A Gathering for Humans in Animal Welfare

An educational two-day conference exploring the mental health and well-being of animal welfare professionals, and why it is so important for both the human and animals they work with. Cultivating Wellness will provide both information and networking opportunities

Attendees will leave with tangible practices they can put in place to help better their well-being and the well-being of their workplace.

Cultivating Wellness:
A Gathering for Humans in Animal Welfare

April 28-29, 2023
Dakota Dunes Resort
Whitecap Dakota First Nation

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Registration Is Now Open!

Click the link below to register for the Cultivating Wellness Gathering
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Cultivating Wellness Gathering Registration Fees

Cultivating Wellness Registration Fees

2-Day Regular Registration $315
2-Day Friend & Student Registration $255
1-Day Regular Registration $175
1-Day Friend & Student Registration $145


Add On: Make Bannock on a Stick

Dakota Dunes Resort offers the opportunity to attend a bannock-making session and storytime. There are three opportunities on Friday, April 28. The cost to attend is an additional $20 per person.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Presentation Time: 9:15-10:45

"If Boundaries Were Easy, We'd All Set Them": Chronic Stress, Befriending the Nervous System, and the Myth of the Easy Boundary

Presenter: Erin Wasson (She/Her), BSW, MSW, RSW

If boundaries were easy, we’d all set them. There has been a lot of “talk” on social media platforms, amongst friends, and within workplaces about setting boundaries. These conversations often suggest that if a person sets their own boundaries in a good way, they will have full access to resilience and well-being. However, an oversimplification of this process can leave you feeling as though “not setting good enough boundaries” is yet another failure that contributes to why you are overwhelmed, burnt out, and stressed. The overall structure of one’s workplace, the context of our lives, and the power and level of support we have – all impact our ability to carve out space for our needs.

Join Erin in an interactive presentation where she will discuss the role the nervous system plays in our health and well-being, the impact of chronic stress on the brain and body, and how boundaries get skewed when we are chronically under pressure. Erin will explore with participants the impact of workplace stress and challenges specific to those who work with the human and animal interface. She will then work with participants to learn about how their brains and bodies are good barometers for how we cope and manage stress. From there she will help define boundaries, explore the myth of “easy boundaries”, and the limits to this construct. After covering these core concepts, the focus will shift to befriending the nervous system. Through interactive learning, participants will begin the process of noticing the nervous system and tracking boundaries in the body. With this knowledge, Erin will then share some tools for supporting the nervous system under stress and explore options for support available in the community.

About the Presenter:

Erin Wasson (BSW, MSW, RSW) is a registered social worker who has worked clinically in several areas, including mental health, addictions, crisis response, interpersonal violence, trauma, geriatrics, disability, and youth work. She has spent her career working with individuals, groups, and communities as an advocate, clinician, and educator. She works from an integrative approach to social work, which includes assessments and interventions from a community care and trauma-integrated lens. These approaches, help Erin, and the clients she works with, to explore the context of their experiences that lead to relational connection and disconnection within their lives.

In 2014 Erin, implemented the Veterinary Social Work services at the University of Saskatchewan, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), the first of its kind in Canada. From a one-welfare perspective, she continues to work as a social worker at the WCVM, providing services to clients of the Veterinary Medical Centre; as well as resources to staff and faculty. Additionally, Erin has been active in the promotion of health, well-being, and tangible self-care strategies with veterinarians and allied professions. This includes providing resources, support and educational seminars to professional associations, animal welfare agencies, and other groups who interact with human and animal relationships and manage the challenges that arise in the interface of the human and animal bond.

Presentation Time: 11:00-Noon

Mindfulness: Principles and Practices for Animal Care Professionals

Presenter: Trisha Dowling (She/Her), DVM

Almost 50 years of research on human and animal health care professionals document the benefits of mindfulness practices, including reduced psychological distress, increased empathy, increased working memory capacity and attention, improved patient care and reduced medical errors. This presentation will introduce the principles and practices of mindfulness that can help those in animal care survive and thrive despite work that can be very stressful.

