Meet our Handlers
PADs could not exist without the talented, dedicated, ongoing and dependable support of the many handlers who bring their dogs, day after day, to PADs for medical detection training exercises. The PADs program is ideally located on San Juan Island, home to many retired professionals who willingly add their areas of expertise and experience to the Program, and many of whom are dog owners who enjoy the experience of working with their amazing dogs.
Alyssa Crawford, Handler of River
Since Alyssa was a young girl, she has had a passion for animal husbandry. At the age of eight, she trained and cared for horses, along with goats, cats and dogs. Prior to joining PADs, Alyssa volunteered for a therapeutic riding center and later, earned degrees in both biology and sociology. She also became an equine veterinarian technician and worked as a professional equine groomer. From there, Alyssa went on to expand her experience and knowledge to include companion pet grooming. In 2018, Alyssa moved with her horse from the east coast to San Juan Island. Once settled, Alyssa opened her own grooming business on the Island, and finding herself in need of a furry business partner, Alyssa welcomed a Standard Poodle puppy into her life. Alyssa joined PADs with River, age one, in 2021, and having joined the Program, Alyssa says she feels lucky to have become a part of the PADs family of amazing dogs and handlers. The feeling is mutual.
Amber Chenoweth, Handler of Shugga
Amber is a former marketing director consultant for animal rescue organizations as well as a project management consultant for Microsoft. She now has two businesses on San Juan Island, Island Dog Ranch (animal care) and Amber Chenoweth Photography. Amber is well known and respected in the pet care community on San Juan Island. Amber and Shugga have been an integral part of the PADs team since joining PADs in 2017.
Bill Moore, Handler of Rudi
Prior to making San Juan Island his home, Bill served as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor at several Seattle colleges. Bill enjoys his time with Rudi, a super-sniffing Schnauzer, while at PADs, and says that Rudi is the centerpiece of his life. Bill and Rudi joined the PADs Program in the Fall of 2017, and since joining PADs, this team holds the record as one of the highest-attending teams at PADs.
Barbara Wright, Handler of Mia and Sasha
Barbara is a long-time islander who retired from public service after working for many years for San Juan County. The PADs program has significance for Barbara since her mother's youngest sister and a friend passed from Parkinson's Disease. Barbara sees the potential that the PADs Program has for the lives of people dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Barbara joined the PADs Program with her Standard Poodle, Mia, in 2016 when the Program first started, and today, Mia remains as one of the first dogs anywhere to have established the presence of an odor associated with Parkinson’s Disease. One year later, Mia was joined by Sasha, Barbara’s newest member of the Wright family of super-sniffing poodles.
Carolyn Haugen, Handler of Rowan
Carolyn volunteers and serves for many cause-worthy organizations on San Juan Island, including PADs. Currently, Carolyn serves on the Advisory Board at PADs and she finds her work at PADs especially rewarding since her husband, David,
passed away from complications related to his
Parkinson's Disease in 1984. Carolyn has dedicated her Golden Doodle, Rowan, to the PADs Program since the very beginning of the Program in 2016, and today, Rowan remains as one of very first dogs anywhere to have established the presence of an odor associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Carolyn strongly supports efforts for the early detection of Parkinson’s with the objective that early detection can provide life-prolonging benefits.
Judith Okulitch, Handler of Hudson
Judith Okulitch, MS, is a retired program developer and consultant for community, state, and national programs. Judith and her husband, Dr. Timothy Kopet, both enjoy being involved in the pioneering work of PADs, and are pleased to be part of a dedicated, professional PADs team. A bonus for Judith is the special time she spends with Hudson, a highly scent driven, Vizsla, while at PADs. Judith and Timothy, along with Hudson, have been an integral part of the PADs team since joining PADs at the beginning of 2017.
Katy Barsamian, Handler of Ella
Katy worked for many years as a litigation paralegal prior to transitioning to San Juan Island. Katy’s mother-in-law struggled through the end of her life with Parkinson’s Disease, and Katy was very involved with her care. Katy also has close friends whose lives have been impacted by PD, including one friend diagnosed at just 38 years of age, and another who was misdiagnosed and suffered from adverse treatment. These experiences have made Katy a highly committed handler at PADs, and Katy states that her involvement in the Program has helped to enhance both her life, and that of Ella’s, with bonding and fulfillment. Katy and Ella have been valued members of the PADs Team of dogs and handlers since early 2017.
