Our Team

Dogtastically Happy Guarantee

Our Leadership Team

Since 2011, partners Craig Pollack and James Woller have built a skilled and strong leadership team whose passion for petcare and business leadership has positioned Release the Hounds as the pet services industry leader.

Craig Pollack

Co-Owner and President

Craig is a results-driven senior executive with substantive experience building and leading high performance companies.

He attributes his success to being an honest communicator who leads by example, and strives to continually build dynamic teams that have a desire to serve and delight clients.

Combining his previous experiences which included brand management at Proctor and Gamble Inc. and CEO skills from Race Face Performance Products, Craig is responsible for championing the strategic development of Release the Hounds. He is also actively involved in developing the company’s brand identity and culture, as well as for our sister pet-services company, Jet Pet Resort.

In addition, Craig has sat on the board of a number of companies, currently focusing on the not-for-profit Global Women organization. In his spare time, Craig enjoys a multitude of outdoor activities and spending time with his family including his very active, and often entertaining, three boys.

James Woller

Co-Owner and VP Business Development

James is a committed, high-integrity, results-producing professional with experience working in positions that have required organizational leadership, impact and the ability to work through strategic issues.

A critical thinker and strategic planner able to anticipate scope complexity and challenges, James has proven results of moving an organization forward. A collaborator and networker who is able to work internationally and cross-culturally, he is adept at identifying solutions and exhibits visionary leadership.

At an early age James’ entrepreneurial spirit was evident as he built a substantial landscaping company in Kansas City–all while still in high school. He transitioned into not-for-profit and was part of the founding team for Vancouver’s Bulembu International, a sustainable community development project in Swaziland. Within a few years, the project was identified by BC Business as an industry leader in branding/marketing and a model for communities seeking economic sustainability. In 2008, James co-authored a business book called “The Skill” which leads readers to increase their adaptability for better performance.

James joined the Release the Hounds team in 2011 and has been an integral part in expanding its ability to provide professional service to a greater number of customers.

James studied International Affairs and Economic Development at Trinity Western University. He loves spending time with his wife Rose, children and friends, is an avid tennis player and enjoys reading and traveling in his spare time.

Chris Chidley

Director of Operations

Chris is a born Vancouverite and has embraced everything that stands for: nature at its best.

Along with his love of nature comes a deep love of dogs. Not a day has gone by that there hasn’t been a dog in his life, and as the saying goes; they truly are a man’s best friend. When the opportunity arose for Chris to combine his two biggest loves, he jumped at the chance to work for Release the Hounds in the hopes of turning working with dogs into a career.

Chris has been with Release the Hounds since 2012, and his wish has come true. As Release the Hounds continues to grow and expand, Chris has stepped into a leadership role as Operations Manager. The Team Leader for the Dog Walking team, Chris organizes their logistics, as well as manages Customer Care and scheduling. He maintains the fleet and is excited about all of the growth at Release the Hounds with their incredible staff education and care programs, as well as their positive impact on the industry.

Annika McDade

Canine Behaviour Specialist

Owner of Canine Connection Training, Annika McDade is a multi-certified Professional Dog Trainer.

Her diverse, animal-centric background includes working in a shelter environment assessing aggressive dogs at the city pound, to training wolves in Mongolia and Great Pyrenees in the French Alps for films.

Her inspiring ability to connect with animals has made her a strong presence in Vancouver’s Dog Training industry. Annika offers a variety of services including group classes, one-on-one specialized consultations, behaviour assessments and training plans, and walk-n-train programs.

Kevin Orr

Vancouver Team Leader

Growing up in rural Ontario on and around farming areas helped foster a love of the natural world for Kevin, and having dogs just enhanced the experience.

Working with domesticated animals also led to a fascination with more exotic wildlife. He worked for 2 different zoological facilities in Ontario encountering a variety of fauna ranging from Nile Crocodiles and 5 metre Pythons to Wildcats and Birds of prey while educating people about them. Moving to BC in 2015 meant big changes and with Release the hounds he is able to continue with his love of animals and nature while exploring temperate rainforest with some amazing critters, Dogs!

Mariana Azevedo

Care Team

With a bachelors degree in marketing Mariana is excited to combine her passion for sales with a love for dogs.

