About Us

Watch Our Short Film: Our Name, Our Promise

About Us

Who Are We

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.

Where We Are

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.

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.

How We Do It

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.

Learn more about our dogs, heroes, and supporters

Go To Insider's Blog

Our Mission:

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.

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.

Our Commitment:

Dogs for Better Lives prides itself on being fiscally responsible, fully transparent, and is a top-rated 4-star nonprofit with Charity Navigator, nine years running.

Learn more about our financial commitment to our clients and donors in our Financial Report and Annual Report.

100% Funding:

100% of Your Donation Supports Programmatic Services. Learn more here.

Say hello to your Dogs for Better Lives team

Leadership

 

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.

Sara Ifert

Vice President of Marketing

Sara Ifert is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience in a variety of industries, including tech and nonprofits. She wore many hats while working in multiple tech start-ups, which allowed her to grow her skills and launch several creative marketing strategies.

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.

Sarah McCracken

Executive Director, Northeast Region

Sarah McCracken is a graduate of Penn State University where she earned Bachelor of Science Degrees in Psychology and Rehabilitation Services. Sarah joins Dogs for Better Lives with more than 10 years experience within the Assistance Dog industry. She began her career as an Assistance Dog International (ADI) accredited service dog instructor and spent the last 5 years as the Program Director for Canine Companions for Independence's South Central Region.

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.

Harvey Potts

Vice President of Development

Harvey Potts joined Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) in 2016. With more than 20 years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector, Harvey oversees development and communication programs. Harvey received his Bachelor of Arts in European History and Masters in Environmental Education and Planning from Pacific Lutheran University.

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 Steahly

Vice President of Finance

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 2015. 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

Vice President of Operations

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.

National Board of Directors

 

Dr. Danielle Rose

Chair, 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 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.

Tom Dobry

Vice Chair, Board Member

Tom Dobry grew up in West Michigan and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest after graduating from college. Since then, he and his wife raised a family while relocating across the country a few times between Detroit, MI and the Rogue Valley.

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.”

Blake Thurman

Treasurer, 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.

Garrett West

Secretary, Board Member

Garrett West is an Oregon lawyer specializing in appellate litigation and property law. He grew up in Southern Oregon and is an active member of the local community. His family owns a Jack Russell Terrier named Gromit and a cat named Nala.

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.”

Tim Cibula

Board Member

Tim Cibula joined the Dogs For Better Lives’ Board of Directors in July 2020.

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.

Stephanie Deines

Board Member

Born and raised in Sandwich, Illinois, Stephanie grew up with a love for animals and the outdoors. Growing up, Stephanie spent most of her summers camping, fishing, hiking and exploring nature with her family. Early on, Stephanie discovered that she had a skill for the creative arts, drawing, painting and crafts. This interest led her to pursue an education in Graphic Design where she explored various forms of media art as well as Business management.

After moving to Las Vegas, NV in 2002 to be closer to family, Stephanie became a mom to sons Steven (20) and Nicholas (17). Raising two boys Stephanie’s home was nothing short of a zoo -- from dogs to reptiles, rodents and birds most of which were rescue pets. While in Las Vegas, Stephanie volunteered for Nevada SPCA, Peoples First of NV (a local non-profit dedicated to enabling and empowering adults with disabilities to become more independent), as well as an event volunteer and foster pet parent for smaller Non-Profit Rescues where she found a calling as protector and advocate for rescue dogs specifically bully breeds.

In 2009 Stephanie began her career with U.S. Bank, as an “accidental banker” a term fondly used by the organization for team members who never planned a career in the banking world. Stephanie found her natural inclination towards finance and customer experience and her passion to lead, teach and inspire others. She fast tracked her career growth and development earning a Branch Manager position for the Las Vegas Market in 2012. Since then Stephanie has been instrumental in the career development of many others and has found a way to merge her creative side with her banking career.

From 2017 to 2022 Stephanie spent time as Branch Manager and Employee Engagement Lead after relocating to Grants Pass, OR. Here she spearheaded local initiatives focused on new business development and growth, creating programs around employee engagement as well as co-creating and piloting the district’s leadership development workshop.

Stephanie has since continued to grow in her career with U.S. Bank and has recently relocated to the Knoxville area. Stephanie and her husband Dan are now settled in rural Tennessee on 30 acres of farmland with their rescue dogs, Jenny, Lilly, Bronx and recent addition, a 3-month old blue heeler puppy named Dixie. When Stephanie is not leading her branch teams or networking with the local business community in the city she is tending to her farm where the family keeps an apiary and raises Nigerian dwarf dairy goats and chickens. The Deines family also care for their growing herd of angus cattle who roam their pastures. Finding purpose in living a more self-sufficient lifestyle, Stephanie enjoys growing, raising, and preserving their food as well as selling their local honey, eggs, goat cheese, and soap.

“I truly understand the impact of sharing your life with a dog,” stated Stephanie. “I know that for so many people it can significantly improve their quality of life, which is why I am so excited to join Dogs for Better Lives and help do just that.“

Stephanie joined DBL's Board of Directors in October 2022.