Sam, Sandy and Natalie Johnston, Handlers of Indiana Bones
Sam and Sandy, along with their daughter, Natalie, all work together to handle their 180 pound English Mastiff, Indiana “Indy” Bones, in PADs. As handlers in PADs, they have enjoyed how PADs has helped Indy to gain confidence as he uses his vast sense of smell to distinguish between Parkinson’s-positive and Parkinson’s-negative samples. And there is nothing small about Indy, including his love for the game of sniffing. The Johnston Family of handlers state that their view of the world has also been enlarged as they observe how the world is experienced through Indy’s amazing nose. Sam has a special affinity for the mission of PADs since a close colleague of his has Parkinson’s after enduring 30 years of misery and misdiagnosis. The Johnston Family of handlers and Indy joined PADs in the Fall of 2021.
Sarah Shorett, Handler of Russell
Sarah has strong family ties to San Juan Island going back for many generations. Sarah has always had an affinity for animals and is a licensed veterinary technician. Sarah volunteers for Hospice of San Juan and is a regular volunteer at PADs. While visiting the San Juan County Fair in 2017, Sarah stopped by the PADs information booth and made the decision to enroll her dog, Russell, in PADs because, as she says, “he has quite a nose on him.”
Kat Rose, Handler of Scarlett
Kat was drawn to San Juan Island through her natural affinity for art and beauty, and shortly after making the Island her home, she brought a red Standard Poodle pup into her family. Kat was drawn to the PADs Program after having witnessed the decline of a friend, who was once larger than life, struggling and then passing from Parkinson’s Disease. So, when Scarlett was just a year old, Kat joined the PADs Program and joined the fight against Parkinson’s. Since joining PADs in 2019, Kat states she has gained even greater respect for Scarlett’s amazing abilities as a working canine detection dog.
Gabriella Russo and Cory Fitzgerald, Handlers of Velvet
Gabriella and Cory have a unique story in that they eloped to the Island and then made the Island their permanent get-away. Once settled, Gabriella and Cory brought Velvet into their family as a small blue Doberman puppy and Cory admits he was smitten from the start by this little pup with big personality. While also observing Velvet’s big desire to sniff, Gabriella and Cory made the decision to dedicate young Velvet’s enthusiastic nose to PADs in 2021. In addition to serving as Velvet’s primary handler, Gabriella started Little Table, her own boutique pastry business on the Island, and now delicious pastries and Velvet’s exquisite nose have become gifts born of the love of these two special people.
Liz Pillow, Handler of Suki
Liz joined PADs with Suki in 2021 after having observed Suki’s enthusiasm and drive for the sport of K9 Nose Work. Liz was excited to join the fight against Parkinson’s Disease since having had two good friends lose all quality of life due to Parkinson’s. Liz has a natural affinity for science and enjoys being a part of a research program with the goal of early detection of disease. Liz states that being part of something bigger than herself gives her a special meaning and purpose. Liz also finds great joy in observing her super-sniffing Aussie work out odor-sourcing problems, and states that her time in PADs with Suki has strengthened their bond. And that’s all due to the great teamwork between Liz and Suki
Leah McConnell, Handler of Bubba
Leah has dedicated her adult years to the rescue of Bassett Hounds, a breed often left abandoned to shelters, or worse, due to their strong desire to hunt. Leah adopted Bubba, her 5th rescued Bassett, from Bassett Rescue of Puget Sound in 2020. Leah then joined PADs with Bubba in 2021 and Bubba was at last, allowed to unleash his prey drive and put his nose to good work. Leah had both an uncle and close friend pass from Parkinson’s Disease, and so she too gains the reward of doing good work while at PADs. In addition to handling her high-drive hound in detection work, Leah has spent many hours as a training session volunteer at PADs.
Jack Bell, Handler of Jaden
Jack holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and is well-acquainted with volatile odor molecules. In addition to handling his high-drive Australian Shepherd, Jaden, in the PADs Program since 2019, Jack has served as the Chief Science Officer for PADs since 2017. Jack as worked tirelessly for the past six years to help isolate the compounds that Jaden and his nosey colleagues have identified as the odor associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Along with Jack and Jaden, PADs has become a community volunteer project for the Bell Family, and now Sherry Bell serves as Vice President of the Board for PADs. The Program is fortunate to have this talented family trio on the PADs Team.