Living in a city of millions of people in Brazil, her dad would encourage her and her family to escape to the tranquility of the family farm. This is where her passion for animals began. Though her dream was to become a veterinarian, she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing animals hurting and in pain. She always had a family dog, and the love that she has for her adopted pup Rolo has attracted her more to their needs and special care. Her positive attitude and love for helping people and their pups is infectious, and she is ecstatic to join the team at Release the Hounds.

Olga Burtsailo

Administration

Olga has a passion for business and loves being part of a thriving and engaging team.

She has been with the Release the Hounds team since 2015, and is a passionate, dog loving, client care team member. She finds great satisfaction in detailed organization and works hard to achieve it.

Olga lives in Ukraine and has a Masters degree in Civil and Industrial Engineering. As she found her real pleasure in helping people and businesses grow in day-to-day operations, she started her own business in 2015 and has since been busy building her own team of people with the same life philosophy. She has loved being part of the RTH team part-time, and her love of dogs shines through!

Our Walking Team

We hire dog loving professionals that uphold the Release the Hounds ‘golden standard’ of pet care.

Our team undergoes a highly competitive vetting process that includes an in-depth application process, rigorous interviews, job shadow and certification through DogForceU. Each team member is bonded, insured, and continually learning and refreshing their knowledge with DogForceU to stay on top of pet care advancements.

Maryam Noor

Maryam was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to BC when she was 6. When she was 19, she was given her first dog, Bella and then three years later she added another pup to her family. It wasn’t until she had Bella that she discovered her intense love for dogs.

Maryam went to BCIT for Marketing Management, however working with dogs has become her true calling. Over the past 5 years she has worked at grooming salons, dog daycares, and boarding facilities. Her experience has allowed her to handle dogs from all walks of life, including dogs dealing with anxiety and aggression.

In her spare time, she loves to read novels (specifically fantasy), listen to music, paint, and hang out with her two lovely dogs!

Michaela Smith

Michaela grew up in BC spending most of her time running through the woods with her Golden Retriever Chelsea or playing piano. Instead of babysitting like her sisters, she was a pet sitter and cared for her mother’s friends German Shepard/Chow Chow. After injuring her hand and realizing that playing piano for a living would no longer be possible, she was encouraged by family to look into dog walking. Agreeing that it would be a good idea, she found a job and quickly realized that walking dogs was one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences she’s ever had. She loves exploring the woods with her dogs and having all kinds of adventures. A tired dog is a happy dog! Now Michaela lives in Vancouver with her 3 year old Pug Zero. She still plays piano, but her life has become much more centered around animals. She enjoys relaxing in the sun, Chopin playing in the background, a good book in hand, and Zero snoozing away in her lap.

Kathleen O’Halloran

Kathleen was born and raised in the lower mainland, and spent summers at her family cabin in the Cariboo. She has always surrounded herself with as many animals as possible by participating in equestrian sports, pet sitting, and working at horse stables with her dogs, Clancy and Josie in tow.

Kathleen recently returned from backpacking through Europe, and now she and Josie are excited to start their next adventure with Release the Hounds in Surrey.

Paige Downton

Paige grew up in the small town of Bowmanville Ontario, where her passion for animals started to grow! She took in many stray cats over the years, and eventually added her chocolate lab Tucker to the family.

After moving to Toronto and pursuing a decade long career in the service industry, it was time for change. Working a few seasons away from home in Jasper Alberta helped her make the  decision to leave and relocate to the west coast. Release the Hounds was the perfect place for her to turn her passions for animals, and the outdoors into a career.  In her spare time she enjoys exploring BC’s beautiful back country, cooking/eating, and crafting with her cat Sonny.

Karina Okazaki

Born and raised in Brazil, Karina moved to Vancouver in 2015. She has always loved animals and had all sorts of pets like bunnies, fishes, turtles and dogs. After graduating from Law School, she realized that caring for dogs and connecting to nature was her true calling in life. In 2014, she started her own dog walking business in her hometown, where she fell in love with the career. After dogs, her interests are dancing and keeping a healthy diet (including her dogs’). She is excited to be working at Release the Hounds and being part of the team!

Debbie Lewis

Debbie is from Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Canada in 2015. After travelling the length of Canada and living for 3 months in Golden, B.C. she arrived in Vancouver in 2016. Originally here for just 2 years she loves the west coast so much she has decided to stay.

Debbie has trained as, and worked as a florist for over 5 years. She recently decided to change her career and fulfill her ambition of working with animals and in the great outdoors.

