What Canine Angels is About


We all know how valuable service dogs are to people with disabilities.  They provide constant companionship and assistance with everyday tasks such as retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and getting help.  Many organizations providing service dogs focus on adults.

Canine Angels Service Teams fills a unique niche in the service dog world by providing specially trained service dogs, at no cost, to children as young as 5.  In our program, older children that demonstrate they can control the dog may qualify for public access to enhance their life experiences and maximize the benefits of having a dedicated canine companion.  In addition to providing companionship and unconditional love, our carefully selected and professionally trained dogs make a positive lifetime impact on children in becoming more self-sufficient, productive members of society as they reach adulthood.  In helping these children, we don’t measure our success by counting how many receive our dogs.  We focus on short, intermediate, and long-term observable outcomes designed to have a positive, life-time impact on the children.

Based in Oregon with operations in northern and southern California, our goal is to serve the west coast and beyond.  Our organization is composed of highly trained and dedicated staff with a combined 88 years of experience in training dogs and helping children.  Collectively, we have raised and trained more than 120 dogs to serve people in need.  

Our Staff, Board of Directors, and Volunteers are powered by our passion and commitment to create a better world for children with special needs.  We cannot help these children without public participation in our fundraising activities, grants from foundations, and private donations. 

The Canine Angels Team


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Kerrie Walters, Executive Director


After over 25 years of local and statewide leadership in the tourism and hospitality business, Kerrie joined the Canine Angels team in the fall of 2017. She had served on the Board of Directors since 2013, having found the organization truly inspirational and life changing for the young people and families who receive these amazing partners. She brings experience in marketing and development, and a strong service-oriented, relational approach to her work.

Kerrie has lived experience with Canine Angels dogs.  Her first dog, Alfie, a Career Change angel, spent time (with approval) supporting her at work and was an amazing companion. Snoopy, the original Ambassador dog for Canine Angels, came into her family’s life in 2015.  He became a certified therapy dog and 7 years after his initial training passed the test to become her service dog.

Snoopy supported Kerrie in her efforts to navigate the travails of MS and also visited students and the elderly, helping young people learn to read and melting hearts wherever he went. Snoopy passed away in May, 2018 but will forever be remembered because of  an Evergreen Bank  “Bearfest” statue honoring his contributions to the community.  Kerrie’s next venture with service dogs will be to raise a puppy… a role that is critical to our organization and will test her in so many ways.

Kelly Stack, Director of Marketing


Kelly has a Bachelor's degree in sociology with additional studies in communicative disorders and four years of training in sign language and interpreting (ASL and SEE).  She has worked in special education at the elementary level.

She has been raising, socializing, and working with assistance dogs since 1998.  Kelly was a therapy dog team volunteer with Therapy Dogs International for five years.  She has served as Executive Director, Outreach Coordinator, grant writer, event planner, and fund raiser for several service dog organizations and therapy dog groups.  Kelly arranges and conducts educational programs on service dogs at local schools.


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Sandy Mays, Head Instructor and Dog Trainer


Sandy is a professional dog trainer and instructor, owning her own dog training business since 1998. Prior to her training career she was a certified Emergency Medical Technician and worked for a Veterinary Technician for 12 years. Sandy’s devotion to assistance dogs and children with disabilities began as a young person when volunteering for a horseback riding program for special needs children and raising guide puppies for the blind.

Since then she has held the following key positions in service dog organizations: Puppy Raiser Coordinator, Trainer, Training Manager, Instructor, Executive Director, and Head Trainer. She personally raised 15 puppies to be assistance dogs and trained over 100 dogs that graduated as assistance dogs. She has been certified as an Assistance Dog Instructor by Assistance Dog International.

Sandy and her husband Ryan own two social dog boarding and training facilities in Southern Oregon. Sandy has trained dogs for private pet owners, Search and Rescue and for movies and commercials. She also finds time for Therapy Dog visits to care facilities, Service Dog presentations, rehabilitating rescue dogs and homeschooling her two amazing children.

Sheila Kolby, Applications Coordinator, Team Training Instructor, Record Keeper


In 2008, Sheila retired after 38 years in the legal field in which she held positions of legal secretary, Administrative Assistant and IT Support.  Now she splits her time between Grants Pass, OR and San Mateo, CA.  She is a current member of Skyline Dog Fanciers of San Mateo County and the San Mateo Dog Training Club and has taught obedience classes for both groups.  She currently teaches obedience classes for Canine Club in Grants Pass.  Sheila and her husband acquired their first Labrador Retriever in 1973 and shortly after that she became an instructor with the San Bruno Dog Obedience School (an organization that she is still involved with).  She currently has three dogs of her own (Labrador Retriever #12, a Goldendoodle and a Labradoodle).  She actively participates in many dog related activities with her dogs including therapy dog work, AKC obedience and rally competitions, scent work and has competed in agility in the past.

