Meet Our Instructors

Anni Black
Celeste Barker
Candy Bennyi
Darlene Blackman
Donell Ellingson
Karen Gulmon
Annie Humphrey
Diana Hunter
Gwen Jones
Dawn Kovell
Betsy McGee
Sue McGuire
Amy McPherson
Karen Schuerholz
Meg Sorota
Micky (Michaela) von Broen
Kathy Wells
Jane Zabielskis

 

Anni Black

Anni grew up with an assortment of cats and dogs in rural Maine.

Since 1967, when her husband brought home a bedraggled four-month-old Siberian, there have been Huskies in her life. She became a master at management and "managed" to keep all the subsequent Huskies and resident cats contentedly alive into old age. No mean feat, through moves to California and two children.

Currently, Anni has two cats, Angus Burton and Mac Duff, and Wombat le Blu, and one dog, The Mighty Quinn, a recent rescue from the Central Valley. She is inordinately proud of the fact that, in spite of their breed description, her last three huskies have enjoyed off leash hikes, thanks to positive reinforcement and a lot of long-line work!

Anni started  volunteering as a DTA in the B&T department in 1996 and after 10 years in the adoption department and a stint in the clinic.

Within the B&T department, Anni teaches Trail and Recall classes, out and about on the trails of Marin; some Small Dog offerings and a variety of workshops. On the feline side of the road Anni is one of the MHS cat evaluators, checking out the great cats we put up for adoption.

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Celeste Barker

Celeste is a Dog Training Instructor and specializes in Agility. She works with a wide range of clients, teaching beginning through competition levels, leading agility run-throughs, demos, and initiating new training programs to broaden community interest in dog sports while stimulating growth of the MHS dog training programs.

Celeste has a BA from SFSU, MBA from GGU, graduate of the MHS Canine Behavior Academy I and II, member of APDT, and competes in CPE agility and K9 Nosework. She is a frequent contributor of several nationwide agility and training forums to exchange best practices, and continues the study of dog training and behavior through seminars, workshops, and agility training camps led by world-renowned trainers.

Celeste began training animals as a child while raising small farm animals, rescued wildlife, and dogs. She has over 40 years experience in training both large and small dog breeds for obedience and dog sports. She started volunteering at MHS in 2001, and joined the staff in 2005, leaving her high tech career in 2009. 

She helps people reach their individual training goals and build better, happier relationships with their dogs using a blend of learning research and compassion to achieve results.

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Candy Bennyi

Dogs have always been an important and meaningful part of Candy's life. She began her career working in the field of veterinary medicine as a veterinary technician. She enrolled in the Marin Humane Society’s Canine Behavior Academy (CBA) after adopting Lola, an anxious, rambunctious, reactive Boxer/Pit Bull cross. Although Candy has owned and trained many different breeds and personalities of dogs, the Academy made her realize how much more there was to learn about dog training and dog behavior. After graduating from CBA I & II, Candy became a dog training assistant and an intern in the MHS Behavior & Training Department where she worked with shelter dogs and assisted with behavior consultations and shelter dog evaluations.

Candy's passion is working with Bully breeds and their guardians. Her goal as a trainer is to help her clients enjoy their dogs to the fullest, to learn from them, laugh at them, have fun with them, and most of all, treasure each moment they share with them. Candy is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, and a Certified Nose Work Instructor.

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Darlene Blackman

Darlene is the Community Programs Manager at the Marin Humane Society. She has worked at the society for 20 years, in the SHARE, education, adoptions and behavior and training departments. Her current position combines both the work of SHARE (Special Human Animal Relationships) and humane education. She also teaches the Your Dog to SHARE and the SHARE a Book with Your Dog classes. These specialty classes are the required training for SHARE and education volunteers with their dogs, and the classes also educate others about animal assisted therapy.

Prior to working at MHS, she worked for 10 years at the Massachusetts SPCA, starting as an animal care technician at the Angel Memorial Animal Hospital, then farm animal care coordinator, humane educator, and volunteer coordinator. She also worked at the Audubon Society, a farm education center and at livestock auction where she created a safer more humane place for the animals. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and studied animal science/veterinary medicine.

