Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy (PRAAT, Inc.) is a not for profit 501(c) (3) incorporated in 1993 as a community service project of the Patchogue Rotary Club. PRAAT was founded by veterinarian Dr. David Roy Hensen with the belief in the therapeutic potential of dogs.
PRAAT screens, trains and evaluates all dog-handler teams (the volunteer and their dog). Upon a successful completion of the PRAAT dog-handler team training, teams become eligible to make visits at over 150 of our contracted and insured facilities across Long Island. With over 75 active dog-handler teams, a minimum of 120 pet therapy visits are provided to our community each month.
Mission Statement: PRAAT provides comfort and healing through the human-animal bond.
Vision Statement: Our vision is a world where all people’s lives are enhanced through the power of the human-animal bond.
Meet the PRAAT Crew
David Roy Hensen, D.V.M., DABVP
Founder of PRAAT
David Roy Hensen received his BA in Chemistry from Duke University in 1978 and his DVM from the University of Santo Domingo in 1982. He worked at several veterinary hospitals until him and his beautiful and wonderful wife, Deirdre Hensen, opened Paumanok Veterinary Hospital in June 24, 1992. Dr. Dave also became board certified with the American Board of Veterinary Medicine in 1990.
Dr. Dave has long recognized the value and healing prowess of the human animal bond and as such, has a keen interest in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in all its forms. He started the Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy (PRAAT) program shortly after opening his practice. What started out as a simple Rotary Community Service program, has grown into a successful AAT program on Long Island.
Along the way Dr. Hensen was recognized with many awards including: The Time Beacon Record Man of the Year Award in Health (2003), The New York State Health Facilities Association Group Volunteer of the Year Award (2006), Long Island Veterinary Medical Association Meritorious Service Award (2011), The Long Island Business News Award in Health 2012, and countless Rotary awards.
Dr. Dave Hensen considers veterinary medicine and PRAAT his passions, as well as his vocation.
Cindy Amodio started with PRAAT as a volunteer in September 1993, with her canine mix breed Nikki. Over the last 25 years Cindy has completed more than 1400 visits with 12 different dogs –8 of her PRAAT therapy dogs were puppies she raised for The Guide Dog Foundation.
In 2001 Cindy became the PRAAT Administrator. As administrator Cindy coordinates screenings, oversees health maintenance, completes contracts, communicates with facilities and volunteers, and organizes scheduling. Cindy still enjoys going on visits and is always willing to “fill-in” when a therapy dog handler team is needed.
Therapy Dog Trainer and Evaluator
Sonnie Goldman has been with PRAAT since 1996. Sonnie started at PRAAT as a volunteer making over 365 visits with her yellow Labrador, Molly. Since then she has become a certified dog trainer doing private, group and animal assisted therapy training classes. Sonnie is currently the lead trainer and evaluator for PRAAT. In this position Sonnie trains and prepares the therapy dog handler teams (the dog and the handler) for success in making pet therapy visits.
Sonnie is responsible for evaluating each dog handler team and matching each team with an appropriate facility or facilitates. Sonnies’ current dog is a black, standard poodle, named Hans. Sonnie and Hans enjoy conducting visits, doing demonstrations, leading training classes and attending lectures. Over her 21 years of service, Sonnie has had eight PRAAT therapy dogs and has completed over 2,100 PRAAT visits.
Medical Records Coordinator
Debbie Fischer started with PRAAT in 2003 when she passed the screening with her dog, Koda, a Chocolate Lab. When Koda needed to retire due to his age, Debbie inquired about becoming volunteer in the PRAAT program without a dog. Dr. Dave appointed her with the title of Medical Records Coordinator, with this title she is responsible for keeping all PRAAT therapy dogs up-to-date on their health maintenance and preventatives for flea/tick and heartworm parasites.
