Volunteer:  Give Your Time and Talent

We offer many types of volunteer opportunities for adults interested in working with people with disabilities, for working with animals (animal assisted interventions—therapy and education), and for working in integrated programs.

Dogwood volunteers are not casual observers; rather, they are active participants who gain skills and knowledge by working directly with clients.  Many of our volunteers teach classes or oversee integrated activities. Our volunteers become part of our client’s lives, and engage in their healthcare or extracurricular activities, so we require a minimum of a semester commitment (see schedule below), and at least 5 hours per week.  Volunteers can expect to spend at least 65% of their time engaging with clients, and the remainder of their time helping with projects, office work, running errands, and helping us with day-to-day needs.  Many of our volunteers have started their journey into more professional roles in healthcare and social service sectors, including a lot of potential occupational therapists!

Volunteers must have proof of Covid vaccinations and flu shots as some of our clients are medically fragile.

************* Dogwood does NOT offer shadowing ***************

Youth/Peer Mentors
Dogwood offers opportunities for youth volunteers, too! Youth must have attended at least two semesters of our after school programs or dog training classes. We understand that individuals, who volunteer in the community as youth, will also volunteer later in life.  Youth volunteers should be able to self-direct, work and play well with others, and be fairly independent in case the situation arises when they are not in a session and left on their own. Many youth volunteers can also get school credit for their community service.

Successful Dogwood volunteers posses:

  • Ability to be independent, self-directed, and flexible with duties
  • Desire to work with people with disabilities and within integrated programs
  • Comfortable working with dogs
  • Ability to commit for at least two months (see schedule below), minimum of 4 hours a week on a regular schedule
  • Ability to provide a background check (see volunteer application for details)

Dogwood's schedule changes every few months. Typically, our day starts around 9:30 a.m. and may end as late as 7:00 p.m. To gain the best experience, our volunteers are scheduled approximately one month prior to the start of each new volunteer period.  The options for volunteering are as follows:

  • January - April

  • May - August

  • September - Mid December

Please follow this link to complete the application: volunteer application

Once we receive your application, we will contact you for an interview.

Criminal background check due prior to interview for volunteer position.

We set our schedules the month prior to each semester schedule. 

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with us!


Volunteer Perspectives:

I first heard about Dogwood through a classmate at the University of New Mexico. She told me that she volunteered at a clinic that specialized in animal assisted therapy (AAT). I have loved animals all my life and was so excited to volunteer. I was so intrigued that dogs were being incorporated into sessions and wanted to learn more about it. At Dogwood, you are actively participating in sessions and working with dogs which is so amazing. Being able participate in sessions helps to solidify everything you are learning and gives you experiences not many volunteers get to have. Not only have I learned so much about Occupational Therapy, my knowledge about dogs has grown exponentially. I have taken what I learned about dog training at Dogwood and have practiced it with my own dogs. They are much happier for it too. Enrichment activities and training sessions are now incorporated into their daily routines and they LOVE IT. I am currently applying to Occupational Therapy school and because of the great staff at Dogwood I am more confidant and prepared to start my journey in this field.

Melissa Winkle and the rest of the staff there are really great about explaining what it is they are doing and why. Having dogs in on a session with a client can be overwhelming, but anytime I was unsure or overwhelmed I always felt comfortable to ask and they were happy to help and explain. When I am not in on a session my volunteer duties were to help train dogs, clean, run errands, and work on or assist in whatever project is going on at the time. I am so thankful for my time there, and I know in the future I will get to put to use all the amazing things I have learned.


-Shannen Lopez, 2019 

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In May of 2017 I decided to take the plunge and move Albuquerque, NM from Washington, DC for the summer, to broaden my learning of Occupational Therapy. Under the guidance of Dogwood’s owner, Melissa Winkle OTR/L, FAOTA, I was introduced to a whole new concept within OT using animal assisted therapy (AAT). The seminar illuminated positive impacts that dogs have on clients, the creativity of techniques used, and even added to my understanding of dogs’ rights. Melissa was very thorough, while also teaching us about topics that I had not thought about prior to coming. I have always had dogs, but never imagined how far reaching their potential for healing could be, nor thought about the rigor of training one’s dog for AAT. The seminar was worth the trip.

My initial goal was to attend Dogs in Practice and apply to graduate schools for OT right after. However, I was given the unique opportunity by Melissa to stay and volunteer at Dogwood’s summer camp. Volunteering truly highlighted the benefits of melding the art of dog training with Occupational Therapy. I learned to be more empathetic, and to relate to dogs and patients on a new level. Though everyday was structured, we also learned how to work as a team when we faced unexpected juggernauts. Dogwood Therapy instills cooperation, while giving each client a voice.

Volunteering at Dogwood was undoubtedly intense. My hard work paid off (p.s. get ready to exercise), as I witnessed clients’ confidence flourish, due to the encouragement that the volunteers, staff and AAT gave them. My experience also gave me a boost before applying to graduate schools, because I had stretched my own understanding of what I can accomplish."Dogwood offers a unique and specialized experience for students looking to gain skills in animal-assisted occupational therapy. Working with Melissa is fast-paced and exciting, her enthusiasm is contagious. Working with animals during a therapy session requires good multi-tasking skills and can be overwhelming for some. However, learning to tune into the animal's needs as well as the client's needs/goals is a valuable skill that any practitioner can generalize to numerous practice settings.  ~ Karen K. 2017

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I volunteered at Dogwood to gain knowledge and insight about the occupational therapy profession. I was initially apprehensive about working in an animal-assisted therapy setting since I never done it before; but by the second month, I was hooked. The environment was dynamic, exciting, fun, and interesting, but most importantly it challenged me to learn and grow. Melissa and the other therapist were always encouraging me, their clients and the dogs in training to stretch their wings and capabilities. I feel privileged and honored to have been given the opportunity to play a part in helping children with a variety of conditions overcome many challenges.

P.S. I really miss the pups!    Francisco C.