A well-trained service dog can make real and meaningful change
A well-trained service dog can make meaningful change in the life of someone with a disability, helping them to live actively and independently. Unfortunately, there are many individuals with disabilities who would benefit from a service dog but face significant obstacles in trying to obtain one. Their challenges can include organizations that only service specific populations, geographies, and dog breeds, as well as long waiting lists within these organizations due to an overwhelming need and few resources.
Our mission: Atlas fundamentally expands access to assistance dogs. We support people with disabilities to train and certify their own service dog using positive, ethical training methods. At Atlas, we believe anyone who would benefit from a qualified assistance dog should be able to have one.
To fulfill this mission, Atlas addresses unmet needs by helping people obtain and train their own service dog without relying on an organization to provide them with a dog. Atlas is bringing a quality of training and rigorous certification standards to the individual that was previously available only through larger organizations.
Our model: Atlas supports the individual who wants to and is able to be an active part of training their own dog. Our Atlas Team Facilitators are skilled volunteers who assist clients who are working to train their own service dog, either entirely on their own or with a trainer. The facilitators guide the team through their final six or more months of training, working with them to refine the dog’s performance, develop the dog’s skills in mitigating the client’s disability, and prepare the team to pass our public access test and work with confidence in all settings they frequent.
We are also working to address a critical shortage of qualified service dog trainers through a comprehensive online program designed to prepare experienced dog trainers to train service dogs and work with people with a wide range of disabilities. Our courses provide training related to dogs, working with people with disabilities, and training for skills to mitigate the client’s disability.
Humane, ethical treatment of dogs and people
We treat all people and all dogs ethically, compassionately, and as individuals. We partner with trainers, doctors, patients, and researchers to ensure that we employ the most ethical, scientific, and effective training approaches available with each person and each dog in our program.
We promote inclusion and diversity. We welcome and seek out anyone who can benefit from our services. We proudly serve people of every race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and military status. We also welcome dogs of any breed (and mixed breeds) as long as they have the temperament and the physical ability to be an assistance dog.
Honesty, integrity, transparency
We value open and straightforward communication. We earn the trust of our constituents by delivering on our promise of providing an expanded pool of highly-skilled, certified assistance dogs. We have high standards in everything we do and set the highest bar for our certification process. What we do matches what we say. Our decisions and finances are fully documented and accurately reported.
We are well organized and well managed. We follow accepted best practices for management, accounting, and documentation. All communication from our organization helps to convey the message that Atlas Assistance Dogs is a serious, competent, and professional organization.
Boldness and creativity
Our heads and our hearts are fully engaged in exploring ideas, techniques, and technologies that enhance our ability to fulfill our mission. We are scrappy. We find a way.
Mike discovered the impact of service dogs very personally when his daughter trained a service dog for him to help mitigate his degenerative arthritis. With his service dog Turner at his side, Mike has not only been able to meet his day-to-day needs, he has maintained and regained the ability to do the physical activities that give him the most joy. This has strengthened Mike’s belief that all people should be able to live full lives, regardless of their disability. Mike is a committed advocate for people with disabilities and for the service dogs who help them thrive. Being part of the founding board of Atlas has been an exciting opportunity to do just that.
Mike retired in 2016. Through a career as marketing and proposal writer for several technology companies, Mike has developed strong communication and project management skills. Prior to working as a proposal writer, he worked as a grant writer for the city of Spokane, Washington and as a case manager helping get people off the street and into jobs.
Mike has a BA in English and a MS in Sociology.
Jennifer has been surrounded by animals and active in their training and rehabilitation since she was a child. Just as she’s seen many a stray or shelter dog through fear and reactivity issues, they have seen her through hard times too.
Jennifer recognizes that working with service dog teams is at least as much about the person as about their animal. She is deeply committed to positive, ethical treatment of both dogs and people. She is excited to be a co-founder of Atlas Assistance Dogs and to redefine the notion of service dog training to benefit as many people as possible.
Jennifer has worked as a leader in technology firms for over 20 years and is Vice President of Engineering at her current company. She has volunteered with environmental, animal, and human rights organizations throughout her life. She is a volunteer at the Seattle Animal Shelter. She has more than 10 years’ experience as a professional service dog trainer and instructor.
Jennifer has a BS in Applied Mathematics in Engineering and an MS in Astrophysical, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences. She is a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner, Certified Behavioral Adjustment Training Instructor, Atlas Certified Trainer, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).
From a young age, Erin has been interested in mathematics and finding order in the chaos of data. As a lifelong dog owner, Erin has always been amazed by the impact that a dog can make. Working with Atlas has allowed her to combine her passion for equity, servant leadership, and animal welfare with her love for solving problems using data analytics.
Erin grew up in Minnesota. She studied mathematics at Macalester College in St. Paul and moved to Seattle to pursue graduate school at the University of Washington and has enjoyed living in the Pacific Northwest ever since. Erin currently works as a data scientist at The Boeing Company.
Erin has a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Applied Mathematics.
Niki Becker, MD
Niki went from providing care as a physician, to being the patient and searching for a service dog. She eventually found an organization that would train a dog specifically for her needs, but by time Cody made it to Seattle from his training on the East Coast, it was clear that he was not appropriate for her mobility limitations, and it was devastating. She understands keenly how much a properly trained service dog can help, and a mismatch can hurt! Being part of the founding board of Atlas has been a way to turn that painful experience into a positive.
