About Soldier’s Best Friend

From the restless nights to the difficult situations, I have something that has been an elusive possibility…. I have hope again.
Rick and Wilfred

Graduated 2014

MISSION

Soldier’s Best Friend provides U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.

We are devoted to helping our veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). We also want to help the pet overpopulation problem.

Soldier’s Best Friend is a 501(C)3 tax exempt non-profit corporation based in Phoenix, AZ. Our staff is comprised of war veterans, practicing PTSD therapists, professional service dog trainers, a veterinarian, and many other great volunteers.

We are dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with veterans at no cost to the veteran, not only from Arizona but across our country.

GOAL

Soldier’s Best Friend is an Arizona-based 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Our board and staff are comprised of war veterans, practicing PTSD therapists, professional service dog trainers, veterinarians, experienced nonprofit professionals, and many great volunteers. We are dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with veterans at no cost to the veteran.

MISSION

Soldier’s Best Friend provides U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.

We are devoted to helping our veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). We also want to help the pet overpopulation problem.

Soldier’s Best Friend is a 501(C)3 tax exempt non-profit corporation based in Phoenix, AZ. Our staff is comprised of war veterans, practicing PTSD therapists, professional service dog trainers, a veterinarian, and many other great volunteers.

We are dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with veterans at no cost to the veteran, not only from Arizona but across our country.

GOAL

Soldier’s Best Friend is an Arizona-based 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Our board and staff are comprised of war veterans, practicing PTSD therapists, professional service dog trainers, veterinarians, experienced nonprofit professionals, and many great volunteers. We are dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with veterans at no cost to the veteran.

BOARD & OFFICERS

John Burnham, DVM

John Burnham, DVM

President

PROFILE

John is the President and Founder of Soldier’s Best Friend (SBF). He is also the President of the SBF board. Following the passing of his father in 2007, John had a desire to connect with something bigger. He wanted something more, something that engaged his military interests, honored his father, and allowed him to use his personal and professional talents to a greater degree in service to the community.

Through his practice, John worked with veterans and cared for their pets. He saw how the interaction with the animals helped returning veterans interact more comfortably in civilian environments and an idea was sparked. This idea was nurtured by study of institutional research that supported the therapeutic relationships that John was seeing first hand and by outreach to experts in the field of service animals, behavioral science, and veteran services. John knew there had to be a way to give more veterans the chance to experience the unconditional love and support that only a canine companion can bring. He also knew he had a unique opportunity to help reduce the number of homeless dogs living in local shelters. With this alignment of purpose, Soldier’s Best Friend became John’s dream and driving passion. With the support of his devoted wife and business partner, Jan Burnham, the organization became a reality.

John’s goal has been to assemble a team of committed volunteers military and civilian to help acquire, place and train the service dogs for our veterans at no cost to them. He also wanted to acquire many of the dogs through local rescue organizations thus helping our pet overpopulation problem.

John is a native Arizonan. He attended Northern Arizona University and Colorado State University where he obtained his doctorate of veterinary medicine. Dr. Burnham has been actively practicing veterinary medicine in Arizona since 1983. He is married with 2 adult sons.

Elaine Ransdell

Elaine Ransdell

Vice President

PROFILE

Elaine has been a long-standing, very active volunteer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is currently serving as the Vice President. Elaine has an active role as a representative of the organization and continues to help with veteran communications and program quality control.

Elaine feels very strongly about our veterans – her father, husband, both brothers and son were all veterans. She is retired and spent 27 years with a large local company, most recently in human resources management.

Carrie Ostroski

Carrie Ostroski

Treasurer

PROFILE

Carrie is currently serving as Treasurer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is the Executive Director of the Dorrance Family Foundation. Carrie is a recognized leader in the philanthropic and business community and has over 12 years of executive level experience. She has directed and managed teams of high-level and executive community volunteers and leaders in strategic, business and event planning, as well as high-level fundraising and board development. Carrie is very excited to help SBF & to aid our military members readjust into civilian life.

Carrie was born and raised in Iowa and has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over 20 years. She attended Arizona State University, where she graduated with a degree in psychology with a focus on organizational behavior.
Some of her professional and community affiliations past and present include Valley Leadership (graduate Class XXIV), Central Phoenix Women, Arizona Endowment Building Initiative, Planned Giving Roundtable of Arizona, Madison United Preservation Committee, and the University of Arizona Master Gardener program. Carrie also volunteers with conservation organizations and the University of Arizona Master Gardener program.

Tobey Erskine

Tobey Erskine

Secretary

PROFILE

Tobey is currently the Secretary for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is Director of Corporate Communications at Kahala, Corp. Prior to that she was the Communications and PR Manager at Florence Crittenton in Phoenix.

Jan Burnham

Jan Burnham

Board Member

PROFILE

Jan is actively involved in many areas of SBF activities ranging from administrative duties to active participation in public events. Jan thoroughly enjoys watching the development of the human-animal bond between the veteran and their canine companion. She is honored to help our military members achieve such a trusting relationship with their service dog.

