Written by Melissa Gerrish
Photo by Steve Babin
As the executive director of Therapy Partners, a program that uses pet and owner teams as therapeutic tools for organizations throughout the Huntsville area, Anne Sentell’s work runs the gamut from helping children achieve literacy, to helping adults achieve better health, to helping provide comfort to Hospice patients. The common theme? Helping.
EVENT: Tell us about your work at Therapy Partners.
AS: I am the executive director at Therapy Partners and lead therapy partners representative. I give presentations – often with one of my two therapy dogs. Hannah Kate, a Golden Retriever and Weezy, a GoldenDoodle, steal the show every single time. I also promote Therapy Partners in the community in an effort to expand our services – all of which are free. Other duties include being one of the five lead instructors for our dog training school, Kind Hearts Behavior Center. Kind Hearts income supports Therapy Partners.
The school is for companion and therapy dogs. I mentor existing Therapy Partners teams. I am lead instructor for incoming Therapy Partners teams as well as coordinating all Therapy Partners activities and services to the community. I write grants seeking funding to support our programs. I am also the lead for all of our programs: PAL is Partners Achieving Literacy in which Huntsville City Schools Title 1 second- and fourth-grade students who have been identified as poor readers practice reading to the dog or cat, the animal’s handler and the Therapy Partners-trained Book Buddy. PAW is Partners Achieving Wellness in which teams visit at various hospitals, hospice, assisted and nursing care facilities and youth programs. PIC is Partners in the Community which serves special events for memorial and fundraising purposes. WAGS is Wait/Ask/Greet/Safely, a dog bite prevention program. RRT stands for Rapid Response Teams that are on the ready to serve the community following a disaster as people begin to put their lives back together. PSC is Partners Serving Children, which has programs in the works for Farley Boys and Girls Club and Girls, Inc. Additional services will also be provided to the Nova Academy students and children at the Mountain Lakes Behavior Center in Scottsboro. PSM is Partners Serving Military.
Therapy Partners is partnered with the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations and the American Red Cross that serves the military and veterans. PSH is Partners Serving Hospice that provides teams to visit Hospice Family Care’s patients in their homes and in nursing facilities. Teams also visit children and adults who are in various stages of grief following the loss of a loved one.
EVENT: Are you a native or transplant?
AS: I’m sort of both native and transplant. I was born and grew up in Mobile, lived in the Orlando area from 1966-1978, then moved to Huntsville. This is home. EVENT: What is your education background?
AS: I received a bachelor’s degree in English and Sociology from Judson College in Marion, AL. My advanced studies in Education Administration were at the University of Florida. Other studies include dog training: Registered Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and also Registered Pet Partners Team, Certified Therapy Partners Team, currently with two therapy dogs. I also have formal training in tap, point, ballet and ballroom, specializing in percussive dance.
EVENT: What are your goals?
AS: My goals for Therapy Partners are to further establish Therapy Partners in our community; to grow Therapy Partners by providing excellent service to the community and training for new teams at our dog school; to provide education to the community about canines to enhance the bond dog-owners can enjoy with their pets and also to train everyone what to do if a dog is threatening or frightening them; to help our teams provide peace and joy – calm in troubled times – a listening ear –a welcomed dog or cat visitor in good and bad times; and to further our students’ education at Kind Hearts Behavior Center to include tried-and-true and also innovative methods to train and enjoy dogs in our homes and environment. My personal goals are to strive to be a strong yet compassionate leader for Therapy Partners; enjoy my family of three children with spouses plus five grandchildren (in Huntsville, Charlottesville, VA and Amsterdam, Holland) and to forever be a mama, friend, student and community servant.
EVENT: What types of hobbies or interests do you have?
AS: I have been a percussive dance instructor and choreographer since 1980. I have danced at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, Dollywood, Six Flags over GA and the Grand Old Opry. I am a year-round Burritt volunteer and the resident clogging instructor. My students and I perform at Santa’s Village, and Burritt on the Mountain’s International Harvest Festival & Candlelight Christmas. My other interests include kayaking, biking, reading, stitching and traveling. Amsterdam and Virginia are entirely too far away for this mama and “Annie,” (my grandmother name.) n