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Since 1998, we’ve trained more than 800 handler / pet teams. Our classes are at Mt. Zion Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where we continue to train new teams each month.

The handler/pet teams benefit from Pets Helping People’s ongoing support in finding just the right placement.

PHP partners with organizations and facility directors who care to do more for the people they serve. Our partners believe, as we do, in the healing power of a cold nose and a wagging tail. Working together, we create joy and inspiration for the more than 5,000 people we reach annually in the Southeastern section of Wisconsin. We reach an additional 5,000 people with our group pet therapy events.

OUR GOALS…

  • Improve and enrich the lives of others through animal-assisted therapy
  • Employ best practices in assessing, training, accrediting, and supporting pet-handler teams
  • Educate the community regarding the benefits of the human-animal bond achieved through animal-assisted therapy, partnerships and special events

WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON…

  • The passion, dedication, and commitment of our volunteers
  • The skills, training, and experiences offered by PHP
  • The power and value of the human-animal bond
  • Our comprehensive vetting and training program for handlers and their pets
  • Our unique partnership with Congregational Home that provides an authentic experience for the handler / pet teams

WHY DO OUR TEAMS MATTER?

  • Their desire to have their dogs help others aligns with our mission to help others
  • Each handler/pet team brings unique skills to share their kindness and affection
    • Ex: Performing tricks, snuggling, playing ball, listening or just being close
  • Unconditional love and acceptance is common through all
  • Handlers facilitate all that happens and play an integral role in the interaction
    • maintain awareness of safety procedures
    • advocate for their dogs
    • monitor and direct the visit

GET TO KNOW US!

PHP’S MISSION, VISION AND CORE BELIEFS
MISSION STATEMENT

To be a knowledgeable, compassionate and responsive source of information and support to all who seek education, training or involvement in AAI (pet therapy) in order to enrich the lives of people in our community in southeastern Wisconsin, including individuals with special needs.

VISION STATEMENT

Our vision is to be recognized as Southeastern Wisconsin’s premier pet therapy organization while maintaining high standards, communicating to others the benefits of pet therapy, and supporting our volunteers and the facilities they serve.

CORE BELIEFS

Pets Helping People, Inc. (PHP), our Board of Directors and our Staff subscribe to the following beliefs which serve as the foundation for our organization’s activities:
• Interaction with certified therapy dogs enriches the lives of people of all ages, including those with special needs.
• Effectiveness in the practice of AAI can only be achieved through professional evaluation and training, together with ongoing
support.
• Nurturing is a strong and basic human need, which therapy dogs can provide for people of all ages, including those with special
needs.
• The welfare of animals used in pet therapy must be protected at all times.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
AMY DODGE

Amy Dodge’s resume includes more than 40 years of organizational operations and business development including volunteer and staff management, marketing and budget oversight in the nonprofit sector and for-profit businesses. Her earlier career was spent with Shully’s Cuisine & Events as an Event Coordinator and more recently as Director of Operations and Marketing. Dodge was also head of Business Development with Blue Horse advertising agency. Her non-profit experience included an Executive Director position with a state-wide golf organization, a Development Director with a mental health organization and co-founder/President of Milwaukee Empty Bowls. These diverse experiences are an excellent fit for the revitalization the Pets Helping People organization is seeking.

Amy stated, “Southeastern Wisconsin has so many untold stories of doing fantastic work. Pets Helping People is one of those missions that just makes good sense. People need to hear about it and support the volunteers that are creating such incredible good-will in the community. I am honored to be part of this group and assist with the next phase of PHP.”