On September 27th 2016, Debbie adopted Chip, a chiweenie puppy –who became a Certified PRAAT dog. Chip is now going on visits to all the places Koda once went. Debbie remains an active volunteer and the PRAAT Medical Records Coordinator
Doggie Reading Club Coordinator
Jo-Ann Goldwasser devoted much of her time and energy into developing the Doggie Reading Club. The Doggie Reading Club began in 2013 after Jo-Ann’s daughter-in-law suggested that she bring her retired Guide Dog Foundation dogs into schools for children to read to. She knew of a very successful “read to a dog” program in the inner-city Chicago schools called “Sit, Stay, Read” and thought it was a perfect match for her—dogs, schools, children, and reading.
Jo-Ann learned about PRAAT through a neighbor and she made contact with Dave Hensen, the founder of PRAAT, who encouraged her to get her dogs certified and try to start a Doggie Reading Club program under the auspices of PRAAT. It was difficult to gain entry into the first school. Dr. Scott O’Brien, principal of Rocky Point Middle School, welcomed Jo-Ann’s now certified dog Eileen to his school to begin the program in a seventh grade reading class.
Jo-Ann built the program by word of mouth, and recommendations have propelled the Doggie Reading Club program forward. We now have 15 volunteers who visit 13 schools regularly in Brentwood, Connetquot, Hauppauge, Longwood, Rocky Point, and South Country school districts.
The Doggie Reading Club is a gift Jo-Ann never expected to receive. Working in schools with the teachers, children and dogs has become Jo-Ann’s passion. When you have time, Jo-Ann encourages you to ask about some of the experiences she has had –you may find some have been truly remarkable! PRAAT’s Doggie Reading Club always welcomes new volunteers. For more information, please contact Jo-Ann.
Pamela Linden, LMSW, PHD
PRAAT Organizational Consultant
Pamela Linden, LMSW, PhD is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Stony Brook University School of Health Technology and Management. Dr. Linden earned her MSW and PhD from Stony Brook University and completed her training in Veterinary Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
At Stony Brook, Dr. Linden developed the first social work internship with Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy (PRAAT). In addition to being an operational consultant for PRAAT, Dr. Linden is the faculty advisor for Stony Brook University’s first Animal Assisted Activity student club.
Dr. Linden is a member of the Board of Directors at the Guide Dog Foundation and American’s Vet Dogs in Smithtown, NY. She is an affiliate member of the Long Island Veterinary Medical Association and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers. Dr. Linden has a keen interest in understanding the human-animal bond and its application in mental health settings.
Spokesperson & Coordinator of Green Screen Photography
Patti Vertullo joined PRAAT ten years ago, with her first golden retriever, Sophie. Together, they visited many different kinds of facilities and brought joy to the lives of many. Primarily, they enjoyed Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a special needs camp, and the library reading program, as it really offered both Patti and Sophie a chance to bond with, and give back to the community of Long Island. More specifically, this was an opportunity to bring happiness to many children. Sophie did this for many years, until she retired from being a PRAAT therapy dog in 2013. Though she was officially retired from PRAAT, she lived the rest of her years working alongside Patti continuing to bring her love into the lives of everybody she met.
After this wonderful experience, Patti became part of the PRAAT program in a different role, finding that it was possible to join her passion for educating and helping others with her love of photography. In 2017, she became a Spokesperson and Coordinator of Green Screen Photography. As a spokesperson, Patti—a retired teacher—visits towns and communities across Long Island to educate members of Rotary Club districts about the benefits of the therapy program, which is a main goal of PRAAT. As the coordinator of green screen photography, Patti arranges photo sessions of the dogs and their handlers and takes the photos with green screen technology, making it possible to put ANY background behind the image. Patti’s creativity knows no bounds: whether it’s a dog on the moon, in Paris, under the sea, sitting with a pride of lions, in front of the Whitehouse, or any other background, Patti works hard with owners and PRAAT alike to keep bringing joy to families of Long Island and making dreams come true.
Patti hopes to have another dog in the therapy program in the future, but for now she is immensely happy to work with PRAAT and the families it serves to educate and create for the families and communities of Long Island.