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Our Team

Bill Thornton

William S. Thornton
CEO & Co-Founder of British Columbia Guide Dog Services

Bill’s guide dog career began in 1977, when he joined the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (U.K.). In March 1980, Bill graduated as an accredited Guide Dog Mobility Instructor.In 1984 Bill founded Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (Ottawa), where he served as President and CEO from 1984 to 1995.

Bill is a Charter Member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), an 80-member global organization founded in 1988. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1990, serving a total of 14 years. In 1992, Bill was appointed as an International Assessor for the International Guide Dog Federation, and has accredited schools in England, Ireland, Japan and Australia. He is the past Chair of the IGDF’s Accreditation Committee.

In 1996, Bill co-founded British Columbia Guide Dog Services, then launched Alberta Guide Dog Services as a division of BC Guide Dog Services in 2002. In partnership with BC Guide Dog Services, Bill has taken a leading role in the founding of Autism Support Dogs to help autistic children aged 4 to 10.

In 2006, Bill was awarded the International Guide Dog Federation Ken Lord Award for exceptional services to the guide dog movement.

Linda Thornton
Director, Breeding and Puppy Raising, Co-Founder British Columbia Guide Dog Services

Linda attended St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario where she specialized in Animal Health Technology. After her training she moved to Ottawa and worked as a veterinary technician for 15 years.

In her capacity as Breeding and Puppy Raising Director, Linda oversees the Breeding Program and is responsible for the puppies that are placed with our Puppy Raising families.

Carol Bunker, CGA
Accountant

Carol has been with BC & Alberta Guide Dogs since 2012 and enjoys being involved in such a worthwhile charity. She received her C.G.A. designation in 1997, but has been accounting and budgeting for as long as she can remember. Previous to BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Carol worked in the private sector as a financial consultant for companies involved in specific long-term projects. She currently lives in Tsawwassen with her family and their dog Comet.

Bernadette Easey
Office Administrator

As our frontline person, most initial contacts with the organization are made through Bernadette! Joining BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in 2005, Bernadette’s background is in office administration and bookkeeping — skills she puts to good use keeping all our important records well-organized.

Laura Hilbert
Autism Support Dog Instructor, Guide Dog Trainer

Laura joined BC & Alberta Guide Dogs as a Training Assistant in 2012. She currently is an Autism Support Dog Instructor and works with the Guide Dog Mobility Instructors in training guide dogs. Laura has previous animal training experience working with a variety of marine mammals and penguins, as well as guide dogs and autism service dogs in the United States.

Samantha Jagt
Puppy Training Supervisor, Vancouver Island

Samantha joined the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs team in spring 2017 after moving from Ontario to British Columbia with her partner and their rescue pup ‘Lump’. Samantha brings experience from Lions Foundation of Canada/Dog Guides where she worked in the Puppy Program for 3 years. She also has a background in volunteer management, previously coordinating volunteers at Canada’s largest safe walk program at the University of Western Ontario, where she also completed a Bachelor of the Arts. Following her undergraduate degree Samantha completed a certificate in Animal Care at Sheridan College. Work and life overlap for her, as she’s raised a number of future service dogs herself, giving her unique insight into this important work. With a positive approach to problem solving and a love of working with people and dogs, she brings enthusiasm and dedication to the Puppy Supervisor team.

Nicola Landells
Autism Support Dog Apprentice Instructor

Originally from the UK, Nic has been here in Canada for 2 years and joins us as an Apprentice Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. With a background of 20 years combined working as a paramedic and in the caring profession, she is now able to combine her love of working with people with her other passion, dogs. Having had 3 labradors of her own, she is keen to develop the skills needed to train dogs that enhance lives with BC and Alberta Guide Dogs.

Matthias Lenz
Puppy Training Supervisor, Lower Mainland

Born and raised in Switzerland alongside two Tibetan terriers and a menagerie of other pets, Matthias always dreamed of working with animals. His experiences traveling, working, and living abroad eventually led him to Vancouver where he started working with dogs. In addition to several years of professional experience, Matthias is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, certified Professional Dog Walker and he had previously volunteered with Pacific Assistance Dogs Society.
Matthias has developed a solid theoretical and practical foundation in dog behaviour and training strategies. He continues to learn from a wide variety of literature and personal experiences, resulting in a comprehensive skill set and an unwavering level of enthusiasm for helping each puppy trainer/dog team understand and overcome their specific challenges. He loves working with people equally as much as working with dogs and gets a real kick out of helping the puppy trainers progress.

