In 2006, after a terrible personal tragedy involving her young autistic son’s loss, Kirsten knew something needed to be done to promote safety for autistic children who wander or elope.
In 2010, under the tutelage of senior Delta Society trainer she learned the anchoring foundation training for giant breed dogs. While finishing the training of her 120 pound demonstration anchoring dog, Moses, she returned to her education. In 2012, Kirsten completed her coursework with the Animal Behavior Institute (ABI) of North Carolina, as a Certified Animal Trainer and Enrichment Professional. She is continuing her education towards certification in Animal Assisted Therapy, and is planning to complete certification in 2017. Additionally, she holds a B.A. from Whitman College, has been a dog breeder with Sunbrass Kennels, and is currently Director of Autism Anchoring Dogs. Kirsten serves on the Board of Directors for Sam’s Legacy, a foundation promoting the use of anchoring service dogs for the safety of autistic children.
Stephen Meck, Head Trainer
Stephen Meck is a graduate of the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program. This specialized 2 year program provided a hands-on approach to working with and training a large variety of wild and exotic animals. After graduating, he went on to work with the US Navy’s marine mammal programs for 15 years, training sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, and beluga whales for a variety of research and fleet support applications.
After moving to Oregon in 2001, he worked as an apprentice instructor at Guide Dogs for the Blind for 2 years before moving to Canada and doing research with Steller sea lions for energetics studies. Upon returning to the US, he obtained his B.S. in Biology (Summa Cum Laude) at Oregon State University (OSU), and recently completed his Master’s Degree in Wildlife Science (OSU). While interested in scientific investigation, training animals of all types has been a lifelong passion. In addition to his work at AAD, Steve enjoys training and competing with his own personal dogs in agility, partaking in a number of outdoor activities, and writing.