Making Connections:

The Human-Animal Bond

What is “the human-animal bond” and why is it so important?

Everyone is welcome to join us for this one-day conference focusing on the special relationship between humans and their animals.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sheraton Cavalier Hotel, Saskatoon

Registration 8 a.m. | Presentations start at 9 a.m.

Conference Topics:

Bonding Behind Bars

Prison-based animal programs are becoming increasingly common in North America. The majority are developed for the benefits they provide to the animal (e.g., inmates train and socialize dogs from shelters) or community (e.g., inmates provide canine day care). The role of the human-animal bond and its impact on inmate health is often a secondary focus. This presentation shares insights from PAWSitive Support, a canine assisted learning (CAL) program offered at Drumheller Institution in Alberta, Canada. Developed by Drs. Colleen Dell and Darlene Chalmers in 2016, the PAWSitive Support Program is informed by the empirical evidence on the human animal bond and uses an experiential approach to promote inmates’ human development skills, personal growth, and overall mental health. The inmates’ interactions with the PAWSitive Support program dogs provide opportunities to develop a bond, trust and respect, and reconnect with themselves. This presentation will describe the program and its therapeutic impacts based on formalized feedback gathered from three program cohorts and prison officials. The presentation will raise awareness and understanding about the potential benefits of the human animal bond, or connection, in a prison environment.


Presenters:  Dr. Colleen Dell and Dr. Darlene Chalmers


Darlene Chalmers is an Associate Professor at the University of Regina in the Faculty of Social Work. Her research centres on the human-animal bond with a focus on animal assisted interventions as a therapeutic practice approach in mental health and addictions. Dr. Chalmers’ research is community-based, participatory and guided by a holistic wellness paradigm that incorporates multiple ways of knowing. Ruby, Darlene’s St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog and certified service dog, is often by Darlene’s side and is frequently found in social work classrooms and community settings.

Colleen Dell is a professor in the Department of Sociology and School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2016, she was appointed a Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness and is a Senior Research Associate with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Colleen has completed training in canine behaviour psychology and animal assisted therapy and animal assisted activities. Grounded in an empowering and community-based participatory approach, Dr. Dell’s research focuses on wellness, with specific attention to animal assisted interventions and addictions and mental health. She has three St. John Ambulance therapy dogs who are involved alongside her and various community and academic partners in studies examining how the human-animal bond, and more specifically animal assisted interventions, can help enrich wellness among individuals and communities.

Meeting the Needs of the Human Spirit:  The Role of Sherbrooke Community Centre Pets

At Sherbrooke Community Centre, pets are an essential part of the human habitat that is home to 263 Elders. Through the adoption of the Eden Alternative Philosophy, they have learned that the institutional model of care must be abandoned, and instead a human habitat needs to be created where Elders can grow and thrive. On their Eden journey, they have seen the amazing difference that companion pets make in the lives of Elders. Be inspired, as you learn more about Sherbrooke’s community and journey, and how their pets work hard every day to alleviate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in the lives of Elders. 


Presenter:  Sherbrooke Community Centre


The mission of the Sherbrooke Community Centre is to support each person to live a full and abundant life. Sherbrooke is dedicated to creating a diverse habitat where children, plants, and animals are a natural part of everyday life. 


Requiem Sessions: End of Life Pet Photography

“Is this the end? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.”

– Gandalf

Pets are a source of joy, love, and warmth. Saying goodbye to a pet can be heartbreaking, and it may be difficult to share that grief with others who have not experienced the loss of a beloved pet.

Requiem refers to an act or token of remembrance.  As part of a requiem photography session, families have the chance to give their pet one last amazing day before saying goodbye. These photos provide a lasting reminder of the special bond between pets and families.

Presenter:  Stephanie Anderson

Stephanie Anderson has turned her love and respect for animals and her passion of connecting with people on a genuine level into Prairie Pulse Photography. Some of Stephanie’s favourite photography sessions are those that focus on capturing the essence of the human animal bond. Stephanie volunteers with Prairie Pooches, by offering support to fosters and volunteers as well as opening her home by fostering dogs. At this time, Stephanie is interning with a certified dog trainer so that she can attain her own credentials and be of greater service to our four-legged friends and their humans.  

Fostering Change through Collaboration


What happens when an established foster-based pet rescue teams up with a provincial animal welfare organization?  The result:  a new animal safekeeping program that is helping people and pets in danger due to violence in the home.


In this presentation, New Hope Dog Rescue Executive Director Tami Vangool shares her insights on the creation of their foster-based pet safekeeping program. As well Saskatchewan SPCA Animal Safekeeping Coordinator Leanne Sillers discusses the growing need for resources to protect the human and the animal victims of violence throughout the province.

Presenters: Tami Vangool, New Hope Dog Rescue, and Leanne Sillers, Saskatchewan SPCA


AUDEAMUS Service Dog Program

The mission of the AUDEAMUS Service Dog Program is to relieve conditions associated with disability by providing certified, specially trained service dogs and ongoing support to people suffering from mental or physical disabilities including, but not limited to, brain injured veterans, first responders and war correspondents, with a view to improving their independence as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Presenter:  Cpl. Chris Lohnes

Corporal Chris Lohnes, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP, has been a dog handler for the RCMP for 22 years and is now based out of the Yorkton rural detachment. With what little spare time he had, Chris began volunteering as a trainer in 2013 with Courageous Companions, a registered charity that provides certified service dogs to military veterans and first responders. After spending two years with the organization, Chris recognized a greater need for service dogs for individuals living with PTSD. This led Chris to co-founding the AUDEAMUS Service Dog Program for which he is also the executive trainer. AUDEAMUS provides certified, specially trained service dogs and ongoing support to brain injured veterans, first responders, and war correspondents.

Taking a Bite out of Crime:  The Saskatoon Police Service K-9 Unit

Learn more about the roles that police dogs play in law enforcement and the special bond between dog and handler.

Registration Fees

  • Early bird rate: $150 (register by Sept. 4th)

  • Regular conference rate:  $175

  • Registration deadline:  Sept. 18, 2019

For more information:

Refunds less a $10 administration fee will be given for cancellations received by Sept. 18.

If you are unable to attend the conference, you may send an alternate in your place without additional charge. Please notify us at or 1.877.382.7722 or 306.382.7722.

Thank you to our conference sponsors and supporters: