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Intermountain Therapy Animals Staff


Kathy Klotz (with Emily)

Executive Director


I joined ITA as a volunteer right at its inception in 1993, and was a Pet Partner with my Australian Shepherd, Foster, for eight years until he died in 2002. (I regret that despite four other dogs and six cats in my household since that time, none of them has wanted to be anything but my personal therapist.) I became Assistant Director in 1996 and Executive Director in 1997. After 25 years in academic (UCLA) and corporate environments, where I worked mostly in public opinion research, I had finally found what I wanted to be when I grew up. Putting people and animals together, for the happiness and healing of both, is among the most joyful and rewarding "work" on earth.

Melissa Byrd (with Oliver, the ITA Office Cat) Administrative Assistant

I have always loved animals and, though I didn't fully understand it until I came to ITA, it's because of the love they give so willingly to anyone who will accept it. Being able to "witness" the great works and small victories that our amazing volunteers and programs and their clients achieve on a daily basis never ceases to send chills up my spine and bring tears to my eyes. I have been lucky enough to be on the staff of ITA for 12 years, and feel sincerely privileged to work for the organization and with my fellow staff members. I have had many beloved pets but, as we say in the office, they only enjoyed being my personal therapist and wouldn't have enjoyed being in the AAT settings. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not big on group gatherings, but I do enjoy speaking with people and assisting when I can. I also like to camp, hike and spend time with my family.

Nancy Rosen (with KC & Eli)

ITA Montana Chapter Coordinator

I started volunteering w/ITA in 1998 with my first Bichon, Maggie, and then added KC a year (aka Killer Cottonball). Both Maggie & KC were wonderful therapy dogs and had distinctly different visiting styles and preferences. Maggie was a social butterfly, a schmoozer, loved everyone for a short period and then she was ready to move on. KC was more of a snuggler, and had more staying power than Maggie. She was also one of the original 14 R.E.A.D. dogs. Right after joining ITA, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I worked part-time in the SLC office in various capacities and became a workshop instructor and an evaluator. In 2001, I moved to Bozeman, Montana and started the ITA chapter here. Fortunately, I did not need to reinvent the wheel and was able to implement what I learned in SLC. We now have over 70 ITA teams in Montana. I lost Maggie in 2006, and retired KC in 2005. Eli, who is 4-1/2, has been a therapy dog for two years. He is doing a wonderful job, and following in his sisters' footsteps. He loves the children at the elementary school where he is a R.E.A.D. dog, and the people at the Cancer Treatment Center at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

Brett Beasley (with Rachael, Jett & Jaro)

Utah County Coordinator

Rachael and I joined ITA in 2003 with our pet partner, Jaro, inspired by a public service piece about ITA on a noon news show. Jaro was a natural, and he is by now the "elder statesman" animal therapist in Utah County. A new puppy, Jett, joined the clan in 2005. He proved himself to be equally adept at therapy work, and has been serving alongside his Uncle Jaro since 2007. I have been the Utah County Coordinator since 2004, and really enjoy helping new teams establish themselves in animal-assisted therapy work. I am also a Team Evaluator, and enjoy seeing both halves of the pet partner teams, and the clients they serve in the community, lifted by the human-animal bond. Rachael and I love the quality time we are able to spend giving back to the community, and the chance to spend enjoyable time with our "boys," at the same time is more than we could ever have hoped for.

Connie Sharkey (with Buddy & Chase)

ITA Idaho Chapter Coordinator

Connie Sharkey became a Pet Partner with the Delta Society in 1992, even before ITA was founded, and has been participating in therapy volunteering non-stop ever since. She joined ITA in November of 2001 and is our chapter leader for the entire state of Idaho, so she does a lot of traveling. She was inducted into ITA's Hall of Fame in 2005, and her partner Buddy was ITA Dog of the Year in 2010. Connie, along with her husband Jim and Buddy and Chase, spend the darkest, coldest days of winter in Arizona.

Cindy Harris (with Bumper & Bailey)

Office Manager

I joined ITA in May 2011. I have had dogs in my life for as long as I can remember. I think I must have been born with paw prints on my heart. I like all animals, but dogs just hold a special place.

