- Brian Bergford
- Sarah Clusman
- Tucker Eurman
- Tibor Feigel
- Rafi Fontan
- Christina Gorke
- Emily Grossheider
- Heela Homman
- Connie Johnson
- Mike Kaviani
- Trish McMillan Loehr
- Joe Long
- Lexie Malone
- Aimee Sadler
- Kodi Sadler
- Annie Schupp
- Carly Shivers
Brian Bergford is a Certified Dog Trainer (IACP-CDT) with extensive experience as a practicing dog behavior specialist. He serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Canine Professionals and is the owner of Altitude Dog Training (www.altitudedogtraining.com) and Uptown Dog in Longmont, Colorado. His expertise is the interplay between dog behavior and human psychology, and his first book, Transformational Dog Training: Bring Out the Best in Your Dog by Bringing Out the Best in Yourself, emphasizes the critical relationship between personal development and the behavioral stability of companion animals.
Brian earned his degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado, taking particular interest in neuroscience, psychopathology, clinical psychology, and the principles of human psychology and personal performance. His passion for helping people and dogs drove him to expand his knowledge base by studying the principles of Canine Psychology and Behavior as well – a journey that helped him understand not only the human-canine bond but how each of us can maximize the peace and potential of our lives and share these benefits with our dogs.
Brian has been working with dogs since 2002. His ability to interpret canine energy, body language, and cognitive processes has enabled him to develop effective communication strategies to accomplish not only advanced obedience work with dogs, but effective behavior modification as well. Brian particularly enjoys working with packs of dogs and helping rehabilitate dogs with behavioral issues. It has been a great joy and honor for Brian to do advanced volunteering work with Longmont Humane Society’s Behavior Department for a number of years. Brian is also a Volhard Dog Nutrition consultant, and this additional specialization in nutrition and holistic health modalities adds greater depth and sophistication to his insight about canine behavior.
Having the opportunity to work with Aimee Sadler and the Dogs Playing for Life team is something Brian is tremendously grateful for. Traveling to different parts of the country as an instructor and assisting shelters with the implementation of off leash play groups has been an incredibly rewarding experience. He firmly believes in the mission of Dogs Playing for Life, and has witnessed time and again the transformational impact it is having on animal welfare through promoting canine enrichment in shelters, increasing live release rates, and helping educate staff members, volunteers and the public alike.
Sarah Clusman began working with shelter animals at Longmont Humane Society in 1999. At that time, she volunteered training dogs and also taught children to train shelter dogs. In 2002, she became LHS’ Volunteer Coordinator, growing their volunteer base from 35 to almost 400 weekly volunteers. It was at this time that Sarah met Aimee Sadler, DPFL Founder, and Sarah had the opportunity to work together with Aimee to build the LHS Training & Behavior Department. As T&B Coordinator, Sarah was responsible for establishing behavior modification protocols, instructing trainers and volunteers in training and learning theory, running dog play groups, while specializing in dog to dog aggression cases, and private in-home training. At the onset of 2012, Sarah advanced to Director of Shelter and Clinic Operations at Longmont Humane Society managing adoptions, admissions, kennel and animal care, volunteer and transfer departments, and both shelter and public veterinary clinics. During this time, Sarah advanced LHS’ overall live release rate to over 95% with a canine length of stay to two weeks, while remaining an open admission shelter accepting transfers of behavior, and non-behavior, dogs from around the country. Sarah also deployed for the ASPCA Behavior Team assisting the Field, Investigative and Response team with caring for abuse cases.
Excited to return working with Aimee and in support of Dogs Playing for Life mission, Sarah joined DPFL as Chief Operations Officer in August of 2017 managing operations at DPFL’s National Canine Center as well as DPFL’s other programs and services. Sarah has two amazing daughters, Cassie and Sam, and lives in Longmont, Colorado with her patient husband, Ray, and their three adopted dogs, Larry, Misu and Tali.
