Hero Dogs are Everywhere!
Robin is all about Hero Dogs and those who work with them on this week’s show. First up is Amy McCullough, American Humane Association’s National Director of Humane Research and Therapy, to talk about Butler The Weather Channel Therapy Dog, who will accompany her to natural disaster sites around the country to bring the soothing touch of animal-assisted therapy. Up next, Austin Weishel, the sculptor of the National Fire Dog Monument stops by. Austin is not only a sculptor, but a firefighter himself, and his monument was recently honored by the Washington Post as the best in the nation’s capital!
Ms. McCullough’s responsibilities encompass the development of American Humane Association’s Animal-Assisted Therapy Program nationwide to offer training curricula for handlers and clinicians in specialized settings, such as children’s health-care and military family settings; the development of research and outcome measurements for animal-assisted therapy; and the delivery of high-quality animal-assisted therapy services to national markets.
A licensed Animal-Assisted Therapy Instructor and Evaluator, Ms. McCullough regularly conducts handler trainings and evaluations for American Humane Association. She and her golden retrievers, Bailey and Beckett, have practiced animal-assisted therapy since 2002 in a variety of settings, including child welfare facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, mental health centers and hospices. They currently provide animalassisted therapy sessions at Fisher House, a temporary housing facility for military families who are undergoing health-care treatment.
Ms. McCullough joined American Humane Association in 2007 to manage the day-to-day operations of one of the country’s largest trained animal-handler volunteer workforces of more than 200 teams, ensuring service-delivery excellence to nearly 50 facilities, including child welfare, health-care, education and other settings.
Her most recent speaking engagements on the subject of animal-assisted therapy include the International Society of Anthrozoology Conference and the Eighth Annual International Congress on Animal-Assisted Therapy in Barcelona, Spain.
Ms. McCullough earned a degree in business administration from the University of South Dakota and graduated summa cum laude from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., with a master’s degree in organizational communication. Currently, she is a doctoral student at the University of Denver, working toward a Ph.D. in communication studies. Her area of focus is developing research to demonstrate the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy.
Prior to joining American Humane Association, Ms. McCullough worked as a marketing communications executive at Mercedes-Benz and had several years’ experience at advertising agencies in Chicago and in Charlotte, N.C.
I discovered sculpting after visiting my grandparents in Arizona, where they took me on a tour of a local bronze foundry. There, I was introduced to the process of casting clay sculptures into bronze. The owner of Bronzesmith, Ed Reilly, challenged me to make something out of a ball of clay. Reilly told me if it was any good, he would cast it in bronze. Intrigued and inspired, I took the clay home to Colorado and I began my first sculpture. After several months, I returned to Arizona with a finished clay sculpture of a fireman. Impressed with the sculpture, Reilly cast it in bronze and offered me a summer internship. After interning, I chose sculpting as a career.
In 2007, following the internship and returning to high school, I shared my first sculpture with the Advanced Placement (AP) Art teacher, Lia Devine. She too was impressed with my artistic abilities. Within my first school year of sculpting, I created 20 sculptures comprised of twelve firefighters and other works. The sculptures were constructed of snow, stone, foam, bronze and clay. Judged against other advanced art students across the country, my artwork received a perfect score of five out of five. This was the incentive for me to pursue a career as a sculptor.
I decided to sculpt first responders due to my interest in the police and fire service. In high school, I worked as a student firefighter for the Loveland Fire Department for two and a half years; I subsequently joined Loveland’s student police program. At 18 years of age, I successfully completed one of Colorado’s Fire Academies to become a firefighter. Soon after, I was certified in First Aid, CPR and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
My transformation from small pieces to life-size works garnered my first commission with the Windsor-Severance Fire Protection District. I sculpted a life-size fireman, named “Follow Your Heart” at 19 years old.
Today, I continue to combine my two passions for art and firefighting. My latest project, the National Fire Dog Monument named “Ashes to Answers”, is a life-size fireman with an arson K-9. The national monument is located at Fire Station #2 in downtown Washington D.C. “Ashes to Answers” was commissioned by Jerry Means, an arson investigative agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI).