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.
Ric 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.

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.

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

Elaine Ransdell

Elaine Ransdell

President

PROFILE

Elaine has been a long-standing, very active volunteer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is currently serving as the 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

Vice President

PROFILE

Carrie is currently serving as the Vice President 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.

John Burnham, DVM

John Burnham, DVM

Treasurer

PROFILE

John is the Founder of Soldier’s Best Friend (SBF). He is also the current Treasurer and Immediate Past 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.

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.

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.

Tom Chauncey

Tom Chauncey

Board Member

PROFILE

Tom Chauncey is an Arizona native and a graduate of Northwestern University and Arizona State University College of Law.   He is an Executive Committee Member of the law firm, Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C.  His community service has included serving as president of the Barrow Neurological Foundation, the Northwestern University Alumni Association of Arizona and as a director of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Friendly House, Foundation for Blind Children and Homeward Bound.  He was a State board member of the Arizona Historical Society and Secretary to the Fund for Central Arizona History.  An active pilot, Mr. Chauncey utilizes his helicopter traveling throughout the State and for volunteer search and rescue efforts including hurricane relief in Baja, Mexico.  Tom was first exposed to the mission of SBF by becoming a sponsor of SBF’s recent Sporting Clay event.

Jeanette Devevo

Jeanette Devevo

Board Member

PROFILE

Jeanette Devevo is a licensed clinical social worker currently employed at the Phoenix VA.  She is a clinical supervisor that coordinates the DBT program and provides therapy to returning combat veterans.  Jeanette is a chairperson of the SW Education Committee and a contracted trainer for National Association of Social Workers Arizona Chapter.  She is also the Secretary of the Social Work Academic Review Committee for the AZ Board of Behavioral Health.  These life experiences, along with joining the Army Signal Corps after high school and her firsthand observations of how service dogs enhance the quality of life for their handlers, has made her a strong advocate for Soldier’s Best Friend.

BOARD & OFFICERS

Elaine Ransdell

Elaine Ransdell

President

PROFILE

Elaine has been a long-standing, very active volunteer for Soldier’s Best Friend. She is currently serving as the 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

Vice President

PROFILE

Carrie is currently serving as the Vice President 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.

John Burnham, DVM

John Burnham, DVM

Treasurer

PROFILE

John is the Founder of Soldier’s Best Friend (SBF). He is also the current Treasurer and Immediate Past 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.

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.

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.

Tom Chauncey

Tom Chauncey

Board Member

PROFILE

Tom Chauncey is an Arizona native and a graduate of Northwestern University and Arizona State University College of Law.   He is an Executive Committee Member of the law firm, Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C.  His community service has included serving as president of the Barrow Neurological Foundation, the Northwestern University Alumni Association of Arizona and as a director of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Friendly House, Foundation for Blind Children and Homeward Bound.  He was a State board member of the Arizona Historical Society and Secretary to the Fund for Central Arizona History.  An active pilot, Mr. Chauncey utilizes his helicopter traveling throughout the State and for volunteer search and rescue efforts including hurricane relief in Baja, Mexico.  Tom was first exposed to the mission of SBF by becoming a sponsor of SBF’s recent Sporting Clay event.

Jeanette Devevo

Jeanette Devevo

Board Member

PROFILE

Jeanette Devevo is a licensed clinical social worker currently employed at the Phoenix VA.  She is a clinical supervisor that coordinates the DBT program and provides therapy to returning combat veterans.  Jeanette is a chairperson of the SW Education Committee and a contracted trainer for National Association of Social Workers Arizona Chapter.  She is also the Secretary of the Social Work Academic Review Committee for the AZ Board of Behavioral Health.  These life experiences, along with joining the Army Signal Corps after high school and her firsthand observations of how service dogs enhance the quality of life for their handlers, has made her a strong advocate for 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.

Leslie Bryant

Leslie Bryant

Adoption/ Placement Coordinator

PROFILE

Leslie has been a service dog trainer for Soldier’s Best Friend in southern Arizona over four years. She is a veteran herself. Leslie has been an active volunteer in her community and local animal shelter, which helped her develop a close relationship with the rescue groups and shelters in her area. She has been adopting dogs for Soldier’s Best Friend in southern Arizona for a few years, and has now taken on the additional role of Adoption/Placement Coordinator statewide.

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.

Brenna Cason

Brenna Cason

Administrative Assistant

PROFILE

Brenna is currently a full-time college student pursuing a career in the field of animal management. Her outreach to veterans throughout the community started in high school, where she and a friend started a patriotic club to serve men and women of the United States Military (past and present), as well as first responders. Brenna comes from a family of servicemen, which further drives her dedication to the cause of Soldier’s Best Friend.

Jay Montoya

Jay Montoya

Event/Volunteer Coordinator

PROFILE

Coming soon.

Trainers

  • Jamie Barilla
  • Leslie Bryant
  • Jo Fain
  • Alicia Jones
  • Becki Johnson
  • Karin Long
  • 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.

Leslie Bryant

Leslie Bryant

Adoption/ Placement Coordinator

PROFILE

Leslie has been a service dog trainer for Soldier’s Best Friend in southern Arizona over four years. She is a veteran herself. Leslie has been an active volunteer in her community and local animal shelter, which helped her develop a close relationship with the rescue groups and shelters in her area. She has been adopting dogs for Soldier’s Best Friend in southern Arizona for a few years, and has now taken on the additional role of Adoption/Placement Coordinator statewide.

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.

Brenna Cason

Brenna Cason

Administrative Assistant

PROFILE

Brenna is currently a full-time college student pursuing a career in the field of animal management. Her outreach to veterans throughout the community started in high school, where she and a friend started a patriotic club to serve men and women of the United States Military (past and present), as well as first responders. Brenna comes from a family of servicemen, which further drives her dedication to the cause of Soldier’s Best Friend.

Jay Montoya

Jay Montoya

Event/ Volunteer Coordinator

PROFILE

Coming soon.

Trainers

  • Jamie Barilla
  • Leslie Bryant
  • Jo Fain
  • Alicia Jones
  • Becki Johnson
  • Karin Long
  • Carly Peters