About the Presenter:

Trisha Dowling is a veterinarian and professor of veterinary clinical pharmacology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated from Texas A&M in 1987 followed by a large animal rotating internship at North Carolina State. This was followed by 2 years of practice in Ohio and North Carolina, the latter a great source of humorous teaching stories. After a large animal medicine residency and Master’s at Auburn University, she became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology. In 1993, she came running away to Saskatoon for a short time but met and married a local guy so has been here ever since. Given US politics, she’s glad that she did. The WCVM mostly pays her to teach clinical pharmacology, but in 2010 she snuck the first mindfulness-based stress reduction course into a veterinary school curriculum for credit – all without mentioning the words “yoga” or “meditation”. She is a certified Mindfulness Teacher and has received numerous teaching awards including the Norden Distinguished Professor, the UofS Provost’s Teaching Award and the UofS Master Teacher’s Award.

Presentation Time: 1:00-2:30

Conversations on Grief and Loss: Practices for Living a Human Life

Presenters: Anna Maria Buhr (She/Her), MSW, RSW & Ruth Eliason (She/Her), BMT, Certified Music Therapist

Grief. Loss. Sorrow. Heartbreak. Whatever you call it, our lived experience includes many emotions that can be difficult to navigate. When we encounter suffering and loss within our lives and work, it can be hard to do our work with the heart we normally approach our work lives. In this presentation, facilitators Anna Maria Buhr and Ruth will guide thoughtful conversation on grief, the effect on the body, how we care for ourselves and others, as well as the importance of creating space to hold process and explore self-expression in our grief work. Practical examples will be provided to help participants work through ways to approach loss, both from a personal and professional lens. Additionally, an invitation to explore and reflect on the ways we are formed and changed by our grief, and how we grow is possible within our healing will be offered. Music and visual arts will be woven throughout the presentation as participants learn, reflect and share together.

About the Presenters:

Anna Maria Buhr is a daughter, sister, wife, grandmother, and Social Worker of 28 years. She holds a Master’s of Social Work with a specialization in Clinical Practice from the University of Calgary. Anna Maria has a passion for her work in Palliative Care. Her experience is informed by her membership in teams throughout the continuum of care including, community and hospital. She brings a holistic approach to her work with individuals and families facing end-of-life concerns, anticipatory grief, and bereavement. Anna Maria believes the balm for our heart’s grief is found in connection, the opportunity to be known, and with the creation of space to hold both our’s and another’s story.

Ruth Eliason is a certified music therapist who has made Saskatoon her home for the past twenty years. As a music therapist, she helps others use music for well-being in their own lives. Currently, Ruth works at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital where she uses music to help children cope with health challenges. She also has fifteen years of experience working with individuals navigating serious illness and loss. Ruth believes that music can be one of the best ways to mediate our human experience and is excited to share this with conference participants.

Presentation Time: 3:00-4:00

Helping You Find Your Financial Gait

Presenter: Jillian Carr, BFA, CHS

Being financially successful means different things to everyone. It is hard not to compare ourselves when we see what others are doing with their money, especially with the added dimension of what we see on social media it is easy to find ourselves asking “am I behind?” Yet, talking about money is still seen as a taboo topic. This adds to those overwhelming, stressful and embarrassing feelings, which is strange considering we deal with money daily. It is 1 of the 9 components that make up our overall wellness, and in understanding your money story, and your behaviours around money, Jillian will help you feel less stressed and more empowered. In this session, Jillian hopes to help you find your financial gait, to start moving you toward financial stability.

About the Presenter:

Jillian Carr is the driving force behind Steady Gait Planning Inc. A financial planning practice offering people in the veterinarian community a place to feel educated and empowered by their financial journey. Jillian has spent the last 16 years in the Financial Services industry. 8 of those years were working with leading financial services companies and the last eight have been building Steady Gait Planning. Building a practice in a male-dominated, antiquated world has been challenging. Jillian learned to truly follow her authentic self and ideas. Jillian is no stranger to diversity in life and finances – watching her parents divorce at the age of 19, navigating a mother with mental illness and 15 years later seeing her dad, her career and life advisor, pass away due to complications from a traumatic brain injury all while trying to build her business during the height of the pandemic. Jillian is a designated financial advisor, is an active member on the board of the advisor association and is an ally and mental health advocate in the veterinarian community.