BOARD OF DIRECTORS – ALL VOLUNTEERS
ANGELA BLOCH-DAVIS – PRESIDENT

Angela’s journey to Pets Helping People (PHP) began with simple gesture of walking a dog, Duke, for a neighbor that was unfortunately in home hospice. She experienced first-hand the comfort, happiness, and healing power that a pet can bring to someone in times of struggle. At the time, Angela had no idea the full impact that simple gesture would have on Duke and her. Duke would eventually come to live with Angela and in 2017 they completed training together to join PHP. Seeing all the different volunteer experiences available in particular retirement homes and veterans, Angela encouraged her dad, Harold, to complete training with another one of her dogs, Axel. In 2018 Angela, Harold, and Axel completed their training together to join PHP. Currently Duke, Axel, and Angela volunteer with Allay Hospice in memory of Duke’s late owner. Angela enjoys seeing the joy and smiles that Axel and Duke can bring to their patients even during their difficult times.

When Angela is not volunteering with Axel and Duke, or her other dog and cats, she works as an International Insurance Account Manager at Hays Companies. Angela looks forward to providing awareness of the importance of the human-animal bond and continuing to bring smiles to the faces of those who need it most with the help of some furry friends.

LAURIE O’LOUGHLIN – VICE PRESIDENT

I’m excited to be part of Pets Helping People because it combines my interest in helping people with my love for dogs! My family has 3 dogs while I was growing up so I have been surrounded by dogs all of my life. I have a 2 year old black lab named Sydni. I’m looking forward to certifying her through PHP as soon as she matured a bit. Sydni has never-ending energy! She brings so much joy to my life every day and I’m looking forward to the time when she can help others. I recognize the unconditional love dogs bring to people and am happy to be involved with PHP!

JULIE DARNIEDER – SECRETARY

Julie and Lucky trained with Pets Helping People in 2016, and have been active with Waggin’ Tails since then. They also make regular visits to a women’s correctional facility in Milwaukee. Watching Lucky interact with these women, many of whom are forgotten by others, is a gift. As a retired (mostly) lawyer, Julie enjoys having the time to do this important work. She is grateful to Pets Helping People for taking a chance with Lucky, a mixed terrier rescue dog. And, she is looking forward to her service on the Board of Directors, helping to ensure that this service will continue and thrive in our community.

GREG APOLLO – TREASURER

Growing up with dogs and now having cats, I have always been an animal lover. Since joining the Pets Helping People Board of Directors in February 2022, I have seen firsthand how the pet therapy teams bring joy to the community and smiles to the faces of numerous individuals. I am excited to help the organization grow within Southeastern Wisconsin and be able to touch the lives of many more people. When not volunteering for Pets Helping People, I work as a Partner at Reilly, Penner & Benton LLP, and reside in Greenfield with my wife and two children.

KATHLEEN DUNN

Kathleen Dunn is a veteran Milwaukee radio talk show host, most recently 24 years with Wisconsin Public Radio. She was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame. Retired now and delighted to be a Pets Helping People Handler/Pet team with dog Finn for the past two years. Kathleen joined the Board of Directors in May of 2021.

BETH GIACOBASSI

I have been a musician in the Milwaukee Symphony since 1982 and taught at UWM for 20 years. While at the University I sometimes brought my English Lab, Koda, into my office to hang out with the students. After seeing the incredible impact a furry visit had on my students, Koda and I decided to become a certified pet therapy team. We trained through Pets Helping People in 2018. The classes fully prepared us to work out on the community in all sorts of different situations. We now regularly visit Sojourner Family Peace Center, the Women’s Correctional Institute at 6th and Keefe, and Shared Journeys (a charter high school for teen parents). We participate in many of the Waggin’ Tails events and even attended therapy sessions for someone with PTSD after a dog attack. This is the most rewarding volunteer work I’ve ever done. The flexible schedule enables me to visit on a more consistent basis and I’m proud to be on the board of such a terrific organization.

MONA KNUTSON

My life-long love of animals has drawn me to Pets Helping People, and since meeting Amy at Pet Fest in 2019, I have been happy to support this wonderful, vital organization. I have seen firsthand the benefits of interaction with therapy dogs, and I am passionate about the PHP mission to enrich the lives of people through animal-assisted therapy. Our labradoodle Dexter brings our family much joy, and I am grateful to always have had pets in my life. I am honored and excited to be part of this group of kind-hearted, giving, dedicated people and their dogs.