Having been born on the doorstep of the Scottish highlands Debbie has always been an avid hiker and loves nothing more than putting on her waterproofs and going for a walk in the rain. She also loves animals having kept horses when she was younger and looked after her beloved toy poodle, Bruce, who was only ever allowed to sleep on her bed.

She longs for the day she can finally persuade her boyfriend to get her own wee dog but she’s delighted that she can now spend all her days working with yours.

Paul Duchart

Paul was born in Toronto and came to Vancouver as a child. Raised with 2 dogs and 2 cats in the household, animals were always around. Most recently his best friend was an 18 year old lovebird named Pesto. Paul has a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa and can also be seen as an actor on locally shot film and television shows. You can also read his monthly column in BCBusiness Magazine photographing the best parties, galas and events in Vancouver. In his spare time he is a cameraman with The Travel Guys TV show and has travelled to more than 20 countries including Norway, Japan, Australia, China, Malaysia, Ireland, England and a visit to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. He has 6 years experience as a dog walker/cat sitter in the past and came back to the industry because he missed his furry friends and is now excited to work with Release the Hounds.

Cynthia Chao

Cynthia was born in Taiwan, raised in Coquitlam, and studied at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island before moving back to the Lower Mainland. She grew up with an energetic and silly Jack Russel terrier named Roscoe and misses him dearly. Cynthia joined the industry as a freelance dogwalker/sitter while finishing up school as a way to spend more time with dogs while living in no-pet rentals and hasn’t looked back since. She loves nothing more than exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest with adventurous dogs. She is very excited to get to know your fluffy family and share her love of dogs with them.

Saif Asad

Saif was born in northern Pakistan and moved to Burnaby in 2002 at the age of 7. Growing up in Canada he spent most of his time playing sports, mostly hockey. He is a big Canucks fan and loves watching soccer! He spent two years studying marine sciences at Capilano University. In his spare time he enjoys going on road trips exploring all the wonders that British Columbia has to offer. He has been working with dogs professionally for the past year and a half and loves every day of it! He grew up with dogs and cats in his family and has always loved animals big and small so working with them comes naturally to him!

Nash Swark

Nash was born in Thunder Bay Ontario and grew up in Manitoba where he was constantly around animals. While in Manitoba he enjoyed playing with the family dog, Hope, a four year old German Shepard, as she was very energetic and needed lots of attention. Nash would spend any extra time by playing fetch in the backyard, taking her on long walks, or riding along side her on his skateboard. In 2017 Nash received a scholarship to attend Nimbus School or Recording Arts and decided to move out west to Vancouver. After a full year of pursuing music Nash is excited to be a part of the team at Release the Hounds. It’s an amazing way for Nash to combine his love of animals and outdoor exercise all in one place.

Alison Muller

Alison was born and raised in Vancouver, and has always loved animals. Growing up she had a cat, rode horses, and when she was 16 her family finally got a dog – a springer spaniel named Tynan. She has been a dog person ever since!

After working as a paralegal and dog walking/sitting on the side, Alison decided to take a break from the office and try working with dogs full time. Over a year and a half later she loves it so much she can’t imagine doing anything else! She started working for a smaller company in East Vancouver, and benefitted greatly from working with two dog trainers who taught her all about working with dogs, including dogs dealing with anxiety and aggression. That company was recently acquired by Release the Hounds, and she is excited to be joining the RTH team!

Sean Hemmaway

Sean was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up on a farm outside Kingston. As a child he always had animals, insects, fish, reptiles and birds and love for all creatures! On the farm Sean had several dogs growing up including Duke and he remembers the adventures they would go on and how much joy it brought him.

Sean comes from a background of Exotic Animal Education programs for 10 years having worked at a Zoo. He decided to move to the west coast to experience something new and when he found out about the Release the Hounds he didn’t hesitate to apply so he could continue his love of working with animals.

Celine Strider

Celine was raised and grown primarily in Vancouver, with just her parents and her in the big city. After years of asking and begging, she brought home her first dog, Angel the Shih Tzu, who was her first love and introduction to pet care. She has always been a dog person, and appreciates their loyalty and unconditional love; her desire to work with animals inspired her to start her journey in animal care by becoming a veterinary assistant.