Christine Logan
Executive Assistant

Christine joined BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in July 2013, following an 18-year career with a company that grew and marketed ginseng. Chris is excited to join the team and brings with her many years of experience in administrative and human resources roles in both the public and private sector.

Michelle Murray
Autism Support Dog Apprentice Instructor

Michelle is excited to join BC & Alberta Guide Dogs and combine her love of dogs, passion for working with children, and interest in supporting people with autism. Michelle has worked with children and youth in a variety of recreational settings, including coaching soccer for Royal City Youth Soccer Club for 9 years. She has also worked as a Behaviour Interventionist with children with autism and volunteered as a coach for an adapted soccer program, providing 1-on-1 coaching to children with physical and development disabilities. Michelle looks forward to starting a career that allows her to make a significant difference in people’s lives and play with dogs every day.

Ashli Owen
Manager, Communications and Marketing

Ashli joined BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in 2013. She has a BA from Simon Fraser University in Communications and Psychology and 10 years experience in communications and marketing including: public relations, investor relations, branding, event planning, web and graphic design and social media. She has worked in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and she is happy to be working for an organization that has such a positive impact in people’s lives. Ashli currently lives in Ladner with her husband, daughter and two cats.

Rebecca Preston
Apprentice Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

After 6 years working as a registered nurse, Rebecca developed a myriad of skills and attributes which she has incorporated into her new career as an Apprentice Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. Rebecca previously worked as a nursing instructor in a post-secondary setting and has experience as a tele-nurse in which she would assess, educate and empower BC residents. In addition to her work in healthcare, Rebecca also has experience facilitating supportive networks for individuals living with developmental disabilities and volunteering as a vision mate with CNIB. Working towards becoming a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor has been a long-time dream for Rebecca, as it allows her to combine her passion for animal therapy while continuing to work with and support the public. Rebecca also loves being outdoors and exploring BC with her husband and two rescue dogs – Jake and Dobby.

Christy Sampson
Manager, Development – BC

Christy joins the team as Manager of Development – BC with over 11 years of fundraising experience. She has fundraised in BC, Nova Scotia and Ontario, contributing to hospital foundations, health charities as well as producing events for a wide variety of causes. Christy is passionate about dogs, travel and photography. She lives in Surrey with her crazy Labradoodle Zoey.

Shelley Semler
Manager, Puppy Sponsorship

Shelley started with BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in February 2014 as the Puppy Sponsorship Coordinator. Having close to 20 years in the legal and insurance industry, Shelley’s children are thrilled to see their mom embark on a new career with “Puppy” in her title! Shelley also has many years of experience volunteering in the non-profit sector and looks forward to not only liaising with our current and future donors but with our pups (they can be very chatty and can provide you with updates on their training and adventures!). Shelley resides in Ladner with her husband, three children and dog “Fifa”

Nick Toni
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

Nick joined Guide Dogs for the Blind in the UK in 1988 and became a fully qualified Instructor in February 1991. Prior to his guide dog career, he was a Royal Air Force Police dog handler working at strike command facilities throughout the UK. He also spent some time as part of the R.A.F demonstration team performing to thousands of people including members of the British Royal family. Nick worked for two guide dog schools in the USA prior to joining BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in September 2013. To date, Nick has successfully trained approximately 140 guide dog teams in his career and is looking forward to increasing that figure as a proud member of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs.

Alberta Staff (alphabetical)

Sandra Cramer
Puppy Training Supervisor

Sandra joined BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in 2012 and has been running the Alberta Puppy Training Program. She thoroughly loves working with our dedicated puppy trainers and their pups. Sandra graduated in 1995 from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education degree. After spending six years teaching music and math at the junior high level, Sandra left the teaching field to stay at home and raise her two sons.

Trish Lund
Manager, Development & Communications

Trish joined our team in January 2015, coming to us from the Calgary Zoological Society, bringing with her over 15 years of experience in environmental education management. She is passionate about people, animals, travel and contributing to the community. She is excited to add her skill set to our Alberta team and is thrilled to be working for an organization that provides such a positive and significant impact on people’s lives. Trish also considers herself to be very well trained by her black lab, Kwando!