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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

C-P.A.W.W. Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors

Health Research Initiative for Veterans

​Welcome to C-P.A.W.W., Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors: a Health Research Initiative for Veterans in the College of Nursing, University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus. The C-P.A.W.W. initiative was established in October 2013 to advance the health and well-being of members of the armed forces. At C-P.A.W.W., we are committed to the evolution of nursing knowledge within the context of research, education and practice in order to better assist the military population. We invite you to explore our site, which is aimed at advancing the standards of care for our military veterans in our region and beyond. 



The mission of C-P.A.W.W. is to advance interdisciplinary research, education and practice protocols for wounded warriors and veterans through the development of evidence-based and restorative interventions, to support military-related health initiatives by building community partnerships, to investigate therapeutic interventions that positively influence health outcomes and to emphasize system planning and protocols of care development for the armed forces.


C-P.A.W.W. joins with community partners who provide support for our military, advance evidence-based practice protocols in military-related clinical settings and promote the delivery of culturally-congruent and competent care for the military members.

​The C-P.A.W.W. Team



Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, PhD, RN (Director)  


Dr. Krause-Parello is currently researching canine interaction as a stress-reducing mechanism in the wounded warrior and veteran populations. She began her research in the field of animal-assisted intervention during her doctoral studies. Her academic advisor told her that she needed to find a topic about which she was passionate in order to construct a successful dissertation. While lying out in the sun, looking down at her beloved dachshund, Samantha, she thought, “You are the one who is going to get me through my PhD program.”


Dr. Krause-Parello’s program of research was inspired by her husband, a Marine Veteran. She wanted to give back, and states that she was “too old to serve,” so she decided to build upon her passion for canines and her research experience as a nurse scientist.


She believes that these projects represent a small token of her gratitude and are a way to give back to the military community who has sacrificed for our freedom. Dr. Krause-Parello is expanding her research in the Denver area with community partners that support the mission of C-P.A.W.W. To read more, click the link above to view her faculty page.

Sarah Sarni, BA (PRA)


Pictured: Sarah and her dog, Staley 


Sarah received her BA in psychology, and her first professional position was working as a research coordinator. After spending eight years in the pharmaceutical industry, Sarah decided to pursue her passion for medical science and enrolled in the BSN program at the University of Colorado College of Nursing. Sarah has a strong interest in research and immediately sought involvement via the Office of Research and Scholarship. As a lifelong animal lover with a background in psychology, a position with C-P.A.W.W. was an ideal fit.


“I feel tremendously fortunate to be a part of such an elite institution that values research to this degree. I am very excited to be a part of the C-P.A.W.W. team. We are working on novel, powerful initiatives and Dr. Krause-Parello is a dynamic, dedicated researcher who constantly inspires and challenges us to do our best.”


In her spare time, Sarah enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains and spending time with her husband, young daughter, German Shepherd-Husky mix, and two grumpy, old cats. Sarah plans on continuing her education beyond her BSN and is interested in oncology, autoimmunity, and the effects of nutrition on disease prevention.



Nora Mund, USMC Veteran (RA)


Pictured: Nora and her dog, Freyja


Nora is a Colorado native currently pursuing a degree in Psychology at the University of Colorado at Denver. She is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who served in Afghanistan as a Female Engagement Team member. While she was a part of the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, in Camp Pendleton, California, she had the opportunity to volunteer for an organization called FreedomDogs based in Southern California, she learned the importance of service dogs on rehabilitation of service members suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries. Nora also has experience in training service dogs and is pursuing certification.

Nora spends her free time in the outdoors and enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, and has a goal to hike all of the 14ers in Colorado. When she first saw the posting of the C-PAWW program through the Veterans Student Organization, she immediately desired to be apart of the team and have the opportunity to learn more about the goals and aims of the program. 


Kristie Morales (RA)

Pictured: Kristie and her dog, Mufasa


Kristie is currently pursuing her BA in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology, at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU). She is

beginning her senior year and plans to apply to clinical PhD programs next fall.


Kristie developed a strong research interest in human-animal interactions through the mentoring of a professor at MSU. She has always been an animal lover and advocate, but it was through this research that she became a proponent of the healing power of animals and the human-animal bond. After learning about C-P.A.W.W., she knew she wanted to get involved with this organization because it stands for everything about which she feels passionate.


