Equine Specialist & Riding Instructor
Joe Bellus joined the Ranch team in 2019 after having volunteered at the annual Ranch Riders Horse Show. Having spent his childhood and adolescence between his family’s farm in Iowa and the inner city areas of Dallas, he had always sought to return to country life permanently and found that opportunity at the Ranch. Though he had previously trained service dogs and has years of experience coaching children in gymnastics and cheer leading, the strong connections between horses and humans in a therapeutic environment touched him beyond words. He immediately began volunteering on a regular basis and within a few months had quit his day job and become an official part of the team.
In his earlier years Joe spent time working with youth at the Eldora School for Boys State Juvenile facility in a big brother program where he assisted in drug and alcohol abuse support groups. Later he became involved with Vets for Vets, a 501c charity out of central Iowa that pairs recently discharged veterans with prior service members from previous decades in an effort to reinforce brotherhood and community through outdoorsman activities. In the most recent past he has hosted multiple charity events benefiting various veteran support and suicide awareness organizations. Currently, Joe fulfills the roles of equine specialist, as well as, riding instructor in training and serves as an occasional ranch hand.
Cassandra Porter, M.S., Director of Equestrian Services
P.A.T.H. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor & Child Development Specialist
Cassandra Porter received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015. Her desire to help special needs children and their families led her to pursue her M.S. in Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas. In Late 2016 she discovered the field of therapeutic horseback riding and immediately began volunteering at a center in Waxahachie. She quickly realized that she had found her calling and became a PATH certified instructor.
She has now joined the team at Paws as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Child Development Specialist. Cassandra specializes in providing early intervention therapy for children between the ages of birth to 6 years in many areas including gross motor, fine motor, speech and language, problem solving skills, sensory processing difficulties, adaptive life skills, social/behavioral skills, and literacy acquisition. She also functions as a central resource of knowledge and support for parents learning to cope with the birth of a special needs child or a new diagnosis. Cassandra believes strongly in the healing and motivating power of animals and a natural environment combined with evidence-based practices in helping little ones and their families overcome some of the obstacles that may hinder the pathway into a happy healthy childhood.
She is endorsed by First 3 Years (formerly Texas Association for Infant Mental Health). She specializes in utilizing animals and a natural environment to assist children and their families struggling with developmental delay or associated early childhood problems.
University of North Texas (UNT)
Paws for Reflection Ranch was selected by UNT for their Masters and Doctoral Students to obtain first-hand Animal Assisted Counseling experience toward their required internship hours. These interns are under the direction of Dr. Cynthia Chandler, Ed.D., LPC-S, MFT-S, Professor of Counseling. Dr. Chandler is also a Director of the Consortium for Animal Assisted Therapy. These interns allow us to offer services at a low cost for clients who can be flexible with their schedules. All interns are also supervised on premises by Mikah Dolphin, LPC-S and Director of Counseling Services.
Paws for Reflection Ranch has affiliation agreements with the other North Texas universities listed below to provide training on animal assisted counseling methods. Check with us to see if your university is included. UTA, TCU, DBU, SAGU, Tarelton State University, UNT, SMU
Marquin Malone Decker, M.S., LPC , NCC
Marquin completed much of her internship at Paws, where she received supervision and training from animal-assisted counseling pioneer, Dr. Cynthia Chandler. She now joins the team as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and a graduate from the University of North Texas. Marquin obtained her Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from UNT (go MEAN GREEN!). Marquin is a National Certified Counselor and member of the American Counseling Association. Her treatment approach focuses on the body and mind holistic care from a mental health perspective. Marquin practices trauma-informed therapy for teens and young adults, as well as play therapy for children ages 3-10. She works to find where the anxiety is stored in the body and mind to heal towards mental and physical wellness. She has a great deal of experience working with those in crisis, who may be suffering from suicidal ideation, self-harm, family of origin concerns, and trauma. She is dedicated to meeting her clients and their families where they are to make therapy a collaborative and healing journey. Through partnering with the animals and equines at the ranch, Marquin believes in
walking alongside her clients while they tap into their innate healing abilities. She is also passionate about women’s emotional health and incorporating nature and expressive arts into the therapy process.
Educational Programs Coordinator
Susanna grew up in the DFW area, and later went on to receive her BS in Kinesiology from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. She taught secondary science in Texas public schools for 11 years, as well as coaching athletic and academic events.
Susanna learned about Paws For Reflection Ranch from one of her students n 2018 and has been volunteering regularly since then. She has participated in Paws 4 Fun after-school program, Paws Summer Camp, Girl Scout Badge Workshops, Therapeutic Horseback Riding, and many other events and programs hosted by the ranch.
Susanna has a passion for learning, nature, and animals. She is a fur mom to a special-needs cat.
Contact Suzanna : PawsForReflection@att.net
Isabelle Lawrence (Izzy)
Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist
Isabel Lawrence has spent her entire life with horses, starting her riding at the age of 10 and she also grew up with a loving cousin that was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. Isabel, loving both horses and special needs, longed to one day be able to work with both. In her high school career she volunteered at multiple therapeutic centers and when she graduated she started volunteering under Paws for Reflection director of equine. She soon became a trusted part of the Paws team, first as a feeder/ranch hand and then a riding instructor working towards her PATH certification as a therapeutic horse back riding instructor.
Our professionals are pioneers in the field of animal-assisted therapies. Team members participate in a wide variety of educational opportunities in order to best serve our clients' needs.
