAADP-International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
A non-profit cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing, and service dogs.
3. ADA-Americans with Disabilities Act
Information on service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as ADA information on public access for individuals with assistance dogs.
4. Assistance Dog Laws
Assistance Dogs in public and in the community.
The Assistance Dogs International Standards Committee has developed minimum standards 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.