Kristie hopes to continue researching human-animal interactions, and believes in an integrative therapeutic approach to mental health; she plans to incorporate animal-assisted therapy into her treatment protocol. "I'm very excited, and feel extremely fortunate to work with Dr. Krause-Parello and the C-P.A.W.W. team. I feel strongly that canines can provide psychosocial support and greatly help individuals achieve therapeutic gains."

cpaww.jpgAngela Miller, US Army Retired (RA)


Angela is a Colorado native perusing her degree in Psychology hoping to apply to the PhD program after she graduates focusing on the traumatic aspects of Psychology. She is a retired United States Army Veteran of 20 years serving as a medic during her career. She served one 14 month tour in Iraq 2003-2004 during the initial invasion of Iraq.

Angela currently has two dogs that assist her, Bonne and Clyde. Clyde is her therapy dog and Bonne is her service dog who goes everywhere with her. After receiving her service dog Angela was intrigued to peruse training service dogs for fellow Veterans and is currently seeking her certification. 

Angela was first introduced and became interested in the cause of C-P.A.W.W. through fellow veteran and C-P.A.W.W. team member. In her spare time Angela enjoys the outdoors hiking, camping, fishing, watching wild life, playing with her dogs, volunteering and church.



cpaww.jpgHeidi Baldwin-Kirchhoff, BA (PRA)

Heidi received her BA in psychology from Metropolitan State University of Denver. During her undergraduate work she discovered a passion for research and gained insight into the mechanisms that make up human resilience. After graduation, Heidi sought to continue researching what therapies increase the human ability to overcome adversity. As a researcher interested in integrated therapies and an ardent animal lover, a position with C-P.A.W.W. was a perfect fit.
“C-P.A.W.W. is such an important program and the human-animal bond functions as a powerful intervention that greatly benefits our returning warriors. I am extremely excited to work with Dr. Krause-Parello and feel great gratitude to be working at such an esteemed institution that stresses the importance of research.”
Heidi spends her free time expanding her horticulture and aquaponics knowledge and enjoys going on long walks with her husband and Giant Schnauzer, Maximus. Heidi expects to continue her education and is intent on earning her PhD in Clinical Health at University of Colorado Denver.


cpaww.jpgEleni Padden (PRA)

Eleni recently received her BA in cognitive science, psychology, and creative writing from Johns Hopkins University, and joined the C-P.A.W.W. team as a professional research assistant this summer. During her career as an undergrad, she worked on various psychological research projects at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory lab at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute. However, it was actually one of her writing classes that truly drew her in to the study of trauma, and ever since, she has been deeply interested in researching the intersection of psychology and art. She is passionate about investigating the biological and cognitive connections between art (especially music), memory, and trauma, and believes strongly in studying all possible methods of trauma treatment. 
She has been a dog lover probably since before she was even born, and by working at C-P.A.W.W. she hopes to help shed some empirical light upon the specific ways in which dogs can truly provide quantifiable, invaluable psychological aid to human beings. Ultimately, she plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology in a couple of years and maybe also open a pizza parlor-bookstore. If she isn't doing work stuff, she is probably either listening to music too loudly, canoeing, backpacking, sitting very happily at the natural history museum, or adding copious amounts of Sriracha to any and all food items. 

Our Dogs and Handlers





Lulu is an Indirect Psychiatric Service dog who assists her handler, Gillian Wilschke, in her work with student veterans in need of mental health services. She is a black Labrador Retriever.


 Pictured: Lulu and handler, Gillian "Jill" Wilschke, LMFT




Butler is the canine member of C-P.A.W.W.’s Professional Clinician-Canine Team (PCCT). Butler specializes in the reduction of stress and trauma in children. He is a yellow Labrador Retriever.


 Pictured: Butler and handler, Dr. Kate Trujillo






Waffle works with the palliative care team as a facility dog at the Denver VA to bring comfort and support to veterans and their families. She is a Labrador/Golden Retriever Cross.


Pictured: Waffle and handler, Dr. Elizabeth Holman




Pecos is an expertly trained facility canine at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters Child Advocacy Center in Norfolk, VA. He works with children of alleged sexual abuse during the forensic interview process. He is a Labrador/Golden Retriever Cross.