In 2001, she became involved with a service dog organization and became a puppy raiser with them.  In 2007, she and four others founded Canine Angels.  Since 2001, she has raised over 15 puppies, assisted in the whelping of over 8 litters and is currently raising a litter for Canine Angels


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Kerri Van Pelt, Puppy Raiser Coordinator, Breeding Coordinator


Kerri's interest in working with children started when she was 14 years old and her younger sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, requiring many hospital visits. This gave Kerri firsthand experience with pediatric diseases and care from the patient side, which led to a first career in the medical field, working with patients and assisting doctors in surgery.

Kerri went on to work at Disney in Anaheim, CA. She held several positions which included an executive secretary, catering and weddings assistant and even assisting with the opening of Disney's California Adventure. She loved that work, but due to her own recently diagnosed medical condition, she was forced to give up her dream job.

She has always had a love for animals. Fortunately, a co-worker at Disney, Kelly Stack (CAST co-founder), was raising puppies for children with disabilities. This was something she could do that would also tie in with her earlier interest in helping children. She started puppy raising, to date she has raised 7 puppies, whelped many litters for Canine Angels and has fostered and puppy sat many more.


The Canine Angels Board of Directors


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Christine Amor

  • K-12 special education teacher, 15 years
  • Parent of young adult, with cerebral palsy Alexandria, who recently graduated from ASU and received her successor service dog from Canine Angels
  • Graduated with Canine Angels Facility dog, Leo, in June 2018
  • Involved with Shane’s Inspiration. an agency that creates accessible playgrounds


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Kelly Bates

  • Owner of 2 pet food and supply retail businesses in North County San Diego area
  • Graduate of California State University San Marcos with a BS in Biology which has served her well in determining the quality of products she wants to carry
  • Supports Canine Angels' annual Fido Fest Fundraiser by providing raffle baskets
  • Served as Treasurer for Fallbrook Chorale where she has been a member for five years


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Patrick Diffley

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Jennifer Killinger

  • Controller/Business Manager of an Equine Non-Profit
  • Currently on her 6th puppy to raise for CAST
  • Therapy dog work at Children's Hospital Los Angeles


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Nancy Swearingen

  • Raised in Grants Pass, graduated from Grants Pass High School, and received a Bachelor’s degree in education from Oregon State University, GO BEAVERS!!!
  • Married to Steve and have one child, Scott, who lives in Portland
  • Was leader of a 4H horse club for 11 years and raised & showed Arabian Horses for many years
  • English teacher, and many years working as a long-term substitute
  • A lifetime love of dogs and years of work with children makes Canine Angels the perfect organization for me to be a part of


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Cindy Colman

  • Volunteer with Canine Angels Service Teams for the last 8 years
  • Active in the dog rescue community
  • Volunteer for many years in multiple shelters and dog rescue organizations
  • Licensed Realtor in Oregon and California
  • Retired from a successful 25-year career as a sales executive in the software industry

The Canine Angels Advisory Team


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Ginger Adrian

  • Mom to CAST graduate
  • Former CAST Board Member
  •  3-time puppy raiser
  • Volunteer CAST photographer for 9 years
  • Loves volunteering, making, & wandering (Not all who wander are lost)
  •  Lives in the foothills of Northern California


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Cathy Davalos

  •          Involved with Service Dog Organizations since 1999
  •          Co-Founder of Canine Angels
  •          Prior Breeder Caretaker, Puppy Raiser Coordinator and has raised many
  •          Prior ADI certified Service Dog Trainer
  •          Assistant Dog Trainer at San Bruno Dog Obedience School
  •          Pet Partners pet therapy team with Molly from the CAST Peanuts litter
  • Whelping Assistant for Canine Angels as well as other "puppy projects"


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Bill Hetzel

  • Founder and President of MB4 Productions
  • Studied Marketing at Azusa Pacific University
  • Supporter of Canine Angels since its founding
  • Sponsor of Canine Angels' current breeder dog
  • Has assisted Canine Angels with artwork design, website, and other media projects

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Barbara Hochberg

  • Active artist living in Grants Pass since 1995
  • Served on the Grants Pass Museum of Art and the City’s Public art committee
  • Works for Fire Mountain Gems on their leadership team, currently part time
  • Currently serves on the Board for Barnstormers Theater, Women’s Crisis Support Team and the City’s Tourism Committee

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Richard Johnstone

  •          Retired executive from Hughes/Raytheon
  •          Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Cal Poly University
  •          Founding board member of Canine Angels
  •          Former grant writer for Canine Angels
  •          Volunteer for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department