Tucker Eurman was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. His career in Animal Welfare began with his childhood German Shepherd, Cody. One summer, Cody caught a foxtail in his paw while tromping through brush. Over the course of a few months, and after many surgeries, the last trace of the foxtail that had travelle midway up his arm was finally removed. Tucker spent many evenings watching the Veterinarian with wide-eyes and intrigue. She recognized his interest, and at 15 years old, he was offered a job cleaning and prepping the hospital after school. He would ride his bicycle from school to the hospital, and spent every second he could watching and learning. After five years there, Tucker had grown from the Kennel Attendant to one of the head Vet Techs- assisting with surgery, taking x-rays, monitoring anesthesia, with his passion lying in the emergency cases that came in.
He decided that even with his love of animals, Law Enforcement was his true calling. He went to college to study Criminal Justice, and worked toward joining the local Police force, but always felt connected to the animal world. While applying for Police agencies, Tucker spent a year apprenticing with a busy farrier in the Santa Ynez Valley. He travelled ranch-to- ranch horseshoeing show and racehorses, taking the skills he had learned from the vet hospital and applying them with large, testy stallions and thoroughbreds.
Tucker began volunteering at his local humane society, and was quickly scooped up by their Large Animal Technical Rescue Team in 2012. He enjoyed rock climbing as a hobby, and with his experience with horses found rope rescue to be a great fit. He assisted with multiple rescues, including pulling horses from an overturned trailer and rappelling down a cliff face to rescue a horse that had slipped off a trail. Tucker was then offered a full-time position at the Santa Barbara Humane Society to help coordinate rescue trainings and work with the shelter animals. He worked with local emergency agencies to coordinate disaster and rescue trainings, as well as spent time researching and learning about Large Animal Rescue. In 2016 Tucker attended CMC Rope Rescue trainings in Oakland, CA and Bend, OR, and flew to Prague, Czech Republic, to represent the United States in a conference of Large Animal Rescuers.
Though he felt deeply connected to rescue, Tucker decided he could make more of a direct impact by dedicating all of his time to the shelter dogs. In 2015 DPFL visited the Santa Barbara shelter and its 80 dogs. He instantly became hooked with playgroups. He began leading playgroups five days per week, and enjoyed the positive impact they brought not only to the dogs, but also to the organization as a whole! With the blessing from the Executive Director, Tucker spent the 2016 summer assisting a local county shelter to build their playgroup program while also continuing to improve his own. He attended a DPFL Mentorship in Austin, Texas, and came back inspired to do more. Tucker worked to improve in-kennel enrichment at home, adding food puzzles, music, and even aromatherapy to the dogs’ daily schedules. He began mentoring with a local trainer, and started using positive reinforcement training as an enrichment tool to give a mental break from the kennels, eventually earning his CPDT-KA Certificate. DPFL was thrilled to have Tucker join our team as Program Coordinator in May 2017.
Tibor, originally from Hungary, has 15 years of experience as a dog behavior specialist. He began his career in New York City after moving to the United States. Tibor earned his degree in Biology and Physical Education from a teacher’s training college in Hungary.
During this time, he studied human psychology, zoology, and ethology (the study of animal behavior) extensively, which provided the foundations of his knowledge and beliefs in his field of expertise. After relocating to Florida in 2009, Tibor became an active volunteer at local animal welfare organizations.
He has volunteered countless hours at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control; and assisted other rescues including Big Dog Ranch Rescue; Tri County Humane Society; Furry Friends Rescue; Okeechobee Humane Society; Coastal Boxer Rescue, and Forgotten Dog Rescue among others. Over the years, he has educated staff members and volunteers on proper handling techniques and common behavioral modifications. He has assisted shelters and rescue organizations in evaluating, training, rehabilitating, and re- homing canines. At Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, Tibor has helped to implement the Dogs Playing for Life program and has seen the positive impact daily play groups have made in the lives of canines, volunteer attendance hours and increased adoption rates. In 2014, Tibor founded a non-profit organization, Zen-K9, Inc., with a mission to further aid and support the rescue, rehabilitation, and placement of abused and abandoned dogs.
Through a collaborated teamwork with the community, Tibor has helped save hundreds of shelter dogs from euthanasia. Tibor is very involved within the community educating the public on the importance of adoption and animal welfare. He regularly attends pet expos and community events to expand awareness. He has participated in “Countdown 2 Zero,” a community collaboration that has brought animal welfare organizations together to end the euthanasia of adoptable animals in Palm Beach County. In 2013, Tibor was part of a prison program at Moore Haven Correctional Facility.
