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Style Magazine

A Different Breed: Canines Serving Our Community

Being a service or therapy dog is no easy job. From helping people with disabilities complete everyday tasks to soothing the sick and lonely, these furry helpers enrich so many lives.

Kathy Zastrow & Canine Companions

Kathy has always had a heart for volunteering, and she wanted to instill that into her sons at a young age. When she read an article about Canine Companions (—the leading service dog nonprofit that provides people who have disabilities with highly trained assistance dogs free of charge—she found the perfect way for her family to volunteer together. “Raising our first puppy was a great learning experience and so rewarding that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” says Kathy.
As her sons grew up and Kathy had more time on her hands, she gradually became more involved with Canine Companions, from organizing fundraisers to helping open the Gold Rush chapter. Today, she serves on the Northwest Region board, but puppy raising still remains closest to her heart (she’s currently raising her 28th puppy!).

Kathy Zastrow



What’s your favorite part about being involved with Canine Companions?
The amazing puppies and the wonderful people that I’ve met.

What advice would you give someone considering training a service animal?
If you can, do it! It’s a great way to make a difference in our world and is fun and rewarding.

Kathy Zastrow


What’s your favorite memory raising a Canine Companion puppy?
I visited one of our pups, Prairie, who graduated to facility dog assisting a teacher of preschoolers with special needs. A student was playing a game of fetch with Prairie. Throwing the ball was challenging for the boy, but Prairie patiently waited and returned the ball as the boy’s skills improved. What touched me most was when the boy’s grandmother came early to pick him up. She watched the interaction with tears streaming down her face, because this boy rarely laughed or even smiled.

Peggy Di Nocco & Russ

It took Peggy Di Nocco years after receiving her primary progressive multiple sclerosis diagnosis to contemplate getting a service dog. Although she had been diagnosed in 1999 and has required the full-time assistance of a wheelchair since 2006, Peggy didn’t think she needed a dog since she was able to bend over and retrieve things. But after she fell in the shower and couldn’t get help for hours, Peggy and her family knew it was time to consider additional assistance.

In 2011, Peggy was matched and provided with her first service dog by Canine Companions. She is now able to go out on her own without her family worrying and keeps up with all that life has to offer her.

Peggy Di Nocco



What’s your favorite thing about Russ?
He’s a big dog with a big personality—an energetic, playful pup who loves long walks and going for a swim in the pool.

What’s your favorite memory with Russ?
I’m a wheelchair user, and shortly after I got Russ, I dropped my keys in my van. Not able to reach them myself, Russ came to the rescue. It was a difficult task as they were in a hard spot to reach! I thought it was going to be impossible. He worked tirelessly to reach them, and with a lot of encouragement, he was finally successful!



What’s one unexpected highlight of having a service dog?
They’re not just working dogs; they're a companion and best friend. Like pet dogs, they're in tune with your emotions and love unconditionally. Mine just also happens to pull laundry out of the washer and dryer for me!

Russ’ Favorites:
Treat: His motto is, “All treats are good treats.”
Park: Russ enjoys long walks on nearby trails.
Activity: Grabbing hold of the strap on the laundry basket and, with much enthusiasm, bringing it from the bedroom to the laundry room.

Kris Allen & Brinley

“Volunteering is my passion,” says Kris Allen. So, after she and her husband added Brinley—a French bulldog—to their family in 2020 and saw the love and compassion she showed toward people, Kris decided to register as a therapy dog team.

After rigorous behavioral training and a strict health screening, Kris and Brinley were registered with Pet Partners ( as a therapy dog team. Today, they visit several Eskaton Senior Living facilities and patients at Sutter Roseville Hospital. “She is so calm, gentle, and loving to everyone, from babies all the way up to the elderly,” Kris says of Brinley.

Kris Allen



What’s your favorite thing about Brinley?
That she is so affectionate and loving. Anybody who wants to give her a scratch behind her ears is her best friend! She also loves all dogs.

What’s your favorite thing about being a therapy dog team?
The absolute joy she brings to all who meet her. She is very intuitive around sick people and the elderly and accepts their sometimes awkward displays of affection.

What are Brinley’s favorite treats?
Anything you want to give her! Blueberries, bananas, zucchini, and carrots are at the top of the list.



Jackie Bryla & Mango

Jackie got used to bringing her dogs, Savanna and Mango, to visit her mother-in-law at a local assisted care facility. After her mother-in-law passed, Jackie missed the joy of watching residents interact with her dogs. That led her to register Savanna and Mango as therapy dogs.

Today, Savanna is retired due to health issues, but Jackie and Mango continue the mission. They visit Kaiser Roseville, Dignity Health, and Mercy General Sacramento; but visiting local first responders through First Responder Therapy Dogs ( remains nearest and dearest to her heart. “My husband is retired from Roseville City Fire Department, and I love to give back to the first responders in this way.”

Jackie Bryla



What’s your favorite thing about Mango?
His personality. He’s just a fun-loving dog—that thinks he’s human!

What’s your favorite memory with Mango?
Being asked to come back to Kaiser Roseville last August and visit the COVID ICU staff. It was such an honor to be able to bring smiles to the medical staff during such a difficult time.

Mango’s Favorites:
Treat: Plushy, squeaky, and crinkly toys.
Park: Walking the Secret Ravine Trail and Miners Ravine Trail.
Activity: Running on the beach, hiking in the mountains, snowshoeing, and camping.



by Nelly Kislyanka
Photos courtesy of each dog owner.