Darlene lives in Fairfax with her husband, daughter, wonder dog Duncan and super cat Snowy. She enjoys gardening, volunteering for the school district and Girl Scouts, reading, and traveling home to New England

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Donell Ellingson

Donell has been an animal lover all her life. As a child her animal friends ran the gambit: hamsters, gerbils, a rabbit named Grape, turtles, dogs, a horse, and cats, cats, cats and more cats. She hasn’t lost the passion. She currently resides with 1 dog; an MHS rescue Dachshund mix name Koji, and of course, 2 cats; a tabby named Kazu (another MHS rescue), and an Abyssinian cross named Mr. Shigemitsu that she just “had” to adopt from the local shelter when visiting family in MN.

A Minnesota girl, Donell “defected” to California in 1989. But before her defection, she got her BFA from St. Cloud State University. “I’m not sure how art relates to dog training, but they’re both just a lot of fun to do!” says Donell.

She started out her dog training career as a volunteer at MHS, first helping out as a DTA (dog training assistant) in classes before changing hats and becoming a dog training instructor. “One of the things I like best about being an instructor” says Donell, “ is helping people develop great relationships with their dogs through training”.

Donell teaches a variety of classes including Family Dog 1, 2 and 3; Small Dog 1; Tricks: Town and Trail; Beginning Puppy; and the Difficult Dog class. 

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Karen Gulmon

Karen has been an animal lover since birth and has always wanted to breed, train, and show horses and dogs. Her wish came true and she bred Arabian and Half-Arabian horses for 12 years. She has trained and shown Ibizan Hounds for almost 20 years.

Karen’s interest in animal behavior, especially dogs and horses, led her to study and work with knowledgeable trainers. She is a graduate of the MHS Canine Behavior Academy I and II and continues to increase her knowledge of animal behavior and training by attending seminars, workshops, and classes. 

Karen currently teaches a variety of classes, including Family Dog I, II, and III. She also teaches classes for puppies, small dogs, and scenting classes for the new sport of Nosework. She is dedicated to creating harmony and communication between humans and their animal companions.  

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Annie Humphrey

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Annie Humphrey calls Sonoma home. She lives with her son, RJ, Curby, a lovely Border Collie mix, Scout, an adorable Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and two beautiful black cats, Figaro and Mae, who are littermates.

Annie has loved and lived with animals her entire life. As a kid growing up in Novato, she rode her pony to do her paper route and a few years later earned ribbons showing her horse, a Thoroughbred/Arab cross. Annie’s experience also includes a formal education in psychology and social work, many years serving at-risk children and their families, and more than a decade of professional work with companion animals in veterinary, shelter and private settings.

In 2006, Annie attended the MHS Canine Behavior Academy and became a B&T volunteer shortly after. She joined the MHS staff in 2008 and currently works with the SHARE program as the Side By Side coordinator. She co-teaches the Your Dog to SHARE and SHARE a Book classes.

Annie is a CPDT-KA and a graduate of the Marin Humane Society’s Canine Behavior Academy level I and II. She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the North Bay Humane Dog Trainers Network.

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Diana Hunter

Dogs and dog training has always been a part of Diana’s life. A native San Franciscan, Diana grew up alongside her best friend Toby, a shelter rescue beagle. Her summers in college were spent working at a dude ranch outside Santa Rosa with a variety of dogs, ranch animals and young summer campers.

Her curiosity in behavior and motivation led to degrees in Human Psychology and Sociology and a career in consulting. Diana’s keen interest in animals led her back to volunteering at the Marin Humane Society, where she became a dog training instructor and behavior consultant. 

Diana and her husband, Beat now share their home in Mill Valley with Lola and Freddy, two retired racing greyhounds that have proudly earned their Canine Good Citizen Certifications.

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Gwen Jones

Gwen grew up in West Marin on the back of any horse she could find. She spent many years involved in equine sports including retraining rescue horses.

Gwen has been training dogs for 25 years. She started in obedience and herding, and over the last few years she has trialed her Hurricane Katrina rescue dog Molly in both agility and K9 Nose Work. She is currently trialing a friend’s Australian Shepherd in advanced agility and is training her own young Border Collie Phlip in agility, nose work and herding.

For the last year and a half, she has been the training coordinator for Environmental Canine Services, West, the West Coast division of a company out of Michigan that uses dogs to detect illicit discharges of human waste in creeks, lakes and other bodies of water. Molly is one of four certified sewage-sniffing dogs on the West Coast.

Gwen, Molly and Phlip share their home with Gwen’s husband, their other dog named Paula, as well as their two cats, Willie and Trixie.