Lisa De Vivo

Board Member

Lisa De Vivo is a 2nd generation Italian American, born and raised in New Jersey and now residing in Neptune, NJ. Growing up, Lisa’s family was very supportive of her energy, drive, and vibrant personality. Her passion for animals started as a young child as her family always had pets growing up. Though, Lisa would take it a step further and gather all the neighborhood dogs and bring them to her house.

Lisa graduated from Long Branch High School and shortly after, became a mother to her beautiful daughter Alicia who is now 26. She stumbled into the automotive industry, starting to sell cars for DCH Auto Group back in 2001. From there, her strong drive and passion about the industry grew, primarily because of her desire in helping and assisting customers, and even more so driven by the competitive nature within the sales team.

As the automotive industry is 90-percent male driven, this inspired Lisa to work even harder to demonstrate her strength, knowledge, and that a hardworking independent women can successfully achieve anything with dedication and drive. In 2014 Lithia acquired DCH Auto Group and from that point has been supportive of advancement opportunities for women. Lisa was promoted to General Manager in 2019 at Brunswick Toyota, being one of only a few female GM’S within the company, which has grown to be the #1 retailing auto group in the country as well as within the Toyota New York region. Under Lisa’s direction, Brunswick Toyota achieved Lithia Partners group recognition in 2021.

In her personal time, Lisa’s enjoys spending time with her three French Bulldogs Mr. Muffin, Señor Mateo, and Ms. Sugar Monroe. Lisa’s dogs come to work with her, as she provides a dog-friendly environment for her employees and customers, as well as periodically uses them in the dealership’s marketing. Lisa truly believes in the healing affects that animals have on people’s lives and loves to spend her free time traveling and making memories with her family, friends, and of course her dogs.

“I’m thrilled and excited to join Dog for Better Lives’ National Board,” stated Lisa. “My ongoing passion for animals and helping people aligns well with their mission and I’m looking forward to helping support DBL and provide awareness in NJ and the northeast.”

Lisa joined DBL's Board of Directors in July 2022.

Michelle Farabaugh

Board Member

Michelle Farabaugh grew up in western Pennsylvania and was lured to the west coast 25 years ago. She, her husband, and their furry baby reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and southern Oregon.

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.

Aradhana Gupta

Board Fellow

Aradhana is an MBA candidate at the Foster School of Business. She received her Bachelor of Commerce at Panjab University and Chartered Accountant credentials at The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Aradhana started her career as an auditor at KPMG before joining Bough Consulting, a start-up, as their 5th hire.

A couple of years on, her passion for education led her to apply to the Teach for India fellowship, where she served as an English and Social Science instructor for 10th graders. She led a training program to enable her school’s transition to online learning during the pandemic. The project helped her discover the potential of education technology in the classroom and drove her decision to pursue an MBA. Aradhana hopes to work at an Edtech company after completing her degree, driving the creation of products that enable meaningful and inclusive learning.

This summer, she worked as a Social Entrepreneurship Fellow at the University of Washington, conducting pre-launch research and creating a business model for an eLearning product serving stakeholders in the child welfare system. She also interned as a Marketing Consultant at Advanced Classroom Technologies.

“When my family first brought home a puppy to support a relative’s mental health, I witnessed the transformative power of a dog’s love,” stated Aradhana. “I believe that dogs do indeed create better lives! I am thrilled to further my learning at an organization that empowers individuals through the support of these animals.”

Aradhana joined the national board as a fellow in Sept 2022 and will serve throughout the current academic year.

Rob Hegeman

Board Member

Rob Hegeman has worked with business owners and decision makers for more than 25-years in a multitude of industries. He has helped accomplish their goals through collaboration, business strategy and finding solutions to overcome obstacles that are in the way.

In his current role as Vice President and Virtual Chief Information Officer for Lifeline Computer Solutions, Rob focuses on providing his team with resources, support, and training for them to thrive. On a strategic level, Rob is involved in the company’s organizational planning and development as well as employee development, engagement, and retention.

In Rob’s role as a Virtual Chief Information Officer, he engages clients in conversations that involve identifying business risks, developing strategic roadmaps, planning technology budgets, and building business relationships.

In prior roles, Rob has worked as a Talent Acquisition Supervisor and Manager at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and BBSI, Program Manager at an intergovernmental agency, The Job Council, and other private sector companies.

Rob earned his Master’s in Management from Southern Oregon University and his B.S. from Fresno State University.

Personally, Rob seeks to maintain a balanced mind, body, spirit approach to life. He loves to spend time with his fiancé, family (3 grandkids already – woo hoo!) and friends. He truly enjoys Southern Oregon and all its adventures!

“Joining DBL’s National Board of Directors provides me with the opportunity to help improve and enhance the lives of others,” stated Rob. “Ultimately, through the volunteer work of myself and other board members, we’ll bring more smiles, enjoyment, and security — allowing those with our dogs to experience a better quality of life.”