Pictured: Pecos and handler, Forensic Interviewer Michele Thames


The C-P.A.W.W. team is committed to bringing together community resources that support our military. We are partnered with:

Paws and Stripes

Paws and Stripes Logo.png

"Paws and Stripes is a nonprofit organization providing service dogs for wounded military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury through integrating service dog training and education with mental health support. We help veterans so they can live the full and rich lives they deserve." -Paws and Stripes

Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars

"Established 1914, members of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars set out to serve the veterans of this country and our communities in honor of the sacrifices and commitment of every man and woman who has served in uniform. We have unwavering support for uncommon heroes." -Ladies Auxiliary VFW

The Colorado Correctional Industries, Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program


"The Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI), Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program (PTKCP) is a program which provides the outside community with pre-trained dogs. Dogs graduating from the program fill many roles: everything from a wonderfully trained basic family pet, to a nursing home dog, to very sophisticated assistance dogs whihc perform a variety of tasks for their masters." -

Lindhunde Dog Training
Lindhunde Dog Training.jpg
​"Kathy Haley began Lindhunde Dog Training to help Veterans and others find and train their service dogs and to help people train their dogs, whether for competition or to be family pets." Lindhunde Dog Training

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- Colorado

​"The Colorado Chapter of [American Foundation for Suicide Prevention] AFSP was chartered in June 2012. The Chapter serves Colorado by bringing suicide prevention [...], awareness programs and survivor support initiatives to communities across the state. " -AFSP- Colorado​

Freedom Service D​ogs

Freedom Service Dogs Logo.jpg

​"Freedom Service Dogs is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by rescuing dogs and custom training them for individual client needs. We provide lifetime support to our client-dog partners and we need your help to continue our mission." -Freedom Service Dogs

CU Denver Office of Veteran Student Services

Screen shot 2014-03-11 at 3.16.45 PM.png"With the newly-created program, CU Denver Boots to Suits [...aims] to assist highly trained and educated veterans as they move from the classroom to a career." -Boots to Suits


Pets for Vets

pets for vets.jpg
"The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance to shelter pets by rescuing, training, and pairing them with America's veterans who could benefit from a companion animal." -Pets for Vets

Find out more about Pets for Vets' inspirational message in this video 



Warrior Canine Connection 

"Where Service Members and Veterans with combat stress take on the critical mission of training service dogs for fellow Wounded Warriors." -Warrior Canine Connection


Wings and Warriors 

Wings and Warriors.jpg

 “Wings and Warriors mission is to provide highly trained service dogs 

to assist and enhance the quality of life for those 
afflicted with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 
and TBI (traumatic brain injury)”. - Wings and Warriors

​Military-Focused AAI Research

Veterans and Service Dogs: An in Depth Exploration on Restoring Independence

The C-P.A.W.W. team is currently recruiting subjects for a research project. If you are a military veteran, between the ages of 18-89, and own a service dog, please contact us about participating in our study. For more information:Participation Flyer.pdfParticipation Flyer.pdf

Stakeholder-driven Veteran's Suicide Protection Advisory Group

Exciting news! PCORI has approved funding for our project. The PCORI Pipeline to Proposal Awards have been created to help build the community and capacity necessary to later develop a patient-centered comparative effectiveness research project. We are very pleased that the Veteran’s Suicide Advisory Group had received this support. View our study here.

Canine Visitation and Hospitalized Older Veterans: An Innovative Approach to Impacting Stress Indicators

This study investigates the effects of canine interaction on stress responses (salivary cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase, immunoglobulin A, blood pressure, and heart rate) in senior veterans receiving palliative care at the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System in Denver, CO.

Working Dogs for Wounded Warriors: Understanding Patient Stress in Aeromedical Evacuation and the Impact of Animal Assisted Intervention

Dr. Krause-Parello is the associate investigator of this study investigating the biobehavioral and psychobiologic interface among animal-assisted intervention and stress indicators, salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase, and IgA, as well as blood pressure and pulse, in wounded warriors undergoing aeromedical evacuation from Ramstein, Germany to the Aeromedical Staging Facility at Andrews Air Force Base.

