Founder and Emeritus Executive Director
The event in August 2001 sparked a flame that continues to burn brightly almost 20 years later. Diana and her first therapy dog, Shana, attended a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol building commemorating Denver as the Pet Healthiest City in the nation as voted on by the Purina 21 Consortium. Linda Hines, the then CEO of Delta Society (now known as Pet Partners), invited Diana to lunch afterward and the discussion revolved around the need for increasing the awareness of the power of the human-animal bond, explicitly growing the field of animal-assisted therapy in Denver. The spark ignited in Diana’s heart and mind. The concept for Denver Pet Partners (DPP) was born.
Over the next 14 years, Diana worked tirelessly growing and nurturing Denver Pet Partners from one animal-handler team visiting at one facility, to over 200 volunteer animal-handler teams serving over 50 diverse facilities in the healthcare, education, and child welfare fields. By 2015, DPP volunteers were selflessly contributing over 30,000 hours per year and impacting over 120,000 lives annually in acute and long-term care settings, hospice, special education classrooms, mental health centers, rehabilitation clinics, group homes, homeless shelters, and support groups throughout metro Denver. Licensed DPP instructors and evaluators taught over 75 training workshops to approximately 1500 adult students (volunteers and healthcare professionals), including train-the-trainer, with an emphasis on service delivery excellence and assessed over 1,500 therapy animal teams for skill and aptitude to perform therapy work.
In 2007, DPP forged a strategic partnership with the American Humane Association (AHA). For the next four years, with Diana continuing to lead Denver Pet Partners as a pivotal program of the AHA, this alliance enabled a tremendously influential and positive national expansion of awareness of the power of the human-animal bond and the value of animal-assisted programs. Now a recognized expert in the field of AAI, Diana developed curriculum designed to educate volunteers and healthcare professionals on effectively integrating animals as part of the therapeutic treatment team; and regularly presented at national and international conferences. During this time in DPP’s history, Diana co-created the national program Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (T.A.S.K.), which provides guidance for criminal justice and child welfare professionals on how to effectively incorporate therapy animals without compromising the safety of the children or animals, or negatively affecting a civil or criminal case involving child abuse. Endorsed by the NDAA (National District Attorney’s Association) and the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, TASK became a nationally recognized program.
During Diana’s 14-year tenure leading DPP, she was an active practitioner, regularly serving as an animal-handler team most notably with Shana, her precious Golden Retriever with whom she started DPP and Rigo, her beloved Black Lab with whom she partnered until his retirement at age 13. Her AAT focus and experience was primarily in rehabilitation, specifically communicative disorders and working with patients to stimulate cognitive functioning. A member of Pet Partners national from 1998 – 2015, Diana has served as a licensed Master Instructor, Evaluator, AAT Applications Instructor, and registered therapy team. Diana also served as the Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO).
Retiring from DPP and the field of AAI in 2015, Diana now holds a faculty position at the University of Denver/University College in the Leadership and Organizations graduate degree program, teaching Leadership Development and Strategic Organizational Partnerships. Her dedication to enhancing the human-animal bond continues as an ardent supporter of, and volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind as both a puppy raiser and member of the Board of Directors.
“It has been my privilege and honor to have had such an active role in the field of animal-assisted interventions for so many years. I am grateful for the extraordinary individuals it has been my pleasure to serve with and for the amazing human-animal teams who impact others’ lives so selflessly through their compassion and dedication. DPP will always hold a very special place in my heart. I am immensely thankful to all of you who continue to carry on the legacy and important work of DPP, and for your ongoing commitment to the ethical values on which it was created. Keep the DPP flame burning bright and keep helping to build healthier communities!” (Diana McQuarrie)