Meet the Team

Meet The Team

Sarah Macdonald - Mas. Teach

Sarah Macdonald - Mas. Teach

Stevie® Award Winner | Commonwealth Bank Australian of the Day | Chair of VIC/TAS Animal Therapies Ltd Committee

CEO and Founder of Canine Comprehension

Sarah feels blessed to run a company that that brings therapy dogs into schools to encourage at risk kids to love learning. 

Sarah is both a Teacher and Professional Dog Trainer.  She has taught English in Australia and overseas. She holds a Ba Arts History/Politics), a Masters in Teaching.  Sarah has been a curriculum developer in secondary schools and adult education for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.  

By being involved in both education and dog training, Sarah saw the opportunity to use obedient dogs to help students learn. Dogs are used by therapists, assisting in the emotional well-being of clients. Sarah is dedicated to making difference to kids who struggle at school. She has a passion for education and always seeks innovative solutions to reconnect kids with learning.

Sarah says “I have worked with kids without dogs and with dogs - with dogs improves connection, attention and results every time.”  

Louise

Louise

Operations Manager

Louise looks after all the administrative functions for Canine Comprehension and anything else Sarah throws her way. Louise is 2IC to Sarah and has an uncanny way of completing tasks before Sarah has even asked her to do them. Sarah calls her the 'Human Siri".

Louise has worked in the health sector most of her working life. She started off as a disability support worker then went on to become a nurse. After working in nursing for several years Louise then took up a role as an Ambulance call taker.  Louise loves working with dogs and the young and really enjoyed her time working as a disability support worker for young adults.

Louise has an interest in technology and recently completed a Diploma in Information management.  Louise brings a variety of skills to Canine Comprehension and is always looking to improve services for our clients.

 

Chelsie

Chelsie

Learning and Development Coordinator

Chelsie is a qualified Primary Teacher and has been passionate about dogs her entire life. She is dedicated towards new initiatives for improving student wellbeing and found including her dogs as a natural progression.

As a devoted dog lover, Chelsie consistently builds on her knowledge of dog wellbeing and training. She loves to share her insights with others to ensure we fully experience the kaleidoscope of wealth dogs can bring to our lives.

Chelsie works with her charming Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Joosh (as in the French je + “oosh”). Joosh is a certified therapy dog and has been dubbed ‘the cuddle machine’. Forever dreaming of living in a house full of dogs, Chelsie also has a ‘ray of sunshine’ Golden Retriever, Honey.

Jim

Jim

School Program Tutor

Jim is a qualified Family Therapist, Youth Worker and Relationships Counsellor and has over 24 years’ experience in working young people, families and children with challenging and complex needs. Jim has worked for a diverse range of organisations including Drug and Alcohol Services, Youth Services, Family Service Organisations, Family Relationship Services, Community Health and Local Government. Jim has a collaborative and reflective approach to working with families, couples, young people and children in helping them and empowering them to make positive changes in their lives and strengthening and improving relationships. Jim has a strong interest in narrative, solution focused and systemic approaches to his work.

​Jim is also passionate about the field of Animal Assisted Therapy, utilising animals (particularly dogs) therapeutically with humans in a counselling setting and in other animal assistance work. Jim owns two therapy dogs, Ziggy the Groodle and Ruby the miniature schnauzer. He has completed the Animal Assistance Therapy training and has completed a Certificate in dog behaviour and training from the National Dog Trainers Federation.

Susie

Susie

School Program Tutor

Susie has over 30 years of experience as a Primary School teacher. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Education and a Graduate Diploma in Oral Language. Student well being is her passion and area of expertise. She has specialist training and experience in relaxation techniques, mindfulness, massage, grief counselling  and resilience programs.

Susie believes that building positive relationships with students and providing them with a safe and happy learning environment is crucial for their personal growth. With Barney, her Golden Labrador,  beside her she is able to provide a creative learning space where students can achieve success.

Donna

Donna

School Program Tutor

Donna is a qualified Social Worker with over 25 years of experience in child and family therapy within Australia, Papua New Guinea and China.  In particular,  Donna has focused her skill-sets in the areas of play therapy, trauma informed, and cultural responsiveness practice.  A systemic and collaborative approach underpins Donna's therapeutic process with her service users, empowering them to make the positive life changes they seek.

​Donna has facilitated animal assisted therapy with Coco and Cookie at several schools in the Dandenong Area. Coco and Cookie are 4-year-old Cocker Spaniels who enjoy coming to school with her. She has incorporated both dogs into numerous sessions with children who have experienced issues related to attachment, trauma, disengagement, emotional regulation and defiance. Donna is able to correlate her dogs’ behaviours and personalities with the student’s, thus incorporating animal assisted therapy into their learning and/or therapeutic plans.

Jovana (currently on Maternity Leave)

Jovana (currently on Maternity Leave)

School Program Tutor

Jovana understands that developing and delivering a personal learning program for kids on the Autism spectrum takes a lot of patience, care and attention to detail, but loves nothing more than to see the children she works with learn new skills in a fun and interactive way.  Introducing an animal to her sessions has only added to this enjoyment with great success.  Jovana also enjoys celebrating the small wins while working towards greater goals.

