About Canine Companions USA

A little bit about Canine Companions USA, the organization and the people who make it work…


Robert Tucker

Robert Trucker - Master Trainer

President CEO, Canine Companions USA
President and Master Trainer K9 Connection

Over 30 years of experience training and handling dogs. Certified Trial and Training Decoy

Robert is experienced in all phases and disciplines of bite work, personal protection, security, law enforcement, full service dogs, S.A.R and is an expert animal behaviorist. His business, K-9 Connection, is a professional, complete dog training service operated by a master trainer with over 30 years experience.


Robert got his start with dogs at the age of 15 with Keiran Kornell, a Palm Beach County Sherrif Deputy. He soon become Kornell’s group obedience instructor at the YMCA. He’s been quoted as saying,

“I’ve been addicted to training dogs ever since.”

Since then, he has had many years of training with professional trainers, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, and ring sports.

His certifications include Cert Trial and Training Decoy for 23 years. Robert was then donating the training of 3 service dogs a year to local veterans. His affinity for his brothers and sisters in uniform is why he began voluteering to help veterans. In the early 1990’s Robert enlisted in the Army for Operation Desert Storm. He was a US Army Veteran who never saw a theater of war and was diagnosed by the C.W.O with an existing injury that had become exacerbated by heavy training.

Fresh out of basic and stateside at Ft Sill Oklahoma, he could only watch as his brothers and sisters who went off to the many Middle Eastern Conflicts over the coming years. It was then he decided to use his training with dogs to help out his returning veterans with service dogs. Needless to say, the calls started coming in. In 2013, what is now Canine Companions USA was formed as a not-for-profit charity. The organization works with multiple agencies including PVA and the VA. CCUSA now provides a service dog to anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay. First priority is given to veterans and children.


CPL. Corie A. Braun

Corie Braun

VP/ CFO, Canine Companions USA

Prior to joining the Canine Companions USA team, Corie was a Military Police woman for the United States Marine Corps for 5 years. From her service she has become an assertive, diligent leader with experience in safety and security. She worked closely with both military and civilian personnel. Her primary focus was management; report writing, criminal proceedings, evidence gathering/recording, and leadership of both military and civilian members, as well as members of foreign nations. With the multitudes of religions and cultures that she was exposed to, her experience has aided her in many types of situations.


Corie was referred to Canine Companions USA through a mutual friend while she was looking for a service dog trainer for her 10 month old German shepherd, Zorro. She was first a client. When she began to see first-hand how they operated, she became interested in getting involved. When Mr. Tucker brought up the question of her coming on board, she didn’t hesitate. Corie saw their dedication to help out not just veterans or children, but anyone with a disability that requires a service animal. They have opened their doors to people who thought it impossible to have a better life and these people have poured their heart and souls into this organization. CCUSA will dedicate all of the time and recourses that they can in order to help those that are truly in need so those individuals may have the ability to have a better quality of life.


1st Lt Robert M. Keefe, Jr

Robert KeefeDirector of Veteran Affairs, Canine Companions USA

Lieutenant Keefe received an Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps on November 29th, 2012.  He continues to serve his community and fellow veterans as an advocate, peer mentor, and founder and President of The Warrior Center, Inc.

Lieutenant Keefe enlisted in the Marine Corps in February 2001, and completed his recruit training at Parris Island. Following Recruit Training, he completed various MOS training courses to become a Recon Marine, subsequently being assigned to 3rd Recon Battalion, in Okinawa, Japan.  There, he served in different billets to include Team Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and Company Operations Chief.


After completing his initial enlistment, Lt Keefe went back to school and earned his Bachelor Degree from University of Maryland University College.  He then reenlisted in September 2007 and once again served with 3rd Recon Battalion. In 2008, then SSgt (select) Keefe, was chosen to attend Officer Candidate School class 200 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on March 20th, 2009.

Following The Basic School and Logistics Officer Course, he was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 2, in November 2009. Lieutenant Keefe served as a Platoon Commander for a truck platoon during the battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan from July 2010 to February 2011.  During the deployment, he sustained combat injuries which rendered him unfit for duty and subsequently medically separated from the service.

Lieutenant Keefe’s personal decorations include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Good Conduct Medal w/ bronze star.   Lieutenant Keefe is married to the former Bianca Padgett of Managua, Nicaragua. They live in Okeechobee, Florida and have three children: Zane 11, Leah 11, and Ricky 6.


Stephanie Peskowitz, RN, BSN

StephanieDirector of Marketing and Public Relations

Stephanie’s passion and realization of the bonds between animals and humans began at a very young age, with her strong bond with Benji, her Border Collie. Through the years, her appreciation for animals and the love they continuously give to humans further grew. She has been very blessed over the years to treasure many more relationships with animals including dogs, cats, horses and a pig. No matter what the animal, Stephanie felt the unconditional love that each one had to share.

Stephanie’s strong desire to work with service dogs and humans in need really began through her career in correctional healthcare. She witnessed firsthand the powerful positive effect dogs have on the human spirits of those in who are in prison.


She saw how a puppy’s sweet eyes, wagging tail or gentle kiss can so simply break down the barriers and open communication with prisoners and those working in the prison setting. This experience led her on a path to become involved with Canine Companions USA.

Stephanie’s personal and professional affiliations have included Volunteer Division Director with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, memberships with the American Correctional Association, Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, Florida Partners in Crisis and healthcare management in various State and County correctional settings.


Howard “Bob” Vasalech

Howard “Bob” VasalechDirector of IT, Canine Companions USA

Howard “Bob” Vasalech is currently retired after 45 years of distinguished Military and civil service. He began his career at the early age of 17 when he enter the US Army. He was discharged after 3 years of service but, although still in the Army reserves, he chose to enlist in the US Air Force a year later. Fortunately for him, his first assignment was at Torrejon AB in Spain. This is where he met and married