LESLIE POPALISKY

I joined PHP in April 2020 as the treasurer. I also work as an accounting manager at Kohler Co. and have been with them for 10 years. I relocated to South Carolina alone for 2 years and while I was there I adopted my dog Cooper. He became a fast friend and a great running buddy (we even trained for a marathon together). I have loved dogs my whole life and find that they are amazing confidants and mood boosters. I’ve seen how they impact people at nursing homes and in hospitals and how people suffering can get some moments of joy when they’re getting licked and snuggled by a dog. I am very excited and proud to be working with PHP where we can train “Man’s Best Friend” to spread their love and comfort to even more people.

LISA SCHILLER

Lisa is the Director of Investigations and Media Relations for the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin. She holds a B.A. in Communications and a B.S. in Criminal Justice from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has spent her career in the field of consumer issues, white collar crime matters, investigating, and writing. At the BBB, she’s working to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and promoting informed buying decisions. She is a 2004 Emmy award winner, and has won first place for investigations by the Milwaukee Press Club and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. Lisa won Honorable Mention for an investigation by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in 2012 and first place for a single case investigation by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in 2013. She is a member of the Wisconsin Fraud Investigators Association (WAFI), the Latino Fraud Fighters Coalition, the Franklin Police Citizens Academy Alumni, the F.B.I. Citizens Academy Alumni, and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI). She is a 2012 graduate of the Franklin Police Citizens Academy and a 2014 graduate of the Milwaukee F.B.I. Citizens Academy. Lisa and her husband have a daughter and reside in Franklin.

THOMAS TRINH

I work for Ozaukee County in the Department of Human Services. Maverick is able to come to the office with me on select days that clients wish to see him and sometimes even the counselors. On one special occasion this past fall, a student of the Port Washington Saukville school district had wanted to do a show-and-tell of Maverick and so Maverick and I, along with one of the counselors, worked with this youngster in handling Maverick. We were able to go visit all the schools in PWS School District and show off what Maverick can do. In one particular school, a child with severe developmental disabilities was greeted with Maverick onto his lap while seating in his wheelchair. The school specialist gently helped the child to pet Maverick’s soft head and fur. The child beamed to life with a huge smile and I was notified later that it was all the counselor could do to keep from crying tears of joy. In other classrooms, even while surrounded by a mob of children, he was able to just sit there while they hugged and pet his fur. The most interesting room, of course, was the one where all of the desk-chairs had tennis balls on their feet so as to slide easier across the floor. It took all that the youngster could muster to keep Maverick from taking each and every ball. A most adventurous day for everyone involved. Special thanks to Mr. Duane Woelfel, Director of Special Services for the PWS SD, and Jessi of Ozaukee County Human Services.

TRAINING TEAM – ALL VOLUNTEERS
HEIDI LACOSSE – TRAINING DIRECTOR

Heidi joined Pets Helping People in 2005 as our Training Director, bringing with her over 15 years of experience as a professional dog trainer, certified by AKC, the American Kennel Club. Heidi shares her vast knowledge of dog behavior readily with each class and guides the training team in ensuring that each participant receives the attention and feedback necessary to prepare them for doing pet therapy in the community. As a mom who recognizes the benefit of involving young people in work with animals and cultivating the virtues of responsibility and stewardship, Heidi actively encourages and supports her daughter Victoria’s role in the organization. In 2019 Heidi launched her dream business in Grafton, WI. The Canine Enrichment Center provides opportunities to discover your dog’s natural strengths and abilities through their fun, game-based learning and enrichment courses. https://www.canineenrichment.center/

DIANE MILLER – TRAINER AND SCHEDULING COORDINATOR

Diane Miller joined Pets Helping People in 2003 as a Board Member. Bringing a background in higher education, Diane was immediately drawn to our training program where she has been an assistant trainer for over 13 years. In 2011 it was her turn – Diane and her sweet dog, Irene, came through the Pets Helping People training program and are now an accredited handler/pet team! Diane and Irene volunteer at Eastcastle Place, a retirement community, where they visit residents on the memory care, skilled nursing and rehab floors. Additionally they are involved with the Read to Rover program at Irving Elementary School in West Allis and visit with the staff at Versiti, Wisconsin’s organ and tissue donation organization. Diane and Irene are members of Waggin’ Tails and attend as many of the PHP special events as time allows.