She has lived most of her life in Phoenix and is a graduate of Northern Arizona University where she obtained her degree in fashion merchandising and marketing. She has worked in the retail industry and currently is working at Acoma Animal Clinic in Administration.
Jan is married to John Burnham and has 2 adult sons that actively help with SBF events.

Steve Dow, DVM

Steve Dow, DVM

Board Member

PROFILE

Dr. Steve Dow, a veterinarian in Prescott, served as a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger Captain in Vietnam. After serving in the Army he attended University of Arizona for his undergraduate degree and then Colorado State University for his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Dow has previously served as a Governor-appointed member of the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board.

Jim McDonald, DVM

Jim McDonald, DVM

Board Member

PROFILE

Dr. Jim McDonald has been a practicing veterinarian in Arizona for 28 years. Since returning to his home state after graduation from Colorado State University in 1984, Jim has served on the boards and committees of both state and national veterinary organizations.

These positions have included the Board of Directors and Executive Board of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, and the Public Policy Committee of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. He is currently the Alternate Delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association for the state of Arizona. He currently owns EIEIO Professional Services, a mobile, predominantly equine practice. Jim is married wand has 3 adult daughters he is also an Arizona native. Jim is honored to be helping SBF.

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Board Member

PROFILE

Jill has over 20 years of military service. She is the President of the National Guard Association of Arizona and is a former executive board member and current member of Mahnah Club of the East Valley. She and her family share their home with several rescued animals and she is proud to support our Nation’s wounded warriors and Soldier’s Best Friend.

BOARD & OFFICERS

John Burnham, DVM

John Burnham, DVM

President

PROFILE

John is the President and Founder of Soldier’s Best Friend (SBF). He is also the President of the SBF board. Following the passing of his father in 2007, John had a desire to connect with something bigger. He wanted something more, something that engaged his military interests, honored his father, and allowed him to use his personal and professional talents to a greater degree in service to the community.

Through his practice, John worked with veterans and cared for their pets. He saw how the interaction with the animals helped returning veterans interact more comfortably in civilian environments and an idea was sparked. This idea was nurtured by study of institutional research that supported the therapeutic relationships that John was seeing first hand and by outreach to experts in the field of service animals, behavioral science, and veteran services. John knew there had to be a way to give more veterans the chance to experience the unconditional love and support that only a canine companion can bring. He also knew he had a unique opportunity to help reduce the number of homeless dogs living in local shelters. With this alignment of purpose, Soldier’s Best Friend became John’s dream and driving passion. With the support of his devoted wife and business partner, Jan Burnham, the organization became a reality.

John’s goal has been to assemble a team of committed volunteers military and civilian to help acquire, place and train the service dogs for our veterans at no cost to them. He also wanted to acquire many of the dogs through local rescue organizations thus helping our pet overpopulation problem.

John is a native Arizonan. He attended Northern Arizona University and Colorado State University where he obtained his doctorate of veterinary medicine. Dr. Burnham has been actively practicing veterinary medicine in Arizona since 1983. He is married with 2 adult sons.

Elaine Ransdell

Elaine Ransdell

Vice President

PROFILE

Elaine has been a long-standing, very active volunteer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is currently serving as the Vice President. Elaine has an active role as a representative of the organization and continues to help with veteran communications and program quality control.

Elaine feels very strongly about our veterans – her father, husband, both brothers and son were all veterans. She is retired and spent 27 years with a large local company, most recently in human resources management.

Carrie Ostroski

Carrie Ostroski

Treasurer

PROFILE

Carrie is currently serving as Treasurer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is the Executive Director of the Dorrance Family Foundation. Carrie is a recognized leader in the philanthropic and business community and has over 12 years of executive level experience. She has directed and managed teams of high-level and executive community volunteers and leaders in strategic, business and event planning, as well as high-level fundraising and board development. Carrie is very excited to help SBF & to aid our military members readjust into civilian life.

Carrie was born and raised in Iowa and has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over 20 years. She attended Arizona State University, where she graduated with a degree in psychology with a focus on organizational behavior.
Some of her professional and community affiliations past and present include Valley Leadership (graduate Class XXIV), Central Phoenix Women, Arizona Endowment Building Initiative, Planned Giving Roundtable of Arizona, Madison United Preservation Committee, and the University of Arizona Master Gardener program. Carrie also volunteers with conservation organizations and the University of Arizona Master Gardener program.

Tobey Erskine

Tobey Erskine

Secretary

PROFILE

Tobey is currently the Secretary for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is Director of Corporate Communications at Kahala, Corp. Prior to that she was the Communications and PR Manager at Florence Crittenton in Phoenix.

Jan Burnham

Jan Burnham

Board Member

PROFILE

Jan is actively involved in many areas of SBF activities ranging from administrative duties to active participation in public events. Jan thoroughly enjoys watching the development of the human-animal bond between the veteran and their canine companion. She is honored to help our military members achieve such a trusting relationship with their service dog.

She has lived most of her life in Phoenix and is a graduate of Northern Arizona University where she obtained her degree in fashion merchandising and marketing. She has worked in the retail industry and currently is working at Acoma Animal Clinic in Administration.
Jan is married to John Burnham and has 2 adult sons that actively help with SBF events.

