Sol Dog Lodge has built a “team of bests” for all areas of operations – professionals who not only have extensive experience but are dedicated to treating dogs and their humans like family.
Director of Dog Care and Kennel Operations
Rachel started her life-long dog addiction as a shelter volunteer and her passion just grew over time. She has worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Bisbee Animal Shelter, Animal Care Officer for Cochise County Sheriff’s Department and Sierra Vista Police Department, Interim Shelter Supervisor for the Nancy J. Brua Animal Care Center in Sierra Vista, and Rescue Program Coordinator for Pima Animal Care Center.
Throughout her years working in shelters, Rachel was often the go-to person for difficult and behaviorally challenged dogs. In 2013 she opened sol.DOG Tucson to provide effective dog services in the greater Tucson area with a focus on training, boarding and supporting rescue and adoption. Her commitment and passion for helping all dogs – and the people who love them – has allowed her to transform hundreds of dogs into cherished members of the family.
Rachel enjoys giving back to the community and supports the efforts of rescue groups throughout Southern Arizona. She continually seeks out continuing education opportunities to expand her skill set and understanding of canine behavior.
Rachel has an amazing and unique blend of business knowledge and extraordinary canine behavioral training experience which makes her a perfect fit for Sol Dog Lodge and Training Center.
Francesca Alonzo knows the core of dog training is communication. For Francesca, a former psychology major, training is not just about teaching dogs what behaviors are wanted and unwanted, but more importantly, about teaching dog people why their pets act in the ways that they do, and what needs their pets are communicating—if only the humans know how to listen. Training isn’t just drilling skills; it’s about learning a whole new canine language.
For Francesca, this emotional and psychological approach to dog behavior comes from a very personal place. Her soulmate dog, Gypsy, is a street rescue, who has struggled with reactive and aggressive behavior. At the beginning of their journey together, Francesca and Gypsy sought help in more traditional dog training courses, which focused on simply stopping unwanted behavior— without considering the emotions and anxieties Gypsy was trying to communicate through those behaviors. Trying to discipline the behaviors, without addressing the anxieties beneath them, was a losing battle.
Francesca now shares this technique, (“the Gypsy Effect” as she calls it) with all of her clients, showing there is no one size fits all discipline for dogs, but rather, individualized and ever-evolving communication. She teaches owners how even the simplest changes can prevent so many dogs from developing reactive or problematic behaviors, and make dogs and their people so much happier as a pack.
Francesca teaches dogs how to relate to their humans and to each other. Her goal is to help all dogs, no matter their needs, learn to trust their pack leader people and meet the world with confident balance. Techniques vary from basic communication and obedience, including place training, to proper socialization by temperament, to resilience and adaptability in chaotic or unpredictable settings. A favorite curriculum is “street agility,” where Francesca teaches dogs and owners how to make the world their own dynamic playground. She loves nothing more than to see people and canines alike discover just how much they can do!
Francesca is an ABC graduate and Alumni. She has observed, assisted, interned, many trainers over the past 6 years and is always evolving her skill set.
She is thrilled to be joining the Sol Dog team. She will mainly be working out the Thornydale location.
Fisker K9 Training
Born in Phoenix, and raised in Southern California, Katherine has always had a deep relationship with animals, and a strong passion to help animals in need. This interest began with bringing home stray animals…dogs, cats, rabbits and a horse (abandoned on the beach after one of the famous Malibu fires.)She had a great horse training career as a teenager and trained under several of our U.S. Equestrian Team members. She began rescuing race horses in need — those that were retired or didn’t make the cut. Katherine used relationship based behavior modification to help them overcome issues and obtain permanent homes. She continued this well into her 40’s, when she retired from that due to illness
With her strong interest in animal behavior, Katherine turned her interest to dog training and took several courses in Behavior Modification from a world renowned PhD, Suzanne Hetts, at Animal Behavior Associates. The courses were instrumental in her education, and wanting more experience, she took a position first in a boarding & daycare facility, and then at an animal shelter.
In her position at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, Katherine focused on working to help the longest resident dogs and those with behavioral issues find homes. She excelled at this, and pushed to create their first Behavior, Education, Rehabilitation and Training Department (B.E.R.T for short.) Katherine worked there for three years and saw a huge need for private dog trainers to help owners resolve behavioral issues with their dogs — both to help them avoid being surrendered, or to help them stay in their new home after adoption. Katherine went on to intern for six months at K9 Guidance to Inclusion in Tucson where she ran daily play groups and trained. She also shadowed Jamie Robinson of Seize the Leash for two years, where she practiced and learned about a play based approach to training.
Today Katherine runs her own business, Fisker K9 Training, and is currently a contract trainer at Sol Dog Lodge & Training Center.
