Heather’s love of dogs began at an early age, and she began handling the Bullmastiffs her family bred for show and. As an adult, she became more involved in dog training and became a student at WonderDogs in 2000, where she taught for several years, specializing in the Puppy Head Start program. In addition to dog training, Heather launched a line of fine jewelry in 2010 called BirthPaws.
Heather discovered a posting for a job at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center after its opening in 2012 and was hired in March 2013 as a part-time trainer.
Heather’s canine companions have included a Golden Retriever, Rusty, and a Jack Russell Terrier, Sparkle, who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Her canine family currently consists of 6 Jack Russell Terriers, Jack, Pearl, Fios, Starr, Iris, and Ziggy, with whom she trains and competes in various dog sports, including flyball, Jack Russell racing, lure coursing, Earthdog, and conformation.]]>
Katie graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Bachelors in Elementary Education and Music. Following graduation in 2007, she decided to attend graduate school for music, resulting in a Master of Music degree in Cello Performance in 2009. During this time, she was working in Texas as a musician and cello teacher. She discovered her interests in dogs after getting her first puppy, a Finnish Spitz named Kimma, in 2010. Her high-energy puppy lead her to explore the nuances of training dogs, and, later in 2010, Katie began teaching dog training classes.
Now that she’s moved back to the Northeast, Katie teaches classes regularly at Pinelands Dog Training Center in Medford, NJ. She has experience teaching beginner through advanced obedience, foundation agility, tricks, CGC courses, and classes appropriate for reactive dogs. She has trained her own dogs to compete in agility, rally, obedience, and Barn Hunt and handles a registered Therapy Dog. Katie’s dog, Kimma, is the highest titling female in the breed and has set multiple breed records in agility. In addition to dog training, Katie bred a Finnish Spitz litter of her own in 2013.
Katie discovered the job opening at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center through a friend who was volunteering at the Center at the time. She works part-time at the Center; continues to teach training classes in Medford, NJ and cello lessons in the Philadelphia area; and freelances as a cellist, performing at weddings and the like. Katie lives with her husband, Justin, their four Finnish Spitz (Pentti, Bubbles, Kimma, and Jari), and their ferret, Nika.
Donna has been an avid horse person since the age of 5. Her love of horses led her to own and operate an equestrian tack shop, Gentry Tack & Apparel, Inc. for 15 years and to volunteer at Thorncroft Equestrian Center. Donna’s interests broadened to include dog training when she began taking Maddie, her Bouvier des Flandres, to agility classes after Maddie showed interest in agility equipment during an obedience class. Maddie and Donna now compete in AKC agility at the Masters Level.
Donna began volunteering at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center as soon as it opened. Her contributions as a volunteer prompted the Center to hire her as a part-time trainer 6 months after she began volunteering. Donna grew up with horses, basset hounds, and ducks, which encouraged her love of animals. She rescued two greyhounds, who have since passed on, before she got Maddie and now, in addition to Maddie, owns seventeen chickens; two English Bulldogs, named Bonnie and Clyde; and fosters the Center’s very own yellow Labrador retriever, Jake!]]>
Lindsey graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a degree in psychology in 2011 and will be graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her Masters in Social Work in May 2014.
Having grown up with two rescued dogs, Jada and Madeline, Lindsey’s interest was piqued by the opening of the Working Dog Center when she arrived at Penn in the fall of 2012. She started volunteering and never left!
In the fall of 2013, she was hired as the Foster Coach, the responsibilities of which include coordinating and recruiting fosters for WDC dogs and growing the foster program. In her spare time, Lindsey is an avid road-biker and enjoys being the back-up foster for the Center’s very own Ditto.
The Working Dog Center was founded in 2007, but the seeds of Dr. Cindy Otto’s vision were planted much earlier.
Dr. Otto deployed with Pennsylvania Task Force One to Ground Zero, where she monitored the Search and Rescue dogs who were working at the World Trade Center. Her job was “strictly to take care of the dogs”. Not only those associated with the Pennsylvania team, but any of the other search dogs or animals that needed assistance.
After returning from Ground Zero, Dr. Otto, with a grant provided by the AKC Canine Health Foundation, initiated the only longitudinal study to follow the effects of the deployment to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Staten Island Landfill on the Search & Rescue dogs’ immediate and long-term health and behavior. At this time, we are still actively following 2 deployed dogs and 2 control dogs.
Read more about the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study HERE.
It wasn’t until 2007, that Dr. Otto’s full vision came to fruition and the Working Dog Center was officially formed. In 2012, the Working Dog Center opened its training center on the South Bank Campus at the University of Pennsylvania.
At the Working Dog Center, we continue to conduct research and train a variety of detection dogs including Search & Rescue. We honor the legacy of the 9/11 search dogs who deployed and participated in our 9/11 study by naming our puppies after them. It’s a way that we keep our history in mind, while we look to grow our family.
View our 9/11 Search Dog Memorial HERE.
We got an update from the Darlings, our whelping fosters, on what the puppies have been up to.
All nine have developed a distinct personality and each has their own quirks and attributes.
As they’ve grown over their first month of life, they’ve all developed a playful attitude.
They’ve been playing tug with anything they can—chew toys, leather toys, cat toys, towels—and are chasing each other all over the place. They’ve also discovered the joys of a kiddie pool on a hot summer day, and frequently jump in to it off of a small ramp that Eric constructed.
In addition, we’ve been helping the puppies get used to different surfaces and heights. Since they’re so young, we’ve put them on small planks that are about 3 inches off the ground—they’ve been doing well with that so far!
As always, you can check out our puppy photo gallery here: http://pennvetwdc.org/2014/annoucements/our-first-litter-2/
After advancing to the semifinals, she’s emerged as the winner of the Search and Rescue category, and is now in the finals for overall Hero Dog!
The last round of voting extends from now until 12:00pm on September 15th. We need all the help we can get, so be sure to vote every day. Since her handler chose the WDC as her charity partner, we’ll receive a $5,000 donation in Bretagne’s honor if she wins.
Currently we have 18 dogs at the center, and a litter of 9 puppies getting ready to join our Puppy Foundation Program this fall. The training and care of each dog is very expensive—about $35,000 per year per dog—so a donation from Bretagne would greatly benefit our program. So get ready and get voting!