HISTORY OF PRAIRIELAND VISITING ANIMALS ASSOCIATION
Prairieland Visiting Animals Association began taking shape in February 1992 with a small
group of three people. When Marvin Samuelson, DVM, came to Topeka early in 1992 to open an
animal dermatology clinic, there already were two teams in Topeka registered with the Pet
Partners Program: Jeanene Hoover and her dog Cookie, and Connie Loerch and her dogs Hank
Dr. Samuelson was on the Delta Society Board of Directors at that time. Because of his
connection with Delta, Dr. Samuelson was influential with Hill’s Pet Nutrition and area
veterinarians to be supportive. After Jeanene attended an open house for Dr. Samuelson and
made the connection with Delta Society and Pet Partners, Jeanene, Connie and Dr. Samuelson
began brainstorming about a Topeka group. In August 1992, Jeanene, Connie, and Dr.
Samuelson went to Kansas City and met with the two registered Pet Partners there.
Through the sponsorship of the Topeka Veterinary Medical Association in February 1993, we
were able to host our first Volunteer Workshop with 30 participants under the leadership of
Claudette Greenwald, RN, a Delta Society Certified Instructor. This first workshop brought us
three committed new members - Judy Briggs, Carolyn Rebek, and JoLynn Yetmar - who would
bring our little group to six members. Judy had a dog named Katie and Carolyn had a cat named
Precious. Both of these teams were among the first to become Registered Pet Partners with
Carolyn having our first cat.
JoLynn was a Certified Recreational Therapist at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center at that
time and was instrumental in getting a visitation program approved there using the Pet Partners
protocol. Jeanene and Cookie were invited to make the first visit to the hospital in July 1993 and
the program is still successfully in place today.
Soon Karen Simecka, who was the public education coordinator for the Topeka Kennel Club,
and Judy Samuelson, Dr. Samuelson’s wife, joined in our efforts to form a standards-based
visiting animals group in Topeka. Karen quickly stepped into a leadership role and our goals
started taking shape.
In October 1993, Dr. Samuelson and Jeanene both attended the annual Delta Society Conference
in St. Louis and gained insight into the scope of the growing interest in Animal Assisted Therapy
and Animal Assisted Activities.
We decided to call our group Topeka Assistance Animals registered with Pet Partners. We later
changed our name to Prairieland Visiting Animals Association to more accurately reflect our
mission. With each of us assuming a pivotal role, we began plans to host another Volunteer
Workshop and an Advanced Workshop in November 1994.