Brittany Briswalter Kuqi, M.S., LPC-Associate, CRC
Therapeutic Riding Instructor
Under the Supervision of Hallie Sheade, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S
Brittany completed two semesters of internship in her graduate program, receiving supervision from animal assisted therapy pioneer Dr. Cynthia Chandler. She has worked as a therapeutic riding instructor for clients with various mental, physical, and intellectual disabilities for the past three years. Brittany graduated with her Master's in Rehabilitation Counseling at University of North Texas. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and a LPC-Associate. Her passion is incorporating animals into therapies to provide a therapeutic environment and relationship for clients. She believes animals incorporate a unique partnership that aids clients in initiating their own abilities to heal. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults in different capaticites. She has training in Vocational Counseling, Trauma Informed Care, Play Therapy, Equine Assisted Counseling and Animal Assisted Counseling.
Contact Brittany: PawsForReflection@att.net
Mikah Dolphin, M.A., LPC-S, Director of Counseling Services
Mikah was divinely drawn to Paws For Reflection Ranch where her passion for caring for animals, teams, and clients is fostered in this environment that provides connection to peace, healing, and growth. Mikah grew up on a farm and from a young age understood the positive impact that animals have on our lives. As a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor, Mikah desires to join with her clients (children through adults) and this special environment to create a therapeutic relationship that promotes thriving in daily life, a path to wellness, and a deeper connection to Christ through each person’s unique identity (if desired by the client). Mikah’s professional journey encompasses a variety of settings, including foster care, private practice, residential care, and hospital-based programs; outpatient, intensive outpatient (IOP), and partial hospitalization (PHP). Mikah’s leadership experience includes clinical supervision, business and clinical operations, grant oversite, and project management, all of which are focused on diversity and inclusion, promoting team strengths, fostering professional development, and a mission-driven culture. Mikah welcomes the opportunity to give you a tour so that you too can experience this beautiful God given gift that we lovingly refer to as Paws.
Becky Tinney, M.S., LMSW, CPS
Under the Supervision of Amy Carr, LCSW-S
Becky is a Licensed Master’s Level Social worker, currently under clinical supervision of Amy Carr, LCSW-S, and has been working professionally with children and families since 2016. She obtained her master’s degree in Social Work with an emphasis on Mental Health and Substance Abuse from The University of Texas Arlington. Becky is also a certified prevention specialist and certified in the practice of mindfulness. She focuses on providing trauma-informed therapy with children and adolescents, ages 3 to 16, utilizing Child Centered Play Therapy, Animal Assisted Therapy, and Mindfulness practices. She also has experience in family and reunification therapy. Becky believes that everyone has the power within them to heal if given the necessary support and tools. With that in mind, she puts great emphasis on building trust and rapport with each client so that she can design individualized treatment approaches to meet their specific needs, no matter where they are in their journey.
Contact Becky: PawsForReflection@att.net
Equine Specialist and Riding Instructor
McKala did not grow up riding horses, but was always drawn to them and knew that she wanted to use them for therapy. With her mom, being a speech, therapist and diagnostician she was always working with the special needs population and loved it! She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in therapeutic recreation. Throughout her college career she volunteered at three different riding facilities. After becoming a certified therapeutic riding instructor, she worked at another barn for 2 1/2 years before finding us here at Paws. She is also an equine specialist and works in equine assisted counseling sessions as well as helping on the administration team. McKala’s favorite part about working here is the family dynamic between the staff. She enjoys getting to share ideas and learn from everyone.
Equine Specialist and Riding Instructor
Leighann Hittle started riding horses when she was 9 years old at Paws for Reflection Ranch. During middle school she volunteered at rescues and sanctuaries so she could learn more about the care and understanding of horses. She got her first horse at the age of 13. She was a young filly, about 7 months old. This filly taught her how to intuitively work with and train horses. Morning Star showed Leighann the true connection you can have with a horse. She helped keep her head on straight throughout high school years. Leighann returned to Paws as a feeder during those years and volunteered when she could at ranch events. She fed horses at Paws until she moved for college. In her intro to equine class she was partnered with a disabled student to help train a young colt. Working with him made her realize what she wanted to do with her life! That’s when she moved back and once again found herself at Paws for Reflection Ranch, now as a Therapeutic RIding Instructor and Horse Specialist. She is currently working on her PATH certification while teaching and helping to train horses at Paws.
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Samuel Williams, M.S., LPC Associate
Under the supervision of Mikah Dolphin, LPC-S
When individuals experience life stressors, it is not uncommon for those individuals to need skills that will be a help regarding those stressors. Sam is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate with a great passion to bring healing to people who have found stressors in their life. He will help each client with coping skills to deal with those stressors by addressing life patterns that tend to be maladaptive. By using strategies and interventions that lead to healthier, more adaptive ways of coping, Sam will empower individuals to have a better relationship with themselves and others while healing. Sam served his country from 1987 to 1995 as a soldier in the U.S. Army. He also serves in the protestant church since 1988 and as an ordained Elder since 200. Sam’s educational background includes a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and a Bachelor’s in psychology both from Tarleton State University.
Office Manager/Event Coordinator
Casey comes to Paws for Reflection Ranch with over 20 years of management experience. Her experience ranges from Document Control/Order Processing Management for a major home builder, Department of Transportation Compliance industry, Supply Chain Management, and so much more. Casey started with Paws in August of 2017 as the Office Admin and in 2020 became the Office Manager/Event Coordinator. Casey is an important part of our leadership team and her strong passion for the work we do is demonstrated each day.
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Paws for Reflection Ranch is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) charitable organization
USDA Licensed Class C Exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act