He volunteered his time to educate inmates on how to handle and train shelter dogs. He has coached them on dog behavior modification, giving purpose and hope for both dogs and inmates for a second chance. Among his other accomplishments, Tibor was recently elected rescue committee member at Ballen Isles Wildlife Foundation and he is a Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Tibor is the owner of Zen-K9, LLC, which provides dog training, rehabilitating, boarding, and daily walking services. Ranging from puppy training to red-zone cases, he specializes in separation anxiety, self-confidence problems, fearful aggression, leash aggression, socialization and other behavioral issues.
Tibor officially joined the DPFL team in 2015 as an Instructor and provides enthusiastic play group support to many Florida shelters. Tibor currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens, FL with his family. He has a beautiful 5-year old daughter Laila, and a 2-year old mischievous son Remy, who are already practicing leadership skills among their pack of dogs.
Born & raised in Milwaukee, WI, Rafi was in and out of trouble and in a bad place in life. In 2005 he adopted his 1st puppy (Domino) from the Wisconsin Humane Society, a month later he adopted a 2nd puppy (Destiny) also from the WI Humane Society; this changed everything. Having his first two dogs (let alone puppies) he gained an interest in training and started his first job at a dog daycare. Dogs got him out of trouble and gave him a passion and purpose. From there he started reading/watching any and everything regarding dog training. He transitioned to another dog daycare for a short time. Years later he continued onto college, acquired an associates degree in audio recording and engineering (Madison Media Institute) and then continued onto a job as an animal care attendant with Shelter From The Storm (Madison, WI) where he acquired his project dog Little Man. After being there for almost a year he went back to Milwaukee, WI where he independently trained client dogs and eventually took a part time position as an adoption counselor at WI Humane Society. In 2014 he and his wife and family moved to Florida where he took a position at Four Paws Only as a dog handler in daycare and then stepped into management. Through a client at Four Paws he was invited to see Aimee Sadler’s playgroup Seminar at SPCA Florida (in Lakeland, WI). Upon attending the seminar he was given the opportunity to get in the yard and work the dogs which led to the offer for the playgroup coordinator position with the SPCA Florida. 7 months later he found himself working a seminar with Aimee which kicked off his opportunity/career to go full time with DPFL. Rafi is open to learning and acquiring as many skills as possible to continue to help save dogs. He currently resides in Lakeland, FL with his wife Kathleen, son (Nemo), daughter (Nova), 4 dogs (Domino, Destiny, LittleMan & Henry) and their cats (Shamali & Kevin)
Christina Gorke has joined the DPFL team as the Administrative Assistant. Christina’s administrative and office management skills have been developed over the past eight years, culminating in work that feeds her passion and focuses on the welfare of animals. Christina has been an active volunteer with the Palm Springs Animal Shelter since 2011 while working alongside their Dog Enrichment and Behavior Specialist (and her husband), Manuel. Together, Christina and Manuel enrich the lives of the shelter dogs and those in their community through their pet care and training services. Christina and Manuel live in southern California with their 4 rescued dogs and 2 rescued cats. Elsa, their big blue beauty, was identified by DPFL as one of Palm Springs Animal Shelter’s Play Group Rock Stars (and one of Aimee’s and Kodi’s favorites!) in January, 2015.
Emily was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and was raised by a lab mix named Clayton and two cats named Kamme and Oreo. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a double major in psychology and sociology, Emily accepted a position at Dog Adoption and Welfare Group (DAWG) while attending law school and working in a local law office. In a matter of months, Emily realized she was more passionate about the dogs in the shelter than pursuing a legal career, and she enthusiastically accepted the position of Shelter Director. In her first year in that role, she was instrumental in increasing adoptions by over 50%. Following her tenure at DAWG, Emily became the Executive Director of the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society where she once again led her staff in saving the lives of animals in increasing numbers while revitalizing the presence of SYVHS in the community. Emily also opened numerous funding channels that had not previously existed. In her ongoing efforts to improve the training of her staff and ultimately enrich and prolong the lives of the animal in her charge, Emily met the Dogs Playing for Life team and implemented their techniques with resounding success at her shelter. Emily knows firsthand the impact that playgroups have on extending the lives of animals and enriching the experience that their owners share with them. Emily lives in Santa Barbara, California with her ornery rescue mutt Blackjack. In her free time, she can be found on the beach, traveling or teaching her three nieces how to beg their mothers for a puppy. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in non-profit management which will enable her to expand her efforts in advocating for the animals that continue to enrich her life and those of others. With these talents and her enthusiasm, Emily is excited to be joining the DPFL Team as Director of Development.
