Organization

We are a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization located in Albuquerque, NM. We are an all-volunteer organization providing therapy dog services to the Albuquerque metro area.

We visit:

  • Hospitals
  • rehabilitation facilities
  • nursing homes
  • schools
  • libraries
  • the 911 call center
  • and other facilities as requested

We are available for outreach events where we can inform the public about therapy dogs and the work that they do. We are always looking for individuals who would like to become involved in therapy dog work to join us. If that sounds like you, check out our “Join us” page for more information. If you represent a facility that would be interested in having our therapy dogs visit, check out the “Facilities” tab for information on setting up visits.


Mission

To make a positive impact on people’s lives with our dedicated therapy dog teams.


Purpose

  1. HD Therapy Dogs is operated exclusively for charitable, educational, and humanitarian purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code.
  2. HD Therapy Dogs is a group of volunteers and their dogs organized for the purposes of:
  • comforting and entertaining the sick, lonely, stressed and disabled of all ages wherever they may be
  • providing educational outreach services, e.g., to schools and libraries
  • demonstrating the benefits of pet therapy to health-care professionals and the community
  • supporting registered therapy dog teams by establishing and maintaining visiting, educational, social, networking, and enrichment opportunities to our members
  • sharing our knowledge and love of pet therapy with other volunteers throughout New Mexico.

Core Values

HD Therapy Dogs members as a group adhere to the following core values:

  • share care, compassion, and comfort with each other
  • cultivate and preserve a culture of inclusion and non-discrimination
  • value, respect, support, and trust each other
  • share knowledge and resources generously
  • work together courteously and cooperatively.

History

High Desert was founded in May of 2020. Unfortunately because of COVID its growth was hampered. Nevertheless we have made significant progress with the basics necessary to the formation of a cohesive organization. All of the facilities that had welcomed our wonderful pet therapy teams had closed their doors to visitors including pet therapy teams. Our primary visiting opportunity was window visits. Finally and slowly we have begun to be invited to a few outreach events. Presbyterian Healthcare Services asked that our teams come to the observation area of its vaccination hub beginning in March of 2021. In April most Presbyterian facilities opened their doors to our teams. The Pride Fest in the summer of 2021 was a great success as a fund raiser. We have welcomed several teams and are looking forward to more in the coming months.


Meet our Board

Barbara Everage, President

Pet therapy has been a huge part of my life since the fall of 2006.  My first therapy dog, Izzy, went to the office with me every day.  That is when I began visiting  Presbyterian and Lovelace Hospitals.  Izzy went to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge in May 2016.   Fortunately, Suki had joined the pack by that time and had become a therapy dog.  Bella arrived in July 2016 at the ripe old age of 6 years.  She demonstrated her natural ability as a therapy dog in the airport in Minneapolis as I was bringing her back from Minnesota.  Suki and I are shown attending the Wellness Fair at UNM.


Patricia Newman, Secretary

Over my lifetime I have lived with a Chow, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, West Highland Terrier, German Shepherd, a lovely stray of indeterminate breeding, six Rottweilers, and three Papillons. That’s in addition to my human family, one cat, several hamsters, and – for a very brief and memorable period – a tarantula. 

It was my first Papillons, Mr. Cookie and his nephew Radar who got me into pet therapy in 2012. Four years later when Mr. Cookie went ahead of us on that path we all must walk alone, I added Radar’s nephew, Biscuit, to the family. Together the little butterfly dogs and I have visited regularly at hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers in addition to special events, primarily at schools. These stalwart dogs have made me witness to many moments when they touched hearts in mysterious ways no human can. I am a committed advocate of pet therapy.

It has been a privilege to help start High Desert Therapy Dogs in 2020 and serve this group as secretary since our beginning. 


Linni Fletcher, Director of Membership

Welcome to our website!

My name is Linni Fletcher and this is my Coton De Tulear, Stella. We are excited to have been involved in pet therapy since 2018 in the Albuquerque area.

 I earned a BA in Elementary education and a MA in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. I taught 3 years in the first grade and 10 years in Special Education. It was during this time I began my volunteering. I was involved in the children’s Special Olympics for 15 years. Growing up in a military family, I was proud to have the desire to give back to others by volunteering.

Stella and I visit with High Desert Therapy Dogs at Presbyterian Hospitals, Cooper Center, VA hospital, Avamere Rehabilitation and the Retreat Alzheimer’s and Dementia facility.

Stella and I are pleased to be in the position of Membership, and we welcome all who would like to have the opportunity to serve our hospitals, facilities, and our community.

We hope you and your dog will join us in our pet therapy organization.


Joan Puccini, Director of Education and Mentoring

I became a part of Pet therapy in 2012. My first therapy dog, Drake, the Sheltie, went to the office. I began visiting every day, twice a day. Drake and I loved what we were doing, but I thought I might be wearing him out, so I borrowed my son’s dog, Khan, the Pomeranian. Khan was an instant hit because of his triple coat.

We adopted an 8 year old Italian Greyhound, Sandy. You can teach old dogs new tricks. She soon became my third therapy dog. Carli, the Beagle soon joined the pack and we were 4. In one year’s time (2017-2018), Drake, Khan and Sandy crossed the Rainbow Bridge. My sixth Sheltie, Deacon, joined Carli as a therapy dog. In 2019 Zander & Zephyr (half-brothers), long-hair Miniature Dachshunds, joined our household. Zander became my sixth therapy dog in 2020. Some of the places we like to visit: Presbyterian hospitals, Lovelace, the 911 Call Center, Encompass Rehabilitation, Genesis Rehabilitation Center. Pet therapy is very rewarding in so many ways. It is a privilege to serve our community in this way.


Stephanie Bourgeois, Treasurer

Greetings from the Land of Enchantment, and Hot Air Balloon Capital of the world. My name is Steph, and I am originally from Hamburg, Germany. Since my kids were little, I volunteered in all kinds of different settings. When we moved to the U.S., I was looking for another opportunity to serve the community, and because dogs and obedience were already my passion for the past 40 years, I was looking for something where I could enjoy both.

Back then, I had a very well-tempered Labrador girl Lucy, and had just finished and passed my certification with her, when my daughter decided she needed her as a de-stressor at Vet school. So, I waited 9 months and took Diesel, our then 13-months old chocolate lab, through training and finally started to visit March 2019.

Diesel is a natural and loves his job. We are regularly visiting the VA hospital, assisted living homes, and attending a lot of outreach events, i.e. Cancer Kids, Cuddle a Canine at the University of New Mexico, schools, and more. In the meanwhile, we adopted Sammy, a 2-year-old German Shepherd/Border Collie mix, in October 2018, and soon it became obvious that he would make another good candidate for dog therapy. I finished his training in June of this year, but due to Covid-19, we are restricted to “window visits” only so far. Besides those two certified therapy dogs, we share our home with our spoiled Boxer girl Emma, my son’s Labrador girl Luna who we foster until May 2021 upon his deployment return from South Korea, two cats, and two horses.

When I’m not visiting, I overlook the finances of High Desert Therapy Dogs as the treasurer, work full-time for the Air Force, finish up my MBA in Project Management, and build an off-grid cabin in Northern New Mexico.