Presentation Time: 4:00-5:00

Bystander Workplace Training

Presenter: Nicole White (She/Her), Project Lead of Enough Already

Launched in 2020, Enough Already is a multi-stakeholder coalition determined to address and prevent workplace sexual harassment in Saskatchewan. Enough Already is committed to working with government, business, industry associations, unions and community organizations to make workplaces throughout Saskatchewan safe for everyone.

The Bystander Leadership training is an interactive one-hour workshop that will empower you to:

  • Be able to understand what harassment is
  • Know options on what to do when you witness harassment
  • Support others impacted by harassment
  • Understand the impact on Saskatchewan people and workplaces.

About the Presenter:

Nicole White is the Project Lead for Enough Already SK. Nicole has worked in the community for nearly two decades and specifically focused her professional work on gender-based issues and engaging marginalized populations. She’s a registered social worker and in her spare time, spearheaded the non-profit, Moon Time Sisters, getting free menstrual products to young people in northern Saskatchewan to improve access to education.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Presentation Time: 9:15-10:30

Embracing Our Differences: Diversity and Inclusion in a Veterinary Context

Presenter: Dr. Savannah Howse (She/Her)

There has been much attention focused on the topics of diversity and inclusion these days, and for good reason – there are so many benefits to having a diverse profession. This talk will be about understanding the current state of diversity and inclusion within veterinary medicine, why diversity is important in a veterinary context, then lead into a discussion about how to support and grow diversity within our profession and workplaces.

About the Presenter:

Dr. Savannah Howse is a Métis veterinarian from small town Alberta. She graduated from the WCVM in 2013 and has been in rural mixed practice in Drayton Valley, Alberta since then. She has volunteered with the Canadian Animal Task Force (CATF) for ten years, serving as their Responsible Veterinarian for the past six years. She volunteers with Alberta Helping Animals Society (AHAS) as a Board Member Veterinarian and volunteer surgeon; through this organization, she also participates in a Northern outreach program to provide wellness veterinary services in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. She has previously been a radio show host on 630 CHED’s Pet Talk as well as starred in a recent television series called Dr. Savannah Howse: Wild Rose Vet, airing on Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) and Cottage Life. She currently is a member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). In between working and volunteering, Savannah spends entirely too much time playing video games and reading about hikes she probably isn’t fit enough to go on.

Presentation Time: 10:30-10:45

Effective Workplace Response to Intimate Partner Violence

Presenters: Jo-Anne Dusel (She/Her) & Crystal Giesbrecht (She/Her), Provincial Association of Transition Houses & Services of Saskatchewan

This presentation will provide information on how workplaces can effectively respond when employees are experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). The session will provide an overview of the prevalence of IPV in Saskatchewan and outline how employers, supervisors, managers, and co-workers can recognize IPV, respond effectively, and refer people who are experiencing or using violence in their relationships to resources that can assist. The session will also provide a summary of legislation that can support survivors of IPV, including workplace leave.

About the Presenters:

Jo-Anne Dusel has been Executive Director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), the member association for women’s shelters, second-stage shelters and counselling services in Saskatchewan since December 2014. Jo-Anne is a long-time social activist who spent 20 years as a frontline shelter staff member working directly with women who have experienced abuse. She served as a panel member of Saskatchewan’s pilot Domestic Violence Death Review in 2016/17. She is a member of the Advisory Council for Women’s Shelters Canada and the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability’s (CFOJA) Expert Advisory Panel and is often consulted by the media on issues related to violence against women.

