Eastern NC

Our Eastern NC branch covers all stages of service dog training throughout the Eastern NC area including Jacksonville, Hampstead, Wilmington, the Triangle, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, and all surrounding areas.

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Gemma Soberano : Vice President

Since her childhood, Gemma Soberano loved being creative in all aspects of her life. By using art, Gemma was able to draw and paint the way she thought objects should be. Never did she imagine that her creative mind for art would transpire into the realm of dog training where she could transform a dog into a well-behaved and incredibly trained animal.

In 2007, Gemma was offered a unique opportunity with a non-profit service dog organization learning to teach young puppies with all basic commands. These young puppies were service dogs in-training and Gemma was able to learn additional training skills as the puppies continued to grow. Gemma was amazed at the dogs’ learning abilities, but did not truly understand the significance of the training until she worked one-on-one with the individuals the dogs were to be placed with: typically young children or veterans with disabilities. Seeing the way service dogs touched the lives of these individuals was such a revelation to Gemma that she decided to dedicate her career to helping provide as many service dogs as possible.

Gemma was the first trainer with Compass Key when the company began in 2012 (as "PAWS Training Centers") in Wilmington NC. She is now the Vice President of the company. As a Senior Service Dog Trainer with Compass Key, Gemma is thrilled to work with dogs on all different levels. She looks forward to continuing her career with Compass Key and becoming an intricate part of their plan to expand into more cities and states nationwide.

Jennifer Thornburg, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, Atlas-CT

Jennifer Thornburg has 15 years in the dog industry from running a successful pet sitting and dog walking business to volunteering at her local municipal shelter, where she ran the playgroups and evaluated dogs for adoption. However, her heart has always been in training dogs and the people who love them.

Jennifer is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the CCPDT, a graduate of both CATCH Academy for Dog Trainers and the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Program, a rigorous certification program that requires continuing education and a pledge to train using force-free methods and techniques. She uses clicker training and positive reinforcement to solve problems and train dogs to a high level of reliability. She's a Certified Fear-Free Trainer, a licensed Family Paws Parent Education presenter and a Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor. She is working towards Level 1 TAGTeach (positive reinforcement training for humans) for the purpose of learning to work more effectively with human clients all the while finding great analogies the human students can understand and relate to.

Jennifer lives in Durham, NC with her wife, young daughter and enthusiastic Border Collie. She enjoys hiking, reading, cross stitching, playing hopscotch with her kid, beekeeping and training her own dog to pick up odd things around the house and bring them to her.

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