While rewarding, she still wanted to learn more in different aspects of pet care; so she moved on to a boarding and grooming facility, in which she received plenty of canine behavioral knowledge via hands on training and formal lessons from her mentor.

With the beautiful nature trails of BC’s lush forests, and the loving companions she’s able to work with, dog walking became a newfound passion for her, and she aims to bring good energy on every step, walk, and hike through and through.

In her spare time, Celine enjoys video games, comics, and tussling with Morty, her frenchie companion.

Adam Edmond

Adam was born and raised in rural England and after travelling the world, has recently made Vancouver home. He has previously lived in Whistler and other mountain resorts and has a passion for hiking, the outdoors and of course, dogs! He has grown up with nearly every family member having a dog and has had a dog by his side since birth. His current family dog back in the UK is a German Shepherd fluff ball called Nellie, she is young and full of energy so Adam is more than ready to give your dogs a great time. Adam is also into photography so keep your eyes on our Instagram page for photos of our pups!

Private Walkers

Lesley Levett

Lesley grew up in Vancouver with her lab/setter cross named Lady. She loved being outdoors in the woods and on the beaches of our city. Some of her best experiences were camping, fishing and beach combing. She has a great love for dogs and their unconditional loyalty. Lesley believes there is nothing better than a couple of dogs to act as your blanket and hot-water-bottle when you are sick in bed. Their therapeutic healing quality is like none other. When in the trails, she is ‘that person’ who stops to talk to and greet the dogs she meets along the way. She spent the last 40+ years sitting behind a desk and is now excited to get back to the outdoors with pups.

Rielle Wiebe

Rielle was born and raised on a farm in Manitoba, and from as young as she can remember she has been surrounded with animals big and small. During her years on the farm and since relocating to Vancouver she has found a real passion for all things Canadian: hockey, maple syrup… you know the rest – and, of course, DOGS, especially dogs! She looks forward to pursuing her career in a fun, outdoor environment while playing and caring for your dogs!

“Be the person your dog thinks you are 🐾”

Erik Ross

Erik is originally from Chicago, Illinois and has loved dogs since he was a kid. While growing up he always had a dog until he recently moved into an apartment with no dogs allowed. So to help fill the void, he decided to take on dog walking! It combines his love for dogs as well as his love for nature, and if you ask Erik he’ll tell you he has one pretty cool job. He can’t wait to meet your furry four legged friend!

Alana Williams

Alana was born and raised in Hope, BC, but has called Vancouver her home since 2009.  Alana grew up an animal lover and her first “children” were Bailey and Casey, two adorable Chihuahuas pups!

Alana has an interesting background of ECE training, Massage Therapy training and extensive experience working in sales, but she decided to put that all behind her to focus on a more fulfilling adventure working with animals!

She’s very excited to get to know your cherished pets and truly understands how animals are such an integral part of a family!

Sandy Nielsen

Sandy was born in Vancouver in the 50’s and has been in the lower mainland all her life. She had a habit of always taking the runt of the litter and keeping it for her own. Dogs have always been a part of her life; She currently has a 2 legged chihuahua that she rescued last summer after she lost her beautiful boy Sidney at 15 1/2 years of age.

Employed in the film industry from 1986 to 2014, Sandy sometimes cast commercials with dogs as the stars. She has house-sat, dog walked, fostered, raised funds for galas, and volunteered for decades in dog and cat rescue and recently, 2 years in bird rescue.

Sandy has a great compassion for creatures of all kinds – she even used to build forts and homes for everything from transient snails (they never stayed long) to bugs or whatever showed up near her home. Her heart has always been for animals and she can’t think of a better day than spending it with them. Sandy treats all dogs as if they were her own – and she is open to slobbery kisses cuddles hugs and big doggie-eyed love! “You simply can’t have a bad day when you spend it with dogs”.

Tony Tremblay

Tony is a born and raised Albertan who moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in film while following his dreams of playing professional lacrosse. Recently, he realized a career in film did not fit his lifestyle or passions and has decided to work in a job that he finds rewarding and meaningful to make money towards tuition to study teaching.
Tony has always had a love of dogs and though his family wasn’t able to have dogs due to allergies, he has had numerous opportunities in dog sitting and walking. Always considering himself a dog person, Tony had his first dog training lessons while working on his cousins ranch in Nanton, Alberta and has consistently built strong, loving relationships with dogs of all natures. He’s very excited to build more relationships with your pups.