JAIME ARNETT / Executive Director

Jaime has extensive experience in nonprofit management, grant writing, and the private, and public sectors. Her nonprofit career began a decade ago with Habitat for Humanity, where she held every position from volunteer coordinator to assistant director, working in both Washington and Oregon states. In the private sector, Jaime was the Executive Administrator for the Boundary Fish Company in Blaine. She is passionate about governance and politics and is also a former Blaine City Council Member! In 2015, Jaime began grant writing for ANT to stay meaningfully connected to her community. She was drawn to ANT for our natural approach to mental and behavioral health services and, being and an avid animal lover, was especially curious about the benefits of human-animal interactions. Jaime has spent the last year as our Director of Operations and Development and has been mentored by Sonja for the Executive Director role. She has a deep appreciation for ANT’s culture of compassion, the spirit of our animals, and the brilliance of our staff. Contact Jaime at jaime@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.

SONJA WINGARD / Founder & Instructor

Sonja Wingard has witnessed lives dramatically change when courage builds and fears are overcome.  She believes that this transformation from fear to self-confidence is expedited while working with a thousand-pound horse and that horses invite connection, honesty, respect, and trust -- that they mirror our feelings so that we can learn to recognize our own current state and ask for what we need. She also believes that the unconditional love offered by smaller animals contributes greatly to the healing process.  In 1999, at Windy Acres Farm (Sonja's home) Sonja; Abby Soley; and Gwen Hunter started Animals as Natural Therapy to provide a place where people could heal with the help of animal partners. Sonja, who has a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, brings over forty years of experience working with animals and people of all ages and backgrounds as a mother/grandmother, community health nurse, 4-H leader, and equine specialist/ riding instructor. She is certified with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) and has presented at three international conferences. She is an Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala) Equine Specialist and Certified Horsemanship Association instructor. Sonja says that she owes her personal transformation to horses (who she views as sentient beings and divinely-guided teachers sent to help), Barbara Rector (Adventures in Awareness), Debra Stone, and Frank Bell, among others. Sonja has a deep appreciation for the value of young people and the elderly and enjoys bringing them together through ANT’s intergenerational programs. Sonja directed Animals as Natural Therapy from 1999 to 2020, with ANT receiving non-profit of the year by the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce in 2019 under her leadership. Contact Sonja at sonja@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.

KATIE ROHWER / Program & Volunteer Coordinator; PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructor

Katie first was a part of the ANT family as a mentor for youth programming. She graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, received her Therapeutic Riding Instructor (TRI) certification from PATH Intl. in 2017, and was awarded the PATH Credentialed Professional of the Year in 2020 for Region 9 (which includes Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)! Katie loves to share her passion for horses with the people she works with, and is usually the first person to engage with families and volunteers at ANT. She has a cat named Murphy and a horse named Scotty. She loves craft beer, a good novel, deep conversations with friends and experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Contact Katie at porgram@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.

Haley Didier / PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructor

Haley’s love of horses from a young age propelled her to study Equine Sciences at Colorado State University, where she graduated in 2010.  Since then she has worked on various ranches, farms, and animal facilities and has always had an interest in animal therapy. In 2017 Haley completed rigorous training to become a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and now hopes to pursue an Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning certification. Upon moving to Bellingham in 2016, she was instantly drawn to ANT and enjoys the tender, respectful, and reciprocal relationships fostered between animals and humans.  She feels extremely honored to be a part of this work and a witness to the immense healing capacity that animals have!  If you can’t find Haley in the barnyard, you can find her exploring the beautiful wilderness surrounding Bellingham, mountain biking with friends, playing in lakes & rivers, or setting her creativity free through her love of painting.  Haley also has a passion for traveling in search of adventure and experiences that feed her sense of wonder. Email Haley at haley@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.

DIANNA DEBOER / Instructor

Dianna brings 23 years of horsemanship experience to ANT, having grown up riding horses in Bellingham before receiving a B.A. in Recreation Management & Leadership from WWU. She became a professional cowgirl and has guided all over the United States on private ranches, in national parks, and on wild horse ranches in the Dakotas. Dianna owned & operated a trail riding business in Whatcom County and provided lessons along the Nooksack River. She is passionate about helping people explore recreation & leisure through equestrian experiences, whether observing a wild horse herd in their natural environment, or riding across the badlands on a good saddle horse. She finds that horses and nature promote emotional healing and wellbeing, and she wants to share the joy with others.

Kelsy Hartmann / Barn Manager

Kelsy joined the ANT team in 2016. She graduated from WWU with a Bachelor of Science in biology (pre-veterinary emphasis) in 2017. She has cared for many animals in previous work and now enjoys being out in the barnyard caring for ANT’s herd of animals.  In her free time, she enjoys knitting, hiking, spending time with horses, and snuggling with her bunny. Kelsy especially loves the way the animals at ANT are viewed and treated- as amazing facilitators for healing. She thinks it is incredible to work with these creatures as they offer healing and joy to those in need. Contact Kelsey at barnyard@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.

DIANA MEEKS / Outreach Manager

Diana has been involved with ANT for over ten years and has held almost every type of volunteer position we have! She has a background in communications and marketing and has experience working for a diverse range of organizations -- from Fortune 500 companies to small nonprofits.  She holds a bachelor's degree from Arizona State University where she studied sustainability and communications. She has a heart for service and loves working with people. With a deep interest in the alchemy of personal healing and growth, she hopes to one day become a mental health counselor and practice equine therapy herself. A PNW native, she's an avid rider; outdoorswoman; and animal lover. Email Diana at dianam@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org

JACK AGUIRRE / Therapist

Joaquin (Jack) Aguirre M.A., LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving youth & veterans at ANT. He has provided counseling to at-risk children/adults and their families for 22 years in hospitals, foster care, and private practice settings. He also holds certificates in Biofeedback and Stress Management, and has trained as a Trauma Response Specialist. Joaquin loves to fish and ride horses, and enjoys spending quality time with friends.

SUE SWANK / Bookkeeper

Sue loves nature, animals, and kids and has always wanted to be a cowgirl. Finally, after retiring from teaching and raising a family, she found ANT! She began as a volunteer in the office and then began mentoring a few after school programs alongside the amazing instructors and horses. This was a dream come true, and within a few months, she was hired as ANT’s bookkeeper and has been in this role for many years. Being at ANT has more than fulfilled her wildest dreams, and she is grateful to be part of this special work. Email Sue at bookkeeper@animalsasnaturaltherapy.org.