Gwen joined the MHS team of instructors in the fall of 2013 and will share her expertise in agility & scenting with our students.

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Dawn Kovell

Dawn, director of behavior & training, has been involved with the department for the past 15 years. She lives with her 12 year old daughter, Cassidy, who is a student at San Domenico School. They share their home with two Belgian Malinois, one mixed breed (Cassidy’s dog!), one Belgian Tervuren, two cats and numerous chickens. All of the dogs are titled in the canine sport of Flyball and run with the Marin Running Riot Flyball club. Dawn has also competed in Rally & Competition Obedience and trained in Agility and Schutzhund. 

Dawn teaches group obedience classes, private obedience sessions and conducts behavior consultations with a specialization in aggressive behaviors. Her other activities at the shelter include working with the shelter animals to assess their behavioral tendencies and make recommendations on their ideal home. 

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Betsy McGee

Betsy has been volunteering and working with the Marin Humane Society since 1985. She volunteered as an adoption counselor originally, while also enrolling her two puppies in Family Dog I class (FD1), eventually moving on to FD2 and FD3.

In 1986 Betsy joined the Behavior & Training department as a volunteer dog training assistant. Two years later Betsy became an instructor and she’s been teaching classes ever since. She particularly likes introducing people to beginning dog training – giving them the essential skills and knowledge to integrate their dogs as members of the family.

Betsy has also worked at MHS in Customer Care, Adoptions, Animal Care, and Outreach. She currently volunteers as a dog training instructor and evaluator of dogs and cats for adoption.

In 1997 Betsy and her husband adopted a retired racing greyhound; she has volunteered with greyhound rescue since that time. Betsy says that living with ex-racing dogs is something like living with canine cats! They do a whole lot of lounging around while looking quite elegant.

Betsy is a native Marinite and lives in Larkspur with her husband, two ex-racing greyhounds, and two MHS feline adoptees. When not working with MHS and greyhound rescue, Betsy volunteers as a Marin Master Gardener and tends her home and community gardens.

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Amy McPherson

Born and raised in Western New York, Amy McPherson, calls Terra Linda home.  She lives with her husband, two young children, two dogs and one cat.  Amy has eleven years experience training assistance dogs for people with disabilities at Canine Companions for Independence.  She has taught group companion dog obedience classes previously.  She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and a graduate of the Canine Behavior Academy level I.

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Sue McGuire

Sue grew up in rural Northern California where her father insisted on always having dogs. Over the years there were many dogs, large and small, that came with the family on various stops around California.

Between raising puppies for Canine Companions for Independence and volunteering for MHS as a foster for pregnant dogs or new moms, Sue has cared for nearly 200 puppies and dogs in her home over the years.

Sue is a graduate of the MHS Canine Behavior Academy I and II and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). She joined the MHS adoptions staff in winter 2007 and joined Behavior & Training shortly thereafter. You can find her doing behavior consultations; teaching dog training classes and working in adoptions, helping people find their perfect match. She loves working with families with young children, who want to have a well mannered family pet.

Sue and her husband Larry have two daughters. The home menagerie includes a Labrador-mix named Alena and MHS alums “Vespa” a Jack Russell Terrier and two cats, Ben and Jerry.

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Karen Schuerholz

Karen, an animal lover since she was young, grew up in Scarsdale, NY. Formerly in Advertising Sales, Karen moved to California 20 years ago with her son Matthew and her first dog Oscar. This 125 lb. Chocolate Lab mix would shape her future as an animal enthusiast. When he passed, she started volunteering at the MHS as an Adoption Counselor in 1998. She knew that a career in animal care would be in her future. 

Initially, she worked part-time as a Vet Tech for a Mill Valley Veterinarian while still in the advertising field. During her time at MHS she began volunteering in the Behavior & Training Department. She assisted in shelter dog behavior evaluations and behavior consults in addition to becoming a Dog Training Assistant.

Karen is a graduate of the MHS Canine Behavior Academy Levels I and II. She continues to work as an Adoption Counselor at MHS and trains new volunteers in the program.

Karen and her husband, share their home in Mill Valley with 3 MHS graduates- Lily, a Golden Retriever mix; Barney, a Hound mix; and Rosie, an Australian Cattle Dog mix.

Her philosophy is that dog training can be fun! The key ingredient to having and raising pets is patience and knowing that they will tell you what they want- you just have to pay attention to how they tell you.

