Meet Our Team
Founder , Lead Interventionist, Educator & Trainer
I am an animal-assisted interventionist, humane educator and dog trainer with over twenty years' experience working with people, animals, and a combination thereof. I earned my A.S. in Assistance Dog Education and M.S. in Canine Life Sciences from Bergin University of Canine Studies (and my B.S. in Evolutionary Biology from The Evergreen State College). In 2013, I established Miracle Mutts -- the community outreach and therapy dog certification division of Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue. In 2017, my dog(s) and I established the F.R.E.D. (Freedom, Recovery & Empowerment with Dogs) program with Kern County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, where our work continues today, and we're researching the efficacy of pet therapy in the treatment of substance use disorder and PTSD. I feel infinitely blessed to do the work I do, because it means I get to have my animals with me, and at the same time fulfill their inherent needs to learn, work, and contribute.
Luca & Emma
Luca (left) & Emma (right) are Fred's nephew and niece. Luca belongs to me (as I belong to him); and Emma lives near us, so the pups have gotten to grow up together; and are the best of friends, playmates and work partners. Gifted to me just two weeks after Fred's death, Luca was my soul-saving grace as I mourned Fred's loss. Like his Uncle Fred before him, Luca (whose name means "bringer of light") and Emma are healers at heart. Both are certified therapy dogs, with extensive experience teaching children, teens and adults safe coping, life skills and vocational skills, in classrooms, educational assemblies, and group therapy settings. Luca and Emma's favorite activities (when they're not working) include chasing tennis balls, swimming in the pool, eating snacks, and chasing each other around the yard and house!
Fred was my original soul-mutt, whom I named after his spirit-twin, Mr. Rogers. Like Fred Rogers, Fred The Dog made everyone he met feel special, loved, and valued for exactly who they were. For his first year of life, I raised and trained Fred as a service dog for a child with autism; simultaneously, he was my partner in establishing my therapy dog practice. When he was 14 months old, Fred went on to fulfill his professional role as a service dog. After an arduous 2-year journey, it was determined that service work wasn't the best fit for Fred, at which point he was retired and became my forever dog. For the 18 months that followed, Fred and I lived and loved and worked and played together in bliss. In September of 2017, Fred was tragically taken from the physical world at just four years old. My goal, professionally and spiritually, is to carry forth Fred's legacy of love and service to others for the rest of my days on earth.
Colby is an awesome fourth-grader who's rocking online school, a great helper to me, a budding dog-trainer, and a best pal to Luca. (He's also our neighbor). When his school schedule permits, Colby will be joining in on some of our youth classes, to show other kids how they can help take great care of their pets at home!
Huckleberry is our precious (female) kitty, whom my neighbor found meowing in his bushes when she was just a couple of months old; she was afraid to let anyone get near her, but was also crying out for help. We're not sure, but believe she was likely born on the streets of Bakersfield, and possibly abandoned by her mama due to her lame front leg (which, as of this writing, is scheduled to be amputated in a couple of weeks). While she's only been in our home for a week, this tiny-but-mighty girl is already healing and happy as can be! She enjoys snuggling, playing fly-catching games on the iPad, and wrestling with her catnip mouse. Huckleberry reminds us that, even with physical or emotional challenges, we can overcome!