Heela was born and raised outside of Los Angeles, California, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, she found herself with some time on her hands and a desire to give back to the shelter where she found her beloved dog. She began volunteering at the local municipal shelter, and quickly discovered a community of like-minded people and an aptitude for dog handling. Years of industry-hopping and fluctuating career goals came to an end when she realized that she basically just wanted to help save as many dogs as possible. Animal welfare suited her skills and provided the sense of meaning she was seeking, so she shifted her focus away from jobs that offered little satisfaction and dodged the law school path she was pursuing. She continued volunteering at the shelter and with local rescue organizations, and in 2016, Heela began working for the San Francisco SPCA as the foster volunteer coordinator. Her experience at the SF SPCA was incredibly enriching, challenging, and rewarding, as she’s glad to have worked alongside many dedicated and creative individuals.
In 2017, life swept Heela away from the coast to the middle of the country. She always remembered how much she loved Dogs Playing for Life’s program when she attended their seminars in Berkeley, and figured that a complete life change warranted reaching out to her dream organization. Luckily, DPFL was in search of someone with Heela’s skill set, and she joined the team as the Lazin Alive! program coordinator, taking up the increasingly important task of supporting shelters as they implement playgroups and collecting data to help progress DPFL’s programming. She is thrilled to be part of the team, and looks forward to helping shelters realize the power of playgroups.
Heela lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with two cats, Fred and George, and a senior AmStaff, Bernie.
Connie Johnson’s love for animals has fueled her commitment to serve the animal welfare world in many different aspects. As a world class K-9 trainer and handler, in 2005 she chose to give it all back and devote her knowledge and comprehensive skill set to various animal shelters in Florida. She is an expert witness for many animal abuse cases throughout the state of FL and has worked with the FL Senate to co-author legislation to benefit the animals. She was appointed by the Governor to the State Veterinarian Medical Board and still currently serves. She joined SPCA Florida in 2012 to develop a new concept in shelters across the county as Safety Net Manager. This allows her to create kennel enrichment for the animals while in the shelter as well as provide resources to help keep pets in their homes. Connie has been an enthusiastic follower and participant in DPFL Seminars and Mentorships since 2011, the same year she was recognized as Hillsborough County’s Humanitarian of the Year. Connie is proud to donate her time, expertise and passion for the animals as DPFL’s Florida State Coordinator with Florida being DPFL’s most highly served state with 21 shelter’s visited as of the end of 2015.
Mike Kaviani began working with shelter animals at the Irvine Animal Care Center in California when he was 18. His “3rd Chance for Pets Program” received national recognition when IACC was given the 2007 Shelter of the Year award primarily due to this program.
In 2010, Mike became the Director of Training and Behavior at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. At SASF, he worked under the guidance of Aimee Sadler, and together their work resulted in the shelter consistently reaching one of the highest save rates in the country.
In the Spring of 2012, Mike joined forces with Dr. Ellen Jefferson and became the Dog Behavior Program Manager for Austin Pets Alive! APA! had already achieved a 90% Save Rate for the entire city of Austin, and Mike’s focus is to save the last 10%, which primarily comprises large dogs with behavior issues. At APA!, he conducts daily dog play groups, provides training and behavior modification, teaches weekly volunteer training classes, trains shelter interns, and oversees the Canine Good Citizen and Adoption Follow-Up Training Programs.
Mike has been a DPFL Team Member and part of the program’s development throughout his work with Aimee. Mike is a DPFL Lead Instructor and assists with seminars and provides mentorships.