AAI Research

Dr. Krause-Parello has many AAI initiatives. Below are some of her funded projects involving AAI: 

Behavioral and Psychobiologic Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Traumatic Stress Disorder in Child Survivors of Sexual Abuse 

Dr. Krause-Parello is the principal investigator of this study dealing with canine companionship for children who have suffered from sexual abuse. 

The Effects of Canines Visitation on Older Adults and their Caregivers Living in the Community

This study examined the effect of pet visitation on blood pressure and pulse in older adults and their caregivers with Dr. Krause-Parello as principal investigator.

Measuring Cortisol and Immunoglobulin A in Human Saliva

As principal investigator, Dr. Krause-Parello aimed to examine the relationship among stress, pet interaction, and health (using in vivo and in vitro measurements).

Relationships Among Loneliness, Human Social Support, Pet Attachment Support, and Subjective Well-being in Older Adults

The goal of this project was to study the relationships among loneliness, social support, pet attachment support, and subjective well-being in older adults. Dr. Krause-Parello was the principal investigator.


This program of research is dedicated to Dr. Krause-Parello's dachshund, Samantha who has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.



Animal-assisted intervention (AAI) is an interesting and innovative approach to well-being and health across the lifespan. Below are some samples  of the media attention Dr. Krause-Parello’s work has received.

KEZW Radio Dr. Krause-Parello was interviewed on radio station, KEZW, on April 29, 2015. On the program, she speaks about the development of the C-P.A.W.W. initiative and future steps to be taken. You can listen to the entire segment on Soundcloud​.

7News Den​verColorado researcher hopes to change face of veteran care with service dogs

"'Twenty-two vets a day are dying by suicide,' said Parello. 'They can't wait two years for a service dog.'"

CU Connections
CU Anschutz Researcher Examining Impact of Service Dogs on Returning Vets

"'Through the C-P.A.W.W. program, veterans are reporting that they are more empowered to speak about their own experiences and advocate for their own health needs. With this knowledge, we hope to pair more service animals with more veterans, and ultimately, change the face of veteran care and public policy.'"

Rutgers Magazine:​ Sit, Stay, Heal

"'It's that reciprocal relationship and that unconditional love and commitment,' says Krause-Parello, a lifelong dog owner. 'If there's stress of something upsetting or something happy, they;re right there by your side, always looking out for you and having your back.'"

Cat Fancy: Feline Comfort- Evidence Suggests that Cats Can Help People Cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.pdfFeline Comfort- Evidence Suggests that Cats Can Help People Cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.pdf

"[Dogs] can be trained much more quickly, but [research assistant, Nora Mund] says there's no reason why other pets, including cats, would not be great companions, because the 'unconditional love' factor is huge when it comes to anxiety, depression and loneliness."

Rutgers Spotlight: Helping Wounded Warriors through Research and Action

"[Dr. Krause-Parello] has expanded her research to examine the relationship between human-animal interaction and stress biomarkers in vulnerable populations including military veterans and children of alleged sexual abuse."​

CU Newsroom: A Veteran's Best Friend

The C-P.A.W.W. team and partner, Jill Wilschke, were recently featured in the Top 10 stories of 2014 by the CU Newsroom!​ Greetings from ISAZ and IAHAIO 2014

Dr. Krause-Parello was recently written up in a Swedish blog post about her presentation at the 2014 ISAZ conference. The blog post is in Swedish, but google translate can put the post into English.

Imprint- The Professional Magazine for Student Nurses: ComPAWWsionate Care: Sarni Combines Nursing School with Research

"For Sarah, being involved with C-P.A.W.W. is more than just a nursing school endeavor. It is her way of giving back to military families and the country... 'We really have a lot to do. It's not just the canine aspect. It's a veterans' health initiative.'"

2014 ANA National Awards Ceremony Highlight Video​

Dr. Krause-Parello was recognized by the American Nurses Association for her work. The above link takes you to the point in the ANA video where Dr. Krause-Parello is highlighted.

