Board & Leadership
Paige Mazzoni joined Canine Companions for Independence as CEO in 2018 and brings more than 25 years of professional experience, concentrated in corporate strategy and management, strategic initiative development and marketing implementation, including directing product and company positioning.
Keith Edwards joined Canine Companions in 2022 as the chief financial officer to lead the financial strategy and financial operations of the organization. He brings more than 25 years of professional experience that spans across all aspects of auditing, accounting, reporting and financial management, from positions within both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
Barbara Barrow first joined Canine Companions for Independence in December 2011 as the Executive Director of the Southwest Region. Under Barbara’s leadership, the Southwest Region’s operating income grew from $3 million in 2012 to over $5 million in 2016. In March 2017, Barbara assumed her current role as chief development officer and is responsible for shaping the organization’s overall fundraising strategy.
Dr. Brenda Kennedy joined Canine Companions as their national veterinarian in 2014 and was promoted to her current position as the director of canine health and research in 2016 – a role that combines her passion for research with her love of veterinary medicine.
Jeanine Konopelski joined Canine Companions in 2006, leading the organization’s marketing and public relations efforts. Jeanine manages the overall Canine Companions brand marketing strategy, with the core objective to engage more people in Canine Companions’ mission. She oversees the creation and execution of integrated marketing campaigns and programs to grow, mobilize and steward the broad and diverse family of Canine Companions stakeholders.
Dawn Gatley joined our team as the director of human capital in 2019 and brings more than 20 years of human resources experience within privately-held and public Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Her career began as an HRIS specialist and has grown over the years in various roles including HR consultant, HR manager and HR director.
Melinda began her career with Canine Companions in April 2004. She has held multiple roles during her time with the organization including helping individuals and families through the application process and working with our staff to provide ongoing support to graduates to ensure quality partnerships.
National Board Officers
In 2005, John McKinney retired from his career as a management consultant in the health care industry. He decided to become actively involved with Canine Companions, having witnessed firsthand the wonderful work of our assistance dogs through his nephew’s Canine Companions assistance dog.
In 1998, Leslie Hennessy became a puppy raiser for Canine Companions based on her desire to give back to the community in a sustained and positive way. She found the Canine Companions mission “compelling.” For Leslie, the joyful work of raising puppies was an important and wonderful way to share time with her teenage daughter.
Steve Boyd joined the Canine Companions national board in 2016. He is the chief legal officer for Baylor Scott & White Health. In his capacity as chief legal officer, Steve serves as Baylor’s general counsel and corporate secretary.
Anne Gittinger became involved with Canine Companions because she strongly believed in the mission—a marriage of excellent dog breeding and commitment to helping people with disabilities—and saw an opportunity to further the work of the organization.
Barrie Graham was an early and fervent admirer of Canine Companions and became involved with the organization in the 1990’s while working at Exchange Bank. Although active with other non-profits providing services to people with disabilities, Canine Companions’ unique focus in teaming dogs with people with disabilities appealed to Barrie.
National and North Central Board Member Carolyn Hrach joined Canine Companions for Independence in 1993 as a puppy raiser. Since joining the organization, Carolyn has raised 12 puppies for the North Central Region of Canine Companions.
Inspired in 1989 by an article about Canine Companions in Life Magazine, Chris Kittredge immediately applied to be a puppy raiser. Shortly thereafter, her first puppy arrived and the journey to national board membership in 2007 began.
Judge Ed Kinkeade was appointed to the federal bench of the Northern District of Texas in 2002 by President George W. Bush, where he still serves today. Previously, Judge Kinkeade served as a County District and Appellate Judge in Texas from 1981 to 2002.
In 1989, National Board Member Emily Williams responded to an ad in a local newspaper to adopt a Canine Companions for Independence breeder dog. Since answering that first call, Emily has been a caretaker for 11 Canine Companions female breeder dogs and their 43 litters of puppies.
Former President and Secretary of the Board Jean Schulz became involved with Canine Companions for Independence in 1986. Her late husband, renowned cartoonist Charles Schulz, thought the dogs ‘marvelous,’ and so did Jean.
Since becoming engaged with Canine Companions, John has served as chair on the audit committee, as well as the Canine Companions Board Development Committee.
John Miller was first introduced to Canine Companions by Jean Schulz in 1998. John became more deeply involved when Jean asked him to serve on the Northeast regional board when he moved back to New York.
John Hopen is a retired corporate jet captain and lives in Sebastopol, California. He currently enjoys his hobbies of woodworking, cars, flying, golf, fishing, and travel. Of particular interest to John is music and music production.
Juergen Rottler is a proven business executive, inspirational leader, independent director, and advisor. He has served organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, such as Oracle Corporation and Hewlett-Packard.
As vice president and general counsel of health care company Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., John brings a valuable perspective to Canine Companions. He officially joined the Board of Directors in October 2022 and continues to provide leadership and professional input that is highly valued.
Mel Gottlieb joined the national board in 2011. He is a member of the development committee and serves as a corporate ambassador for Canine Companions.
Michelle Ludwig received her first hearing service dog in 2007, Marguerite, and in 2021, received her successor dog, Pam. She and her husband John also serve on the South Central Region Board. Michelle is a physician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, specializing in radiation oncology.
The affection and comfort that our canine friends can provide is overwhelming and for many life changing. I am honored and happy to have been asked to the board of Canine Companions, I am looking forward to serve and participate in its great mission.
Robin Sanchez joined Canine Companions for Independence as a volunteer in 2006 after attending a graduation ceremony in Orlando. Robin has volunteered thousands of hours in many roles in the organization.Since 2007, Robin has prepared and served lunch on the first day of Team Training to new students.
Russ Gurevitch is a veterinary surgeon and the owner and chief of staff of Veterinary Referral Surgical Service in Petaluma, California. He has been a Canine Companions donor and providing surgical care for Canine Companions dogs since 1978.
Honorary Board Members
Teresa Hart, LPCCI
Dean and Gerda Koontz