Trish McMillan Loehr is certified dog behavior counselor, an associate certified cat behavior counselor, and a certified professional dog trainer who holds a Master’s degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England. She is also co-chair of the International Association of Animal Behavior Counselors’ shelter division. She trained and showed horses for more than a decade in a variety of disciplines before being lured into the dog training world through work with shelter dogs.
Starting as a shelter volunteer in Canada in the mid-90’s, Trish has been involved in a variety of shelter roles since then: as a dog walker, volunteer manager, and foster home coordinator. She was a behavior volunteer at the San Francisco SPCA, and also helped train volunteers and dogs at one of the first Open Paw shelters.
Trish managed dog daycares for a number of years in California, while teaching obedience classes and doing private training and behavior consulting work, and as always, volunteering with and fostering shelter dogs.
After grad school, Trish worked for more than three years as the director of animal behavior at the ASPCA’s New York City shelter, rehabilitating dogs from cruelty cases, training staff and volunteers, as well as making a couple of appearances on the reality show Animal Precinct.
A move to Illinois to work for the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior team brought the opportunity to assess and work with a fascinating assortment of behavior in animals from cruelty, hoarding and dogfighting cases, as well as in pets rescued from natural disasters.
In addition to writing for the ASPCA’s Virtual Pet Behaviorist and other publications, Trish helped create and present several very popular webinars on dog and cat behavior and handling for the ASPCA Pro website.
Since 2013, Trish has owned Loehr Animal Behavior, and currently does training and behavior consulting work with dogs, cats, and horses. She continues to do volunteer, foster, and consulting work with animal shelters, and has spoken and consulted nationally and internationally on animal behavior and sheltering topics.
Having witnessed the magic of Dogs Playing For Life at a number of shelters, and having completed an internship at Longmont in Colorado, Trish is very excited to be involved with Aimee Sadler’s team in promoting great shelter welfare and adoption matches.
Joe Long has held a number of leadership positions spanning over 25 years. The past 18 years has been focused in the financial services technology, digital channel delivery market place. He has held several positions in Fortune 100 organizations, including Fiserv and Intuit, most recently overseeing business development for a technology start up. His accomplishments include developing and deploying client engagement process automation, enterprise client engagement and application pricing and margin optimization, and revenue acquisition growth in excess of 50% annually. Long has contributed to the California and Colorado Down’s Syndrome Association, and consulted for several startup businesses in the food service, apparel, and charitable foundation verticals. He studied phycology, Business Law, and Economics/Business Administration at California State University at Los Angeles, and Business Management/Marketing at the University of Phoenix. Joe brings his financial expertise to DPFL as a result of his marriage to CEO, Aimee Sadler, and his subsequent enthusiasm for DPFL’s philanthropic work.
Raised in Park City, UT, Lexie Malone was drawn into working with animals at an early age. Over the years, Lexie has worked in a number of animal-related fields including Mushing for Pawsatch Dog Sled Team and Wrangling for Red Ledges Country Club both located in Park City. Lexie was a private trainer in Grand Junction, CO when she met Aimee Sadler, Founder of Dogs Playing for Life !, at a training workshop in Templeton, CA hosted by Cheri Lucas and Brian Agnew. With little background in sheltering, Lexie became fascinated with Dog’s Playing For Life’s efficient use of playgroups in shelters and applied to get on board.
Lexie studied philosophy at Arizona State University and hopes to continue her education in sheltering and nutrition, inspired by everyone around her and her two dogs she has back home in Denver, CO.