When I learned there might be a place I could work and be with dogs I just had to get in on it! I am hoping to learn all aspects of ITA from the ground up. My husband and I have two grown daughters whose company we enjoy as often as possible. I also like to read in my spare time.

Colleen Baum (with Birdie)

Volunteer & Facility Services Coordinator

I have been with ITA since February 2008. I'm responsible for coordinating volunteer services at our regular facilities, events, school presentations and assisting in R.E.A.D. volunteer placement. I make sure our facilities have what they need for their clients to experience the joys of animal-assisted interactions in the most optimal ways. I enjoy spending time with my own animals as well as volunteering for various animal rescue organizations around the state.

Ali Barnes (with Jackson & Oakley)

Special Projects

I heard about Intermountain Therapy Animals many years before I started volunteering with them. Every time I saw a news story or saw ITA teams at the Avenues Street Fair, I thought, "I should really do that." Then my daughter Rachel also got interested, so we both passed our tests two years ago with our Golden Retriever, Oakley. He is retiring now (he's 12), but in those two short years he has taught us so much about unconditional love and has allowed us to have amazing experiences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Primary Children's Medical Center. Now we have both passed with our two-year-old Golden, Jackson, and are looking for the perfect place for him to shine. I am thrilled to be working for ITA part-time and am hoping that I can bring something valuable to an already fabulous team.

Sharry Buhanan-Decker (with Lola)

National R.E.A.D. Coordinator and ITA Affiliate Member Coordinator

I joined Intermountain Therapy Animals in August 2013, after graduating from the University of Utah, and am thrilled to be working in a compassionate and caring work environment! I wasn't allowed to have animals as a child and didn't fully understand the impact an animal can have on a person's life until adopting my cat, Lola, from a local shelter three years ago. Ever since, Lola has become my own personal therapy cat and I've grown to love and appreciate the healing relationship between people and animals. Along with spending time with my own therapy cat, I've also spent the last three years working with children with disabilities and have personally witnessed the bond between children and therapy animals in the classroom. I am excited to combine my passion for animals with my passion to help children in need as the National R.E.A.D. Coordinator!

Phone: 801.272.3439 | Fax: 801.272.3470 | info@therapyanimals.org | 4050 South 2700 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84124

Karen Burns (with Chloe)
Assistant Director and ITA R.E.A.D. Coordinator

I joined ITA In 1996 and volunteered with my pet partner Maggie, a Harlequin Great Dane, for eight years in a variety of settings. We enjoyed working with kids at a residential treatment center, visiting brain-injured clients at a group home, and going to hospitals and assisted living facilities. The R.E.A.D. program was a fabulous way for Maggie, as a senior dog, to keep on volunteering and one of my favorite settings. I began working for ITA in 1999, leaving the corporate environment for the rewarding world of animal-assisted interactions. As Assistant Director, I manage the financial system, conduct new volunteer training and orientation classes, and coordinate our ITA R.E.A.D. program here in Utah. Maggie passed in 2004. I soon found myself with a Dutch Bunny named Clair as my therapy partner. What fun I had going from large to little! Reading with kids continued as a favorite for us. Clair also had special requests from clients at the Burn Trauma Unit at the University of Utah Hospital. We said good-bye to Clair in 2008. I now work with Chloe, our Miniature Dachshund who came to our family in 2008. Chloe is registered with my daughter, Jessie and myself. We visit children at The Sharing Place, a grief-counseling center. My free time is spent with my family, husband Rob, kids Jessie and Zack, three cats and a horse in addition to Chloe.

Tory Keuffel

Special Projects

Intermountain Therapy Animals has long been a part of my history. My grandmother, Betty, volunteered with her standard Poodles since the organization's inception, and I volunteered for a few months doing office work in 2009. I have long dreamed of becoming a permanent member of the ITA team, so when the opportunity came to join the staff as a professional, I jumped at the chance. After 9 years of working for the University of Utah in hospitality, joining the team has been a big transition, but I have loved every minute of it! I help out with special projects, and anything else that needs doing around the office. In my spare time, I enjoy being creative, whether by making jewelry, reading, writing fiction or learning new skills. I am so honored to be a part of an organization that helps people brighten their outlook on life. That’s the amazing thing about what ITA does. Daily, our volunteers help people find hope and healing.