Steve Dow, DVM

Steve Dow, DVM

Board Member

PROFILE

Dr. Steve Dow, a veterinarian in Prescott, served as a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger Captain in Vietnam. After serving in the Army he attended University of Arizona for his undergraduate degree and then Colorado State University for his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Dow has previously served as a Governor-appointed member of the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board.

Jim McDonald, DVM

Jim McDonald, DVM

Board Member

PROFILE

Dr. Jim McDonald has been a practicing veterinarian in Arizona for 28 years. Since returning to his home state after graduation from Colorado State University in 1984, Jim has served on the boards and committees of both state and national veterinary organizations.

These positions have included the Board of Directors and Executive Board of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, and the Public Policy Committee of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. He is currently the Alternate Delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association for the state of Arizona. He currently owns EIEIO Professional Services, a mobile, predominantly equine practice. Jim is married wand has 3 adult daughters he is also an Arizona native. Jim is honored to be helping SBF.

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Board Member

PROFILE

Jill has over 20 years of military service. She is the President of the National Guard Association of Arizona and is a former executive board member and current member of Mahnah Club of the East Valley. She and her family share their home with several rescued animals and she is proud to support our Nation’s wounded warriors and Soldier’s Best Friend.

STAFF & TRAINERS

Brenda Meir

Brenda Meir

Director of Operations

PROFILE

Brenda Meir is our Director of Operations. She comes to us by way of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association where she was the Assistant Executive Director. Her husband Gary is a Marine veteran. Brenda says there are connections for her to the SBF mission in several ways: her long marriage to a veteran, experience working with the veterinary community and her love for dogs.

Damian King

Damian King

Director of Veteran Services

PROFILE

Damian is our Director of Veteran Services. He is a veteran himself who retired out of Luke AFB. Damian has always been involved in volunteering and helping out his local community. Damian started volunteering with the SBF program in 2014 and became a part of our team in 2016 to support the veteran community full time.

Kathy Sommer

Kathy Sommer

Executive Coordinator

PROFILE

Kathy, our Executive Coordinator, has been with Soldier’s Best Friend over two years. Previously, she worked most of her career in a customer service based industry where she found her passion in caring for other’s needs. From the time she was young she has loved animals and has been drawn to wanting to find a way to help them. She is now able to combine these two passions by joining the Soldier’s Best Friend team.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Adoption/Placement Coordinator

PROFILE

Michelle is our Adoption/Placement Coordinator. She brings years of experience working in animal rescue, including animal behavior and adoptions. Michelle has had a passion for animals since she was a child, and currently shares her home with her many cats and dogs.

Bailey Cason

Bailey Cason

Administrative Assistant

PROFILE

Bailey is a full-time student at Grand Canyon University where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in the field of education. She has owned all kinds of animals including horses, cows, rabbits, and cats and currently has four dogs. Her love for people is just as strong as her love for animals and she has found a balanced combination working with the Soldier’s Best Friend team.

Trainers

    • Jamie Barilla
    • Leslie Bryant
    • Julie Garrahan
    • Jo Fain
    • Cindy James
  • Alicia Jones
  • Becki Johnson
  • Andy Lloyd
  • Karin Long
  • Jena Monteverdi
  • Carly Peters

STAFF & TRAINERS

Brenda Meir

Brenda Meir

Director of Operations

PROFILE

Brenda Meir is our Director of Operations. She comes to us by way of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association where she was the Assistant Executive Director. Her husband Gary is a Marine veteran. Brenda says there are connections for her to the SBF mission in several ways: her long marriage to a veteran, experience working with the veterinary community and her love for dogs.

Damian King

Damian King

Director of Veteran Services

PROFILE

Damian is our Director of Veteran Services. He is a veteran himself who retired out of Luke AFB. Damian has always been involved in volunteering and helping out his local community. Damian started volunteering with the SBF program in 2014 and became a part of our team in 2016 to support the veteran community full time.

Kathy Sommer

Kathy Sommer

Executive Coordinator

PROFILE

Kathy, our Executive Coordinator, has been with Soldier’s Best Friend over two years. Previously, she worked most of her career in a customer service based industry where she found her passion in caring for other’s needs. From the time she was young she has loved animals and has been drawn to wanting to find a way to help them. She is now able to combine these two passions by joining the Soldier’s Best Friend team.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Adoption/ lacement Coordinator

PROFILE

Michelle is our Adoption/Placement Coordinator. She brings years of experience working in animal rescue, including animal behavior and adoptions. Michelle has had a passion for animals since she was a child, and currently shares her home with her many cats and dogs.

Bailey Cason

Bailey Cason

Administrative Assistant

PROFILE

Bailey is a full-time student at Grand Canyon University where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in the field of education. She has owned all kinds of animals including horses, cows, rabbits, and cats and currently has four dogs. Her love for people is just as strong as her love for animals and she has found a balanced combination working with the Soldier’s Best Friend team.

Trainers

    • Jamie Barilla
    • Leslie Bryant
    • Julie Garrahan
    • Jo Fain
    • Cindy James
  • Alicia Jones
  • Becki Johnson
  • Andy Lloyd
  • Karin Long
  • Jena Monteverdi
  • Carly Peters

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