Niki was forced to retire on disability due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and she volunteers supporting others with this condition in WA State. Her experience working with various medical and mental health issues in children and young adults, as well as her own experiences with chronic illnesses, give her unique insights, and help her interface with clients, trainers, and providers.
Niki’s last position was as associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, specializing in pediatric nephrology and adolescent medicine. Niki received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jessica’s dog, Brewster, is not a service dog. Still, she finds herself in awe of all of his capabilities. Further, she finds service dogs that are trained and certified to provide services for their human partners nothing short of miraculous. She believes these service dogs should be accessible for all those who need them. This thought is one of the reasons Jessica so adamantly supports Atlas Assistance Dogs.
Jessica shares her experiences and skills in the non-profit sector with Atlas. Currently, she is the Executive Director of World Without Hate, serves as consultant and coach offering interim leadership and project specific support, and is a faculty member in University of Washington’s Non-Profit Certification Program. Jessica is also a member of the City of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission, PeaceBuilder Chair for Rotary District 5030, and Donor Engagement Committee for Pike Place Market Foundation. She looks forward to using her vast network and experience in support of Atlas’s mission.
Jessica holds a BA in Theatre and Directing from Marymount Manhattan College (NY, NY), a MALS from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), and a Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA).
Katrina had a challenging experience training her own service dog to assist her with mobility support for chronic pain, fatigue, and disequilibrium. Kepler, a German Shepherd Dog, was ultimately withdrawn from service dog training. Soon after, Katrina heard Jennifer Kolar speak at a dog training conference: at last, she was relieved to hear someone explicitly state how difficult this venture truly is and understood the very real barriers that exist to acquiring a well-trained service dog.
Katrina has worked professionally to develop service dog equipment that was much needed in the disabled community. Her experience as the owner of Bold Lead Designs has provided a unique perspective of the service dog world. Through her work, she has been privy to hundreds of heartwarming success stories and devastating failures in service dog partnerships. She has seen training models that work well for people, other models that work for dogs, and observed a gap between existing models that served both dogs and people successfully and ethically. Katrina is excited to bring her expertise and knowledge to serve Atlas.
Katrina has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography.
Molly was introduced to the world of service dogs when she became in need of one herself after developing a severe seizure disorder while in college. Her service dog Reid was partially trained in a prison program, but Molly continued most of his training on her own with the help of a private trainer to ensure Reid would properly fit her needs. As a college student, Molly became an passionate advocate for people with disabilities and for service dog education and access. She has seen first-hand the benefits and the empowerment a service dog can bring, and it is her strong belief that people do not thrive despite their disabilities, but rather with them.
Throughout her college years, she worked with other local disability rights organizations and also worked to make her campus more accessible to students with disabilities through the leadership and advocacy group she was part of.
Molly joined Atlas’ board of directors in 2017 as a means to continue her advocacy efforts and help more people like herself who could benefit from a service dog. With Reid by her side she graduated with a B.S in bio-anthropology and psychology.
Mark is a storyteller. Whether writing essays or analyzing datasets, he finds joy in using his skills to “put the pieces together” into something meaningful. After a consulting engagement with a disability group, he learned that disability advocacy is a story that needs telling and re-telling. He understands the life-changing difference access can provide, and he understands that not all individuals have that same access. Combined with his love for animals, Atlas’s mission became particularly important to Mark. Being part of the Atlas board has been a way for Mark to use his love of storytelling to expand life-changing access.
Mark works as a consultant, providing strategic and/or analytical insights to help organizations solve their biggest problems. This work provides him with experience in all things business, ranging from market research to data analysis. Most specifically, this work provides Mark with the skills to gather information, analyze it, and present it in a way that helps clients with their goals.
Mark has a BA in English and is currently pursuing an MS in Computer Science.
Myles’s life mission is to expand access to quality and cost-efficient healthcare. At a young age, he joined his father on numerous medical missions in remote and underserved areas of the Philippines. These missions showed Myles that, although healthcare is a universal need, it is not universally available. He continued pursuing his passion as an undergraduate, where he studied nursing to better provide for patients’ health and well-being. Myles is excited to join Atlas because he knows that access to assistance dogs and other holistic approaches to healing is important, especially for individuals like those he treated as a child.
As a nurse, Myles is an advocate for addressing disparities in healthcare and the well-being of patients. He is experienced in managing daily operations of emergency departments in various nonprofit healthcare organizations and leading process improvement initiatives. He is thrilled to share his skills and experience in support of Atlas’s mission.
Myles has a B.S. in Nursing and a Master’s in Business Administration.
Kassandra is not only a pet owner but has seen firsthand the impact service dogs can have on the lives of individuals with disabilities. She is an ally, peer, and a lifelong supporter of dog welfare organizations. She believes that with education and organizational human-centered design, working with Atlas Assistance Dogs will help to break down the barriers which prevent people in need of a service dog of obtaining one.
Kassandra especially has an interest in connecting people with mental health diagnoses to the benefit animals can provide. Kassandra is a trained Crisis Interventionist and has over fifteen years of experience in behavioral health direct care, in both educational and inpatient settings. She has facilitated support groups with DBSA, and is also trained in Mental health First Aid, CPI and NAPPI.
Kassandra’s professional background demonstrates significant experience in technical assistance and governance for both non-profit and for-profit organizations; a skill set which will serve to buttress the operations and growth of Atlas. Currently employed with one of the Big Four professional services firms, Kassandra also brings finance, marketing, and agile project management expertise to her role on the board.
Kassandra is currently pursuing a degree in Cybersecurity.