Katherine actively pursues opportunities to expand her education and knowledge, and has attended seminars with world renowned trainers across the country including Mark McCabe of Training Between the Ears, Nelson Hodges of the Canine Humane Relationship Institute, Jay Jack of Next Level Dogs, and Pat Stuart of NePoPo, as well as attending a Dogs Playing for Life! seminar. Katherine passionately believes in a positive-first approach to training, always striving to be fair to and considerate of the dog.
Valerie’s passion for dogs comes from her mother, Arlene, who embraced and lived with compassion and love for dogs – and people – every day. Growing up, Valerie and her family helped many dogs of all breeds through fostering, adopting, and volunteering. Following her mother’s example, she passed this love and commitment on to her own children over the years, continuing to work with different rescue and adoption groups around the country.
Throughout her extensive management career Valerie has focused on bringing purpose and vision to organizations that help people and communities including her work as a City Manager, as a chapter Executive Director of the American Red Cross, as Development Director for the Audubon Society in Tucson, and as Senior Project Manager for Beacon Group, Tucson’s premier non-profit that creates opportunities for people with disabilities.
Valerie is used to building partnerships, organizations, and facilities. She managed the start-up of the state-of-the-art Target.com fulfillment center in Tucson and ran a multimillion-dollar non-profit property management and economic redevelopment company that constructed affordable single-family homes and community redevelopment in Kentucky.
Valerie’s talents as a business and civic leader and catalyst for change are instrumental in the planning and development of Sol Dog Lodge.
Valerie joined Arizona Greyhound Rescue in 2005 as a volunteer, first writing grants, then serving on the Board. Along with her own dogs, Valerie is Arizona Greyhound Rescue’s Forever Foster Parent, keeping dogs that cannot be adopted due to special needs or behavioral problems.
Director of Marketing and Community Outreach
Shelley grew up with great danes, a poodle (Babette, of course) and feral cats. Her adult, nomadic lifestyle did not allow for pets for many years, so she loved on her dad’s guide dogs, Gonzo and Whitman, who came through Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA. Her experiences with Guide Dogs’ training and development process inspired her.
Fast forward to her marketing work with an assisted living company that always included pets in the community: A 3-legged cat in Washington, DC, a black lab (George) in Bethesda, MD, and ultimately Mr. Fry in Tucson, AZ. Mr. Fry was brought to her assisted living community via Arizona Greyhound Rescue and a partnership was born. She watched the love, training, integrity and compassion AGR exercised for rescue dogs and knew she wanted to be a part of it.
For the past 3 years, Shelley has been an integral part of AGR’s Board of Directors. For AGR, and now for Sol Dog Lodge, Shelley serves as the Director of Community Outreach & Marketing. She is responsible for reaching the greatest audience of supporters, partners, fosters and adopters and for sharing the benefits of Sol Dog Lodge for the entire community.
I’ve had a passion for all animals my entire life. I remember wanting to be a veterinarian when I was young. In high school, I stumbled upon a job washing dogs. I knew this would be a perfect fit for me because I absolutely love dogs. I finally found my place. I could spend every day loving and helping animals without the expenses and schooling needed to be a vet.
A year and a half after I started bathing, another groomer joined our salon who had been educating new groomers for 30 years. Of course, I signed up for her class immediately and soaked up her expertise like a sponge. I then spent five years grooming in Chicago before moving to Okinawa, Japan with my husband, who is in the military. We spent three years there where I was able to develop my grooming skills even further by exposing myself to a totally different style of grooming. My Japanese co-workers were not used to a lot of the tools that I use in my everyday grooming. They did everything by hand and they helped me take my skill to a whole new level by challenging me to hand scissor vs. relying all on my clippers. After a few months working with them, I moved on into house call grooming. I would pack my tools and bring them to my clients’ home. By grooming in a familiar and extremely calm environment I was able to take on several dogs that were turned away from grooming salons due to behavior issues. I realized this was where my calling in the industry was. I found a passion for being the one they call when everyone else says no. I found that by keeping a calm and quiet environment the dogs were able to relax better than any other salon I had ever worked in. I also allow the dogs to set their own boundaries. If they begin to show fear or anxiety I simply move on to another section and come back as many times as they need to feel safe and respected during the process. Grooming is not one size fits all and I attribute my success with dogs being labeled as “difficult” by building a relationship founded on trust and respect.
Japan will always hold such a special place in my heart as this is also where I developed my love for travel and scuba diving. I visited five different countries and ten cities during our time there. After Japan, I spent a year back in Chicago in the salon that made me a groomer while my husband went on a one year rotation to South Korea. I used that time to enjoy my family and share my knowledge with my colleagues and teaching others how to groom.
We were so excited when my husband received orders to relocate to our new home at Davis-Monthan. We love to adventure and spend time outside hiking and kayaking. After a recent trip to Las Vegas, we knew the desert weather was for us! Shortly after arriving we welcomed an English Labrador retriever named Sully to our little family. Sully is my third Labrador. My husband and I adore the sweet and adventurous personality.
I’m thrilled to join the Sol Dog family and so excited to meet you and your furry family members!