Well ahead of most of his ivory tower peers, Leo K. Bustad, dean of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, perceived the healing power of animals and dedicated himself to establishing the science behind the notion that our dogs and cats make us feel better. As co-founder of the Delta Society, he promoted greater understanding of the human-animal bond, and helped create the gold standard for animal-assisted therapy in health-care settings.
Joan Esnayra, founder and president of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, works to open people’s eyes to this more subtle form of service; much of her work focuses on assisting veterans suffering from PTSD.
From the depths of grim personal experience, Sister Pauline Quinn found the inspiration to start the Prison Pet Partnership Program that has helped heal the lives of an untold number of dogs and inmates alike.
Bonnie Bergin originated the concept of “service dogs,” canines trained to perform essential everyday tasks, such as opening doors and switching on lights, for people with mobility limitations—and then dedicated herself to getting these life-changing dogs to the people who needed them. In 1975, she founded Canine Companions for Independence, the first nonprofit to train and place service dogs. She later established a university of canine studies and spearheaded campaigns to help low-income individuals with disabilities afford assistance dogs.
Kathy Zubrycki and her late husband, Ted Zubrycki, pioneered the innovative development of “special needs” guide dog training, showing that guide dogs could be successfully trained for blind people with additional disabilities.
After a puppy spontaneously alerted Mark Ruefenacht to a dangerous drop in his blood sugar, he founded Dogs4Diabetics, which is dedicated to training dogs to detect the subtle scent of life-threatening hypoglycemia.
Inspired by her son’s cerebral palsy service dog, prosecuting attorney Ellen O’Neill-Stephens introduced canine advocates into Seattle’s criminal courts, and then co-founded Courthouse Dogs to promote the use of dogs to comfort traumatized victims and witnesses.
Sandi Martin’s flash of brilliance: Children who struggle to read will do better if reading to dogs. The success of her Intermountain Therapy Animals’ Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program spawned a four-pawed literacy revolution.
For nearly three decades, working-dog trainer and handler Larry Allen has been transforming “problem dogs,” especially Bloodhounds, into happily employed trackers for law enforcement agencies across the country.
Retired British orthopedic surgeon John Church made the leap from anecdote to science when he and his team undertook the first scientifically robust study that proved dogs can be trained to detect cancer.
There are many paths to wellness—here are some of the people who marked the alternative way.
Narda G. Robinson applies rigorous scientific methods to the study of complementary and alternative medicine for small animals; she holds the first endowed position in this field at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.