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Meg Sorota

Meg has been teaching Family Dog classes at MHS since 2004. She enjoys helping families lead happy and integrated lives with their pet dogs. She is a Mom to two 6-year-old children, Adam and Jillian, and one golden-doodle named Pixie.

As she grew up, Meg enjoyed life with a Poodle and a Cockapoo. They taught her the joy of life with pet family companions. And with her dog, Bogie, a 90-pound mix-breed rescue, she learned first-hand how to manage and modify a range of behavior issues, including territoriality, barking and fear-based reactivity to people and dogs.

Since 2003, Meg has been with MHS as a behavior assistant, a dog-training assistant and part of the Pet Partnership Program; she is also a CITA (now CBA) graduate. Before coming to MHS, she volunteered at Guide Dogs for the Blind as a docent, a trainer for volunteer dog walkers, and a dog walker.

In Meg’s classes, she encourages people/families to be fun, warm, and consistent leaders to their dog(s). Her goal is to help people form communication structures with their dog(s) with special emphasis on creating strong foundations in the basics building blocks of training.

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Micky (Michaela) von Broen

Even as a child Micky always felt a bond and love with animals. To her parents dismay many a stray dog or cat found it’s way into their home.

Born and raised in Berlin, Micky moved to Northern California in 1989 where she met her husband. In love with the North Coast, she now calls Healdsburg her home, where she lives on 20 acres with a brood of chickens and her three rescued dogs: Sassy—a blue merle agility champion of unknown breed that failed the gene test five times (may not even be a dog), Kimba—a fun-loving but shy Border Collie, and Snickers, (a.k.a. Snix)—a little mutt who appears to be in a permanent state of ultimate happiness and mischief.

Micky has been training and competing with her dogs in USDAA and CPE agility for the past eight years, and enriches her training and education by attend regular training classes, seminars, workshops, and clinics. When not playing with her dogs, she is working in her garden growing vegetables and flowers or working on various arts and crafts projects.

A MHS Canine Behavior Academy graduate, Micky joined MHS first as a DTA, then as a staff instructor in the winter of 2011. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for positive training methods to help build long lasting bonds and partnerships with people and their canine companions.

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Kathy Wells

Growing up in San Rafael , Kathy and her family had a succession of canine companions: a Beagle, Toy Poodle, Border Collie and a Sheltie. Currently, she shares her home with two Catahoula Leopard Dogs and an Australian Kelpie mix. After taking her Kelpie through Family Dog 1 and 2, Kathy volunteered as a Dog Training Assistant at MHS. Several years later (after adding the female Catahoula to the household) Kathy learned that sometimes multiple female dogs are not the easiest to live with! Volunteering in the Behavior & Training Department and completing Trish King’s Canine Behavior Academy has taught her many tools to use to help manage her pack.  She now teaches classes at MHS. 

Other species Kathy has experience with include cats, mice, finches, parakeets, grey-cheeked parakeets, parrotlet, blue-fronted Amazon Parrot, Blue and Gold Macaw, saltwater fish, and horses!  She also enjoys road biking, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, sailing and scuba diving.

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Jane Zabielskis

Jane started at the Marin Humane Society in early 2002 as a Dog Training Assistant (DTA). After 15 years as a Marriage and Family Therapist, with her children almost grown, she decided to refocus her life around her love of dogs. Under the guidance of Trish King and Dawn Kovell, Jane became a class instructor in 2004 and in 2006 became a behavior consultant.

Jane lives in Tiburon with her husband Charlie and Moe, their four year old rescued Westie. Jane and Moe recently became part of the MHS SHARE program and participate in the SHARE A Book reading program. Jane has two grown children and a couple of  rescue granddogs.

Jane created a Southern Marin location for MHS classes at Woodlands Pet Store in Strawberry. She teaches puppy class and beginning small dog class at that venue. Jane's focus is teaching the beginning classes because she wants the clients to start off understanding how dogs think and learn. Positive reinforcement training is a form of communication that builds a trusting relationship and the foundation for each dog to become a well-mannered canine citizen and remain with his or her family. Jane’s motto is to be proactive, rather than have to fix the problems later.

Jane is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) and a graduate of the Canine Behavior Academy, Levels I and II.

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Marin Humane Society

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Novato, CA 94949
Phone 415.883.4621

Copyright 2011