Crystal Giesbrecht has served as the Director of Research and Communications at PATHS since January 2011. Her work at PATHS includes designing and delivering training for professionals and conducting research relating to intimate partner violence. She has conducted research in Saskatchewan on the impact of IPV in the workplace and the connection between IPV, animal maltreatment, and the need for animal safekeeping. Her research is published in peer-reviewed journals and shared with front-line professionals. Crystal is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Justice Studies at the University of Regina and a member of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability’s (CFOJA) Expert Advisory Panel.

Presentation Time: 1:00-2:30

Becoming Trauma-Informed: Reducing Barriers to Connection and Promoting Resilience

Presenter: Erin Beckwell (She/Her), MSW, RSW (SK)

This session will provide an introduction to trauma, trauma responses, and how to integrate an understanding of trauma into our work by exploring the principles of trauma- and violence-informed (TVI) care and practice. In addition to considering how trauma impacts the humans with whom we interact, better understanding how trauma impacts ourselves, our colleagues, and our communities will be discussed. The session is designed for all people who work in and around animal welfare, no matter their role – volunteers, frontline practitioners, students, support staff, and admin staff are all welcome.

About the Presenter:

Erin Beckwell is a social worker, educator, and consultant who has spent her career working in the areas of health, education, and community development. Erin’s work focuses on promoting accessible, inclusive, and trauma-informed approaches to care and support.

Originally from Treaty 4 Territory in Southwest Saskatchewan, she and her wife have called Treaty 6 Territory & Homeland of the Métis (Saskatoon, SK) home for over 20 years.

Presentation Time: 3:00-4:00

Queer in Vet Med: A Practitioner's Perspective

Presenters: Dr. Leo Perlinger (He/Him), DVM & Dr. Rebecca Mycock (She/Her), DVM, City Park Veterinary Services

Dr. Rebecca Mycock and Dr. Leo Perlinger will discuss the joys and challenges associated with being out members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They will highlight the importance of creating a safe environment for both staff and clients and how this can be achieved. Discussion of the struggles they have both faced and how they navigate the fears associated with having to “come out” in various situations in a veterinary medicine setting. Lastly, they will discuss their experiences of both coming out and navigating life in a small town as a queer youth.

About the Presenters: 

Dr. Leo Perlinger is a small animal veterinarian and practice owner in Saskatoon. He and his husband Peter were married in 2013 when they moved out to North Battleford to grow their careers and family of fur babies. He worked in rural mixed practice for several years before travelling to Australia to work as a locum vet and then making his way back to Saskatchewan. Working as a rural mixed vet as a gay man was a mentally and emotionally loaded prospect for him. It has provided him with a range of experiences from heartwarming to very awkward. He is passionate about promoting acceptance in his team and client community.

Dr. Rebecca Mycock is a small animal veterinarian working in the City Park community in Saskatoon. After graduating from veterinary school in 2018 she did a 1-year rotating internship in Hollywood, Florida. It was during this time she found the courage to come out publicly and truly embrace her sexuality. She returned to Canada to work as an emergency veterinarian at the VMC before settling in at City Park Vet. She strives to create an inclusive environment for her coworkers and clients and visibility as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community is extremely important to her.

Presentation Time: 4:00-5:00

The Process of Talking it Out: Defusing and Debriefing after Critical Incidents

Presenter: Ashley Westgard, BSW, RSW

This session will touch on the fundamental importance of providing interdisciplinary teams with skills to defuse and debrief, providing support to one another within an appropriate timeframe.

Providers are subjected to cumulative exposure of critical incidents which may predispose them to various mental health and/or physical health conditions. Therefore, having basic skills in responding to critical incidents with and for colleagues is invaluable. Utilizing the process following an incident is essential to supporting colleagues and encouraging a safe, healthy environment to promote inner well-being.

About the Presenter:

Ashley Westgard has spent the majority of her career working within crisis situations which has resulted in a deep understanding of compassion fatigue and the long-term effects it can cause. As such, she has redirected her skills toward supporting the well-being of others and encouraging advocacy for personal growth, knowledge and overall mindfulness. Ashley spends much of her free time with her partner, child and fur babies enjoying the outdoors. When she is not working or spending time with loved ones, she continues to pursue her knowledge by furthering her education.

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