About Us

A well-trained service dog can make real and meaningful change

A well-trained service dog can make meaningful change in the life of someone with a disability, helping them to live actively and independently. Unfortunately, there are many individuals with disabilities who would benefit from a service dog but face significant obstacles in trying to obtain one. Their challenges can include organizations that only service specific populations, geographies, and dog breeds, as well as long waiting lists within these organizations due to an overwhelming need and few resources. 

Atlas’ mission is to help eliminate these obstacles and help anyone who wants a service dog and who qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act to obtain a certified assistance dog. To fulfill this mission, Atlas addresses unmet needs by helping people obtain and train their own service dog without relying on an organization to provide them with a dog. Atlas is bringing a quality of training and rigorous certification standards to the individual that was previously available only through larger organizations. 

Atlas’ model supports the individual who wants to and is able to be an active part of training their own dog. Our Atlas Team Facilitators are volunteers who assist clients who are working to train their own service dog, either entirely on their own or with a trainer. The facilitators guide the team through their final six months of training, working with them to refine their skills, help develop the dog’s skills in mitigating the client’s disability, and prepare the team for the public access test.

We are also working to address a critical shortage of qualified service dog trainers through a comprehensive online program designed to prepare experienced dog trainers to train service dogs and work with people with a wide range of disabilities. Our courses provide training related to dogs, working with people with disabilities, and training for skills to mitigate the client’s disability.

Our Values

Humane, ethical treatment of dogs and people

We treat all people and all dogs ethically, compassionately, and as individuals. We partner with trainers, doctors, patients, and researchers to ensure that we employ the most ethical, scientific, and effective training approaches available with each person and each dog in our program.

 

Inclusion

We promote inclusion and diversity. We welcome and seek out anyone who can benefit from our services. We proudly serve people of every race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and military status. We also welcome dogs of any breed (and mixed breeds) as long as they have the temperament and the physical ability to be an assistance dog.

Honesty, integrity, transparency

We value open and straightforward communication. We earn the trust of our constituents by delivering on our promise of providing an expanded pool of highly-skilled, certified assistance dogs. We have high standards in everything we do and set the highest bar for our certification process. What we do matches what we say. Our decisions and finances are fully documented and accurately reported.

Professionalism

We are well organized and well managed. We follow accepted best practices for management, accounting, and documentation. All communication from our organization helps to convey the message that Atlas Assistance Dogs is a serious, competent, and professional organization.

Boldness and creativity

Our heads and our hearts are fully engaged in exploring ideas, techniques, and technologies that enhance our ability to fulfill our mission. We are scrappy. We find a way.

Our Board

Michael Kolar

President

Michael Kolar led a full career as a marketing and proposal writer for several technology companies, retiring in 2016. Prior to working as a proposal writer, he also worked as a grant writer for the city of Spokane, WA and as a case manager helping get people off the street and into jobs. While he has had animals around him his entire adult life, he discovered the impact of service dogs very personally when his daughter trained a service dog for him to help mitigate his degenerative arthritis. With his dog Turner at his side, Mike has been able to not only meet his day-to-day needs, he’s maintained and regained the ability to do the physical activities that give him the most joy. He has become a fierce advocate for anyone with disabilities and for the dogs doing the work. He believes strongly that all people should be able to live full lives, regardless of their disability. He has a BA in English and a MS in Sociology.

Jennifer Kolar

Vice President

I have a long career in technology and business, and a lifelong passion for animals. A scientist and engineer by training, I have a BS in Applied Mathematics in Engineering and an MS in Astrophysical, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences. I’ve worked as a leader in various technology firms for over 20 years and am presently VP of Engineering at my current company.

I have been surrounded by animals and active in their training and rehabilitation since I was young child. Just as I’ve seen many a stray or shelter dog through fear and reactivity issues, they have seen me through hard times too. When I started volunteering and working first with my own dog as a therapy dog and later with service dog teams in training, I witnessed firsthand the amazing difference well-trained dogs can make in the lives of adults and children with physical, emotional, or psychological challenges. I saw their struggles and successes and am driven to help as many people who need one have access to a service dog.

I am constantly on the quest for new knowledge, skills, and perspective in the name of advancing positive and successful dog training techniques. I’m a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Certified Behavioral Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI), Atlas Certified Trainer, Certified Diabetes Alert Dog Trainer, and AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certified Evaluator. In addition to my technical career and my efforts with Atlas, I am an active volunteer as a foster dog case manager and trainer with the Seattle Animal Shelter.

I recognize working with service dog teams is at least as much on the people side of the relationship as on the animal side, and I am always looking to strengthen the amazing bond between our species. I am excited to be a co-founder of Atlas Assistance Dogs and to redefine the notion of service dog training to benefit as many deserving people as possible.

Erin Petersen

Treasurer

I grew up in Minnesota and studied mathematics and chemistry at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I moved to Seattle to get my M.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Washington and have enjoyed living in the Pacific NW ever since. My interest in solving problems with data and analytics led me to my current role as a data scientist for The Boeing Company. I’ve also been a lifelong dog lover and am continually impressed with how dogs can be used as partners to improve someone’s quality of life and I’m passionate about spreading that awareness and opportunity.

Niki Becker, MD

Secretary

I am both a patient and a provider. I have a medical doctor degree and was an academic sub-specialized pediatrician. Unfortunately, my own genetic disease has me on disability at too young of an age. I have a connective tissue defect called hypermobile Ehlers Danlos syndrome (hEDS), as well as interstitial lung disease, making it difficult to walk and to breathe at times, among other things. 