Rob joined the board of directors in September 2022.

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.

CarrieJo Hoelzel

Board Member

CarrieJo Hoelzel was born and raised in Minnesota and currently resides in Vancouver, WA, with her husband and fur family. CarrieJo’s career in the hearing healthcare industry provided an opportunity for her to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, where she and her family enjoy the amazing beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, mountains, and towering pines all around us.

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.

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.

Patty Jensen

Board Member

Patty Jensen is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan and attended the University of Michigan, majoring in communications and marketing.

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.

Emily Nelson

Board Member

Emily Nelson, a lifelong dog lover and New England native, recently returned to the Boston area where her family lives and she is excited to be a part of this growing national nonprofit.

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.

Rich Perlman

Board Member

Rich has spent much of his adult life in New York where he currently resides and received his Bachelor of Arts in Computer Sciences from Hunter College in New York City.

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.

Dr. Chelly Quinn

Board Member

Dr. Chelly (Michelle) Quinn is a semi-retired veterinarian who has a passion for working dogs. She graduated from Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine after playing basketball at the collegiate level. Having been raised in a small town in western Oklahoma and later met and married her husband, Dr Joe Quinn, in veterinary school. Following vet school graduation and they moved to the Dallas metroplex (TX).

She and her family raised an assistance puppy in the late 1990’s. “Dee” fell in line with their three human children spending a lot of time at their small animal veterinary practice in Mesquite, Texas when not on field trips or at athletic fields and gyms supporting the kids’ teams. Dee did not make the cut to become an Assistance Dog so she returned to the Quinns and became an outstanding ambassador and therapy dog, and further sparked Dr. Chelly to pursue helping out with other service dogs and organizations.

Dr. Chelly is a board member for Search One Rescue Team which serves north Texas urban and rural communities. Cooper, a handsome golden retriever, was her working trailing dog for the team and taught Dr Chelly even more ways dogs can help people. The Quinn’s cared for many local police dogs and became certified in techniques to help screen dogs for a variety of orthopedic issues to help determine the best dogs for training and breeding. They continue to volunteer their time with service dog organizations in the Dallas area.

In 2015 Dr Chelly pursued and became certified in rehabilitation/therapy and acupuncture for animals and they incorporated these services into their practice. The Quinn’s sold their small animal practice in 2019, though Dr. Chelly continues to manage a very limited house call service, primarily for dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery or elderly dogs with mobility issues. They enjoy having their three children and their families nearby and especially the growing crew of grandkids. Scout, a two-year old golden, and Odyssey, a five year old lab/golden mix share their love and their home and both are therapy dogs sharing their love at local hospitals.

“I am always amazed at all the gifts dogs provide us humans,” stated Dr. Chelly. “We owe it to those trusting souls to make their lives as enriched as possible while they in turn care for us in so many ways. I am excited to get involved in Dogs for Better Lives and help out however I possibly can.”

Dr. Chelly Quinn joined DBL's national board of directors in October 2022.

Lisa Robinson

Board Member

Lisa Robinson grew up in Oregon and attended the University of Oregon, earning her BS degree in Psychology and Business. Lisa currently lives in Portland, Oregon and is Vice President, Human Resources for the Construction Sector software business that is part of the global company, Trimble Inc. In her role, Lisa and her HR team support 3,000 professionals across 20 countries. Prior to Trimble, Lisa worked for more than 15 years as an HR executive in the financial services industry and in professional services.

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.

Hannah Thornton

Board Fellow

Hannah Thornton is currently working towards a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, with a focus on Technology Management. She spent the past four years at the equity management software company, Carta, focused on operational growth initiatives within the Investor Services and Fund Administration teams.

She brings a breadth of experience spanning strategic branding, public relations, and operational programming, with a keen eye for tactfully scaling growing teams. Hannah has a Bachelors in Spanish and Journalism from Mount Holyoke College where she also enjoyed four-years as a varsity equestrian athlete.

Her love of animals immediately drew her to Dogs for Better Lives and she is incredibly excited to contribute to such a wonderful cause. Hannah also acts as a wish granting volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and can be found roaming the Seattle area with her husband and 5-year-old Bernedoodle, Wiley.

“I'm thrilled to be a part of the DBL team,” stated Hannah. “Furthering this cause is extremely personal and I'm honored to contribute to this special organization.”

Hannah joined the national board as a fellow in Sept 2022 and will serve throughout the current academic year.

Stacy Tollie

Board Member

Stacy Tollie grew up in New York, just outside New York City, and after living a few other places landed in North Carolina, where she currently makes her home. After graduating from Albany Law School she became a member of the NC & NY bars and spent 20 years as a magistrate judge before returning to school in 2016 to obtain a master’s degree in health & exercise science from Wake Forest University.

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."

Apply to the Board
Staff and Board Member photos courtesy of Cornelius Matteo Photography.

 Client Resources

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.

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

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.