​Jovana has a Graduate Diploma in Psychology and is currently undertaking her Honours in Psychology. Jovana currently works in community mental health and has over 4 years experience supporting children with ASD. Jovana has a very special bond with her 2 year old rescue dog, Chachka, who was certified as a therapy dog in 2016 and will be working with Jovana in the delivery of the Dog Assisted Learning school programs.

Jasmin

Jasmin

School Program Tutor

Jasmin has a background in social work and health science, with experience working predominantly in the fields of homelessness and mental health. Jasmin has a beautiful border collie named ‘Lucy’ who began visiting nursing homes with Jasmin when she was eight months old. Jasmin’s passion for Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) began here observing the magic of what the presence of a dog could bring to others and how valuable that was. This developed from a voluntary role into a small business that the pair continued for the next three years.

Jasmin has worked in a specialist school as a teacher’s aide, here discovering her interest in working with younger people. In the same year the pair stepped into the Responsible Pet Ownership Program, enjoying teaching children in kindergartens and schools about dog safety and responsible pet ownership. More recently Jasmin has experienced the accomplishment of introducing AAT into a public mental health service as an addition to her existing role in an aged community mental health team. With the organisation recognising the value in AAT for clients and staff alike Jasmin and Lucy attended the office together most days of the week, visited the aged inpatient psychiatric unit and worked alongside individuals in the community. Jasmin is thrilled to be joining Canine Comprehension with Lucy to pursue the next exciting chapter in their careers

Martine

Martine

School Program Tutor

Martine is a qualified Occupational Therapist with over 25 years of experience working with families in the health and disability sectors. She has practiced in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom and has specialised in working with people who are experiencing loss and trauma. Martine is passionate about empowering people to meet their goals and uses the power of connection, creativity and solution focused thinking to this end.

Martine has completed her Animal Assisted Therapy training and has a wonderful bond with her 5 year old Labrador Albie, whom she has affectionately dubbed her 'yellow shadow’. 

Martine is also a mother of 2 children and understands first hand the positive impact that  connecting with animals has on our wellbeing. She feels very privileged to be joining the team at Canine Comprehension.

Glenda

Glenda

School Program Tutor

Glenda is a mother of 4 and nana of 2 and has always had a love of children and dogs.  She has had extensive experience in working with children in a variety of settings, having previously worked as an Integration Aide with special needs children in Kindergarten and Primary School settings and lately as Receptionist at Kalparrin Early Childhood Intervention Centre.

Glenda appreciates the benefit of animal assisted therapy and witnessed this first hand with her dog Buster at Kalparrin.  Buster, a 3 year old mini Labradoodle, and Glenda have trained with Canine Comprehension since puppy school and still attend Sarah’s ‘Great Dog’ training sessions. They have completed the Animal Assisted Therapy accreditation which enabled Glenda to achieve her dream of working with dogs and children.

Glenda is very excited to be part of the Canine Comprehension team, a dedicated, motivated group of professionals, and is looking forward to providing children with the benefit of interaction with a therapy dog.

Alison

Alison

School Program Tutor

Alison has worked as an Early Childhood Educator and consultant in a variety of settings for more than 25 years. She is passionate about children’s health & wellbeing and values the positive impact that animals can bring into people’s lives.

Alison believes in establishing collaborative and respectful relationships with children and their families and providing safe, fun and supportive environments where children can thrive and have the opportunity to enhance their learning and development. Throughout her work, Alison has seen first hand the connections that animals can create for children, which fuelled her desire to increase her knowledge and skills in animal assisted therapy.

She is the Mum of two teenage children who adore their beautiful Border Collie named Jett. Alison and Jett completed their AAT certification in March 2018 and feel privileged to be part of the incredible team at Canine Comprehension.

Hannah

Hannah

Support

Hannah was one of our helpers at our dog school but has now moved on to help support the business from the admin side.  Her first dog was a Lakeland Terrier named Maddie and she has been passionate about dogs ever since.

Hannah is interested in dog training, particularly when it comes to training her own dog, Archie. Archie is also a Lakeland Terrier and has been in training with Canine Comprehension since he was a puppy. Hannah is looking forward to a time when Archie is trained to an advanced level and can be trusted off leash.

​Her favourite thing about helping Canine Comprehension is learning new things and being part of a growing team.

George

George

Support

George loves dogs, and loves helping people. He has had dogs for most of his life, including German shepherds, Jack Russell’s and now he has a toy poodle, Neeky.

George and Neeky started training with Canine Comprehension in puppy class and kept training up until the group training classes finished. Since then George and Neeky have been running a monthly walking group for Canine Comprehension “past students”.

Neeky loves meeting people. George and Neeky have completed the Animal Assisted Therapy Dog training and accreditation and they are both looking forward to putting that into practice and putting smiles on children’s faces.