Aimee Sadler – the Founder of Dogs Playing for Life™ Aimee Sadler is the Founder of Dogs Playing for Life™…A Training Program for Shelter Dogs Featuring Play Groups. Ms. Sadler is a nationally recognized trainer specializing in behavioral problems. Her techniques have been derived from over twenty-five years of professional work with multiple species, from dogs to cats, from exotics to marine mammals. Aimee’s childhood passion for animals turned into a career in 1987 at the onset of her apprenticeship to Magic Mountain’s dolphin and sea lion show in southern California. From there Aimee was offered a position of leadership at the park’s wild animal show where she performed on stage with exotic animals in addition to touring with the creatures to better educate children. From her innate desire to help animals she then took a position with the American Humane Association, responsible for the monitoring of “animal actors”. This exposure resulted in her transition as the compound manager of Birds and Animals Unlimited, one of Hollywood’s top animal training facilities. Aimee then founded the animal rentals division of Fourth Cub Productions, Inc., where she supplied well-trained animals for numerous television commercials and music videos. Over the years while Aimee developed her private dog training business, she maintained strong affiliations with rescue organizations. Since 1998, Aimee’s main interest has been working with shelter dogs, ever since her private client sent her to the Southampton Animal Shelter to spend her session time with the their dogs instead. Ever since, Aimee’s vision has been to create and implement a training and behavior program that would prove to be invaluable to the well-being of dogs in shelters everywhere. Dogs Playing for Life™ seminars and trainings have been provided to more than 80 organizations internationally. Aimee presents consistently at animal welfare and professional dog training conferences, such as HSUS’ Animal Expo, Best Friend’s Annual Conferences, Masters in Behavior Conference, the No Kill Conferences and the International Association of Canine Professionals Conference. Aimee’s programs have assisted Longmont Humane Society and the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation in achieving industry leading success as open admission shelters saving more than 95% of their shelter dogs! In recognition of her work, Aimee has been honored with the Henry Bergh Leadership Award in 2011 in addition to being recently inducted into the Members Hall of Fame for the International Association of Canine Professionals. From the popularity of the program and the measured results in life-saving, Dogs Playing for Life™ was recently featured in the Television Series, ‘Shelter Me – New Beginnings’ airing on PBS. Aimee currently resides in Longmont, CO, with her husband and their very full family including five sons, four dogs and two cats.
Kodi Sadler is proud to be one of Dogs Playing for Life’s Lead Instructors providing play group trainings to shelters internationally. His love of all dogs and his comfort working with large groups has been a prevalent part of his life since before he can remember. As DPFL Founder, Aimee Sadler’s, oldest son, his earliest memories include waddling around amidst the ever-changing large pack of owned and rescued dogs that cohabitated with the Sadlers while in training.
Kodi’s formal career in animal welfare began at the age of 17 when he started volunteering at the Longmont Humane Society. At age 18 he was invited to join the DPFL Team as an Instructor’s Assistant and fell in love with the work, inspiring him to complete his high school through a work study. While Kodi now travels full time teaching for DPFL, he considers himself to be a student of animal welfare. With the road as his campus and the dogs as his teachers, Kodi intends to continue learning as much as he can about the work that will be a part of his life forever. Kodi is passionate about play groups and the positive impact they have on animals and people.
Kodi currently lives in Longmont, CO with Sawchi, whom he adopted from LHS 10 years ago. Sawchi isn’t pleased with Kodi’s travel schedule and evidently is not as approving of Kodi’s career choice as he welcomes Kodi home with furious and jealous sniffing and snorting every time.
Annie began her animal welfare career as a volunteer for the Longmont Humane Society in 2009 by joining the Dog TLC program. Shortly after, she was hired as an Animal Care Team Member where she participate in all levels of care for LHS’ furry residents. In 2010 she began working as the Volunteer Department Assistant where she gained experience training new volunteers about how to safely handle shelter dogs, cats, and small mammals. In one short year, Annie was promoted to Training Specialist where she learned how to effectively and humanely use a variety of dog training tools and techniques through her work rehabilitating shelter dogs within LHS’ Training and Behavior Modification Department while supporting community dogs by teaching public training classes. Annie has joined the DPFL team as an Instructor for play groups seminars and mentorships. Annie graduated in 2012 from Colorado State University with a degree in Biology. She currently lives in Longmont, CO.
Carly Shivers is owner of High Drive Dog Company, a training and behavior center located in Longmont, Colorado. Carly credits her foundation of high-level dog training and behavior modification expertise to a six year mentorship with Aimee Sadler, founder of Dogs Playing for Life. Whenever she can get away, she is proud to support Aimee in bringing Dogs Playing for Life to shelters nationwide. Carly lives in Longmont with her wife, Haley, and their seven dogs and one three-legged cat.