JO CROSS – TRAINER

My love for dogs started with our first dog, Abby. After she passed away at the age of 13, I became involved with Last Hope Animal Rescue (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and was a regular volunteer working with the dogs at the center, walking dogs,fostering dogs and fundraising. This was my way to get my dog fix. Another organization that I joined up with was Definitely Dogs. This group raises and trains service dogs for veterans and civilians. I had the honor of raising Dayton, an English labrador. We spent almost 2 years together before he went to work as a PTSD dog for a female marine veteran. After moving to Milwaukee in July 2019 I found myself looking for a dog group to volunteer with. PHP was at Petfest and I was immediately drawn into what pet therapy can offer to individuals and organizations. I went to one of the dog classes to see what it all involved and was instantly hooked. I adopted Ruby in 2020 and plan to take her through pet therapy as soon as she is ready.

ALISON JAGEMANN

Alison is the newest member of the team. Enjoys her 2 yellow labs, Walker who is a recent graduate of the program and future therapy dog Walter. She has been a veterinary technician for 20 years which is her labor of love. She spends her free time teaching her dogs to paddle board and cheering on the Badgers and Packers. She hopes to meet your furry friends at one of our future classes!

ERIN HENNEN

Erin started working with dogs full time in 2005 at a doggy day care. She has since managed a day care and became a professional pet stylist. Erin joined PHP in 2010 when she took the course with her dog Anakin. Leadership quickly recognized Erin’s natural ability and keen dog-insight and asked her to join our training team in January 2011. In addition to her volunteer work with PHP, Erin opened her own grooming business in Wauwatosa, WI https://www.fancypantspetsalon.com/

VICTORIA LACOSSE

Victoria was just 4 years old back in 2005 when she first became involved with the training program at Pets Helping People. Victoria has grown into being an integral member of the training team and, in partnership with her very supportive mother, became an accredited Handler with her now retired dog, Rosie and an Australian Shepherd named Dottie. Victoria, with her sweet giving nature, natural doggy sense, and maturity beyond her years is an example for many young people desiring to expand their experiences and give back to the community through volunteering.

Barb Pierce

Barb first joined Pets in 2004 with her border collie Abby.  Abby passed away shortly after certification, but the two months they spent at Jefferson Elementary School helping to start a program for children reading to dogs made her want to stay connected to Pets.  After losing Abby, Barb found Dottie, a 4 month old border collie, and in 2005, when Dottie was 1 year old, they came through our program following in the paw-prints of Abby.  As a retired school teacher, Barb & Dottie continue to volunteer at Jefferson and also at West Milwaukee Intermediate school’s special education class.  They also visit Heritage Court memory care nursing home and a group of cognitively disabled adults in an Easter Seals program.  Barb and Dottie are members of our Waggin’ Tails Therapy Performance Troupe.

“ ‘Dottie’s Here!’, Those words greet us when we enter a school.  Dottie’s the one to whom the children and adults relate; I’m the chauffeur who brings her.  This happy greeting and the beautiful smiles we see have made these visits a very important part of our lives.” – Barb Pierce

ADVISORS – ALL VOLUNTEERS
ANDREW J. NIEBLER ESQ.
SANDY RIVERS
JO CROSS
BARBARA MARKOFF
JOE MASSIMINO
DIANE MILLER
LEIGH KUNDE
KRISTIN KROLL, PHD