I had been trying for years to get a service dog through agencies local to the Pacific Northwest, unsuccessfully. Eventually I ended up working with a company on the East Coast, but when I finally got a service dog, he was not appropriate for my mobility limitations. I am therefore keenly aware of how much a properly matched service dog can help, and a mismatch can hurt! There are too many underserved people and illnesses in my opinion, with the understanding of the individual’s situation sometimes being too vague. Being a quick study for medical and mental health conditions, I value working with Atlas Assistance Dogs and translating the benefits of service dogs to providers when helpful as part of my unique skillset. I firmly believe that the right dog can do amazing things to improve a person’s quality of life.

Jessica Bhuiyan

Jessica Bhuiyan dedicates her life to the not-for-profit and social impact sector. As an organizational leader, philanthropic coach and consultant, writer and editor, human and animal rights advocate, and social change agent, Bhuiyan utilizes her expertise and passions to help make a difference for others.

Currently serving as Executive Director of World Without Hate, Bhuiyan is dedicated to building bridges and connecting others through the transformative power of forgiveness, compassion, empathy and understanding. Now in its 8th year of operation, Bhuiyan is focused on sustaining the long-term health and viability of this evolving educational and human rights organization. Having worked for and with organizations spanning the arts, culture, humanities, social justice, higher education and social services sectors, Bhuiyan also offers consulting and coaching services to non-profit and social impact organizations and professionals around the country through her company, JC Consulting + Coaching. In addition, she serves as Manager for Rais Ventures, LLC.

Originally from Connecticut, Bhuiyan served as Managing Director of Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center for over six years. During her tenure, Bhuiyan designed and implemented the organization’s development, marketing and membership initiatives, while also steadily increasing earned revenue and advisory board participation. With her stellar team, she grew the organization’s community engagement and specialized programming for youth, students and adults. While at Green Street, Carso and her staff developed and implemented highly impactful internship, fellowship and work-study programs for students and emerging leaders interested in non-profit, youth development and arts education work.

 

Fulfilling a twenty-year dream, Bhuiyan now lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, cat, and beagle named Brewster.

Katrina Boldry

Katrina Boldry is the founder, owner & designer of Bold Lead Designs (BLD) in Colorado. Katrina’s story begins when trying to find a replacement for a 15 year old leather guide dog leash she received when raising a Guide Dog puppy as a teenager.  “I couldn’t find a leash I liked,” she explains. “There was nothing out there that had all the features and functions I wanted.”

Being a creative problem solver and artist at heart, and finding nothing that met her needs, Katrina decided to craft the perfect dog leash. The result was so unique, all her friends and neighbors wanted one, too! Bold Lead Designs emerged in 2008 to provide well-designed, top-quality, handcrafted leather dog leashes to dog handlers who desired something better than the typical, disappointing, off-the-shelf options. Over time, new products were designed in direct response to what customers were telling her they needed but could not find. Katrina’s designs provide solutions to the dog equipment dilemmas of pet owners, canine professionals, and service dog handlers worldwide.

 

With a background in the arts, and a previous career as a professional photographer, Katrina is a self-taught craftswoman who learned her trade by determination, trial and error, and through the guidance of peers, counselors, and professional who has helped her grow Bold Lead Designs into what it is today—a company known and respected as much for its compassion as for the thoughtfulness and durability of its products. Her consideration for the needs of her clients has led to the development of many products previously unheard of in the market, including the first wheelchair-friendly dog lead and the sturdiest mobility harness available.

 

Katrina regularly gives back to the canine community by donating merchandise to animal rescue organizations and service dog training agencies and offering sponsorship and financial support to non-profit organizations. She speaks frequently at small business training seminars to inspire other entrepreneurs, and she enjoys giving presentations to service dog trainers and sharing her insights about specialty equipment. Katrina is honored to have found success designing and providing equipment that allows service dog handlers to get out and enjoy the world independently. She is currently training a service dog to assist with her own balance and mobility needs, to help mitigate progressive health issues.

Katrina is a Colorado native. She lives and works in Aurora, CO with her spouse Brian, her dogs Hazel and Kepler. The rare times she’s away from her workshop, Katrina enjoys camping with her vintage teardrop trailer and visiting museums.

Kristen Galliani

Kristen Galliani has a long career in innovation and technology building products that are on the forefront of change. She has dedicated her time to being the voice of the user and finds people, and dogs, to be some of the most interesting creatures. She believes the story and the telling of that story is how we build communities, understanding of each other and change. She has advised several non-profits and founders and was delighted to meet Atlas Assistance Dogs.

Kristen recently fulfilled her dream of moving from California, her native home, to Whidbey Island in Washington State with her husband Chris, their two cats and a Lagotto Romagnolo they recently adopted. She has four children, three stepchildren, and a wonderful granddaughter born in 2019.  She looks forward to adventures in the PNW, which she considers her soul home.  

Molly Neher

While getting my bachelor’s in Anthropology and psychology, I developed a passion for non profit work and disability advocacy and decided to devote my life to it. As the Director of Programs and Operations I am lucky and grateful to be able to do just that every day.

Growing up in France, I had no awareness or knowledge about service dogs as they are unheard of over there. It was not until I developed my own medical condition my freshman year of college in Oregon that I even found out about them and realized I would greatly benefit from one myself. With my service dog Reid by my side, I was able to earn my degree and begin my journey with Atlas Assistance Dogs.

I thoroughly believe that disability is not something to get over or “beat”. One does not succeed in life despite their disability or medical condition. Rather, they succeed with their disability. Disability brings strength, resilience, and the will to accomplish anything. In my case, disability brought me a four legged partner in crime and a passion to allow anyone who would benefit from such a friend to have one.