Our Southeastern VA branch serves Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Suffolk, and all surrounding areas.
Gemma Soberano, Atlas-CTP: 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.
Patsy Montowski, Atlas-CTP
Patsy initially taught her family dog, Einstein, many different cues and realized she had a passion for dogs and their ability to learn. Einstein’s success inspired her to gain knowledge of a dog’s abilities to help people heal with knowing they had a constant companion to help them through the day. At one time being somewhat socially awkward, Patsy’s family dog and the dogs that Patsy trained helped her open up to new people.
Patsy started training with a non-profit service dog organization in 2010 after learning that the dogs trained would go to veterans suffering from PTSD and children with disabilities. Watching a good friend struggle with PTSD inspired her to learn and grow with the program while also overcoming her own fears. Patsy became the lead academic and special skills instructor for others that also wanted to learn how to become service dog trainers.
Currently Patsy resides part-time in Chesapeake, VA and part-time in Harpers Ferry, WV with her lab/hound mix Jiggy and her ever supportive, dog-loving boyfriend, Kevin.