CU ConnectionsFive questions for Cheryl Krause-Parello

"Her dissertation examined how companion animals (dogs and cats) affected loneliness, social support and well-being in older adults. Over the past five years, Krause-Parello expanded her research to include 'human-animal interaction and stress biomarkers in vulnerable populations including military veterans and children of alleged sexual abuse.' Long-term, Krause-Parello hopes to find ways to use canines to moderate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on returning active-duty military members and veterans."​

American Nurses Association New York: Nurses’ Convention Keynote Promotes Importance of Service Dogs.pdfNurses’ Convention Keynote Promotes Importance of Service Dogs.pdf

"Krause-Parello has worked widely in the field of animal/human interaction and is currently focused on research that measures the effect of service dogs on stress markers in veterans seeking palliative care. 'Many people enjoy relationships with pets, but with service animals we believe they can have a significant impact on improving care for veterans in the hospital and in their lives' Krause-Parello said. 'We are continuing to develop the evidence that service dogs are an effective intervention with the goal of getting service animals to more veterans.'"

CU Newsroom: Cheryl Krause-Parello: Recognized nationally by nursing colleagues


"Krause-Parello is widely known for improving the health of wounded warriors through animal-assisted interventions. She has built a portfolio of scholarship and advanced research measuring psychobiological outcomes of animal interaction among military veterans, culminating in October 2013 when she founded C-P.A.W.W. [...] Through this program, she has created a network of veterans' organizations and health care facilities to partner in her research and, based on her findings, to implement animal-assisted interaction to improve military health."

The American NurseHer innovative projects to improve health of veterans, wounded warriors.pdf

"Then as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continued [...] I wanted to do something to give back, especially to those who sacrificed so much for our freedom. I expanded my research to see if animal-assisted interventions can improve the health of military veterans. I'm really trying to build the science around the therapeutic use of animals, because once that happens, we can change public policy and make it an evidence-based, reimbursable treatment."

Pets in the City MagazineHelping Our Heroes: Can Dogs Aid Returned Veterans?

"'Plenty of anecdotal evidence indicates that dogs help. Dogs are nonjudgmental and supremely compassionate,' says [Research Assistant, Jessica] Grey. 'The goals of the research are to provide objective data that indicate how canines relieve stress and to find the cases in which canines can be a reliable source of stress relief. Ultimately, we hope the data will make it easier for those need this kind of assistance to get it.'" (pg 16-17)

CU Connections: Man's best friend may actually help heal

"Animals have been serving humans for thousands of years, but scientific research indicates that they may also play a key role in healing, especially for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Imagine hearing this from your provider: 'Play with your dog for two hours and call me in the morning.' Research by Associate Professor Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, PhD, RN, may lead to just that."

Orange County Register: Keeping stress on a leash

"There is evidence that interacting with and owning an animal can decrease certain stress markers. But there has not been much research about the effects of service dogs in improving the mental health of veterans with PTSD, nor enough research to define what a service dog is versus a companion dog, said Cheryl Krause-Parello, an associate professor in nursing at the University of Colorado."

ReadTheSpirit Online Magazine: Dogs, Bees and Us: Does "Lassie" reduce stress?

"If a lab analyzes your saliva for stress biomarkers, you'll find that they have fallen after watching the canine clip. Watching Lassie reduces stress. That's the conclusion of research conducted by Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, currently an associate professor at the University of Colorado [Denver] College of Nursing and Director of Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors- C-P.A.W.W."


Waffle.Cheryl.CU  239 x 248.jpg

University of Colorado Denver: A Veteran's Best Friend: Therapy and research with dogs help returning service members

"'Our instincts tell us that animals make a difference, that they have an effect on people they visit,' Krause-Parello said. 'But it's not enough to just say it happens. You need research and you need to measure the difference animals make.'"


USA Weekend:
Why pets are good for us

"In recent years, research has demonstrated the healthful benefits of pets. Now, investigators are trying to figure out why pets are good for us. Krause-Parello, assistant professor and director of the Center for Nursing Research at Kean University in Union, N.J., learned that people feel better after watching a Lassie flick because their levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, take a free fall."





Living Media: People On The Move: Cheryl A. Krause-Parello

"Their innovative two-year study, commencing at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD this summer, will explore how  animal-assisted therapy may reduce the stress biomarkers present in saliva, such as cortisol and immunoglobulin A (IgA), in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and combat-related traumatic brain injury. 'We will be looking to see if their stress indicators reduce, if blood  pressure falls, if they look forward to the dog coming, and if there’s a lasting effect from the canine visitation. We will take the physiologic  measurements before, after and 30 minutes after the canine’s visit, and compare the results to routine care. This is an investigation to see where  this type of research can lead to,' Dr. Krause-Parello says."

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