John and Allison Moalli, Handlers of Bendy
John and Allison joined PADs with Bendy, a young, nose-driven Lagotto, in 2021. For John and Allison, PADs provides both a sense of camaraderie with fellow canine enthusiasts, and a way to fight a disease that they see draining the quality of life from a close family member. Additionally, John and Allison enjoy observing Bendy use his nose as a finely-tuned instrument to do the work that is his calling. In their own words, “We like that Bendy has a job, he needs a job.” In terms of working for a good cause, PADs provides the perfect outlet for these two handlers and their super-sniffing dog.
Richard Coffey, Handler of Penny
Dick joined PADs with Penny, a young, high-energy miniature Schnauzer pup in 2019. Upon losing a close family member to Parkinson’s Disease, Dick developed a special affinity for the PADs Program and enjoys observing Penny as she works out the scent signature of the target odor. For Dick and Penny, PADs provides a community of dogs and handlers with a shared purpose and they both look forward to their working sessions at PADs. This is especially true of Penny, as she always enters the training facility with a burst and bundle of fired up energy to put that Schnauzer nose to work.
Mandy Gulla, Handler of Piglet
Mandy, or Dr. Mandy Gulla, N.D., owns and practices at Living Medical Arts in the town of Friday Harbor where she often encounters and provides therapeutic intervention for her many patients struggling with Parkinson’s Disease. In addition to encountering Parkinson’s in her practice, Dr. Gulla has been personally touched by Parkinson’s Disease after losing a family member to this insidious disease. With her deep understanding, knowledge and experience with therapeutic lifestyle practices, Dr. Gulla, was drawn to PADs for its promise of early detection of disease by canine assessment, and since she had the perfect nose-driven partner for this valuable work with her dog, Piglet, she and Piglet joined PADs in 2021. Since joining PADs, Dr. Mandy Gulla has advocated for the PADs Program in a medically-related podcast interview (hot link here) and participates on the Science Team for PADs.
Ann Harris, Honorary Past Handler of Dez, Kana and Quil, 2017-2021
Ann is a retired academic from the University of Washington who has ties to San Juan Island going back to 1970. The PADs Program was a natural fit for Ann since her dogs have been Animal Assisted Therapy dogs working in schools and hospitals. Ann’s grandmother succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease, so Ann has an added investment of her heart in the Program. Ann handled and dedicated her three excellent Golden Retriever sniffer dogs in PADs for four years.
Holly Harbers, Honorary Past Handler of Topper, 2017-2020
Holly has made San Juan Island her home since 2000 when she became involved in volunteer work. Her gift of volunteer service has included providing transportation services for the Mullis Senior Center, helping at the local animal shelter, Wolf Hollow, San Juan Community Theater and Hospice. She enjoyed her years working as a driver for San Juan Transit and helped numerous island visitors to discover the wonders of island life and environment. From early on, Holly recognized how her dog, Topper, enjoyed the game of sniffing, and was happy to enlist her dog and his nose to provide promise for early detection and help combat this devasting disease.
Judy Chovan, Honorary Past Handler of Ajax, 2017-2020
Judy and husband, Bob Stavers, retired to San Juan Island in 2001. Judy spends much of her time overseas as a volunteer, but always found time to dedicate her highly driven Duck Tolling Retriever, Ajax, to the job of sniffing out an odor associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Judy and Bob supported the idea of helping the burgeoning field of canine medical scent detection, and both have family and friends that are suffering from this life-sucking disease. Sadly, Ajax passed in 2020, but his spirit is still very much alive at PADs.
Matt Clausen, Honorary Past Handler of Levi, 2017-2020
Matt came to San Juan Island from Colorado where he was involved in a number of public service positions as a park ranger, firefighter, law enforcement officer and wildlife officer. Matt has been a professional dog handler for many years and instantly recognized the value of enrolling Levi in the medical detection program for Parkinson’s Disease. Matt handled Levi, his super-sniffing Labrador Retriever in PADs for three years.
Rami Amaro, Honorary Past Handler of Buster, 2017-2019
Rami is an experienced trial attorney, administrative law judge, arbitrator, mediator, legal instructor and special deputy attorney general. On San Juan Island, Rami puts her extensive legal expertise and experience to work for pro bono causes and has helped PADs to navigate through the challenges of medical detection work. Rami became aware of the PADs Program through articles in the news, and volunteered to enlist her dog, Buster, in the Program when in 2016, Buster showed her he could sniff out cancer. Sadly, Buster passed in 2019, but his spirit continues to drive the Program forward.