About Retrieving Independence

About Us

Retrieving Independence is a Nashville-based nonprofit that breeds, trains and places service dogs with people who are living with physical, mental or emotional disability.

This is all accomplished with the help of volunteer breeders, puppy raisers, and weekend furlough volunteers. Through our partnership with the Tennessee Department of Correction, RI works with inmates to provide a significant portion of the training throughout the almost two-year program.

That’s what we do. But WHY do we do it?

We do it for the love poured into the dogs by the volunteers. We do it for the purpose and dignity it gives the inmate trainers. We do it for the life-rocking change it gives to our incredible recipients.

Love. Dignity. Change. That’s why we do it.

retrieving independence - what we do
Our Mission: Working to change lives every day
Our Vision: To see love and dignity rehabilitate inmates and give people living with disabilities greater independence

Retrieving Independence Leadership

Staff Members

Chief Executive Officer & President

Lauren Dougall

Meet Lauren Dougall, our Visionary Leader and guiding force as Chief Executive Officer/President. Lauren joined our team in 2022 after making waves at Agape Animal Rescue. With her visionary guidance, Lauren steers our organization towards greater heights, embodying dedication and excellence in all she does.
Director of Training Program

Kelsey Fernandez

Kelsey Fernandez, our Training Trailblazer and Director of Training Program, joined us in 2023, bringing experience from multiple service dog organizations and other training backgrounds. Kelsey's commitment to our trainers, volunteers, and dogs ensures they receive the support they need to thrive, embodying passion for fostering growth and excellence in our programs.
Lesley Adams
Director of Operations & Administration

Lesley Adams

Lesley Adams, our Program Pioneer and Director of Operations and Administration, co-founded the organization alongside Brenda. Lesley's wealth of experience and historical perspective enriches our programs, ensuring they resonate deeply with those we serve, reflecting her unwavering commitment to our mission.
Director of Client Experience

Rebekah Glasmeier

Rebekah Glasmeier, our Client Care Champion and Director of Client Experience, officially joined our team in 2023 after years of dedicated volunteering. Rebekah's understanding of our organization and firsthand experience raising numerous dogs uniquely positions her to enhance the client experience, reflecting her warmth and care.
Training Program Manager

Jessica Stadler

Jessica Stadler brings a wealth of experience and a deep passion for service dogs to her role as Training Program Manager at Retrieving Independence. Joining us in 2024 with a Bachelor's degree in Animal Science from the University of Georgia and a Master's in Nonprofit Leadership & Management, Jessica has already dedicated 11 years to working with service dogs, raising 5 dogs on her own. Jessica's expertise, dedication to our mission, and extensive background make her an invaluable asset to our team.
Shelly Steele
Director of Counseling & Research

Shelly Steel

Meet Shelly Steel, our Compassionate Counselor and Director of Counseling & Research, who joined our team in 2019. Shelly brings psychological expertise to enrich our inmate training programs, fostering meaningful connections between humans and canines, a true reflection of her dedication and empathy.
Director of Marketing & Communications

Michaela Ping

Michaela, our Director of Marketing and Communications, joined our team in 2023. With her creative vision and strategic approach, Michaela plays a key role in spreading our message of love, dignity, and change.

We mourn the loss of our beloved Founder and Director Emeritus, Brenda Dew, who passed away in December 2023. Brenda, a fierce spirit and visionary, founded our organization in 2012, instilling in us her invaluable “Brenda-isms” and a commitment to our core values of Love, Dignity, and Change.

Her inspiring leadership and dedication have left an indelible mark on our organization and the countless lives touched by her compassion, serving as a beacon of inspiration for all who knew her.

In recognition of her enduring impact, Brenda will forever hold the title of Director Emeritus, remaining an integral part of our organization’s history and identity. Though she is no longer with us in person, her spirit lives on in the work we do every day, inspiring us to make a difference in the world.

Dr. Brenda Dew

Dr. Brenda Dew

Founder & Director Emeritus

Retrieving Independence Board

Board Members

Rod Thurley

Board Chair

Owner/Founder | RT Counsulting

Jim Murphy

Vice Chair

Retired/Community Volunteer

Chris Dooney

Chris Dooney, CPA


Healthcare Financial Executive | UHS

Kayte Bittorie


Director of Firm Administration | LBMC

George Scoville

Board Member

Commercial Litigation Associate | SIMS | FUNK

Scott Morgan

Board Member

Managing Director | Office Works, Inc.

Dan Craft

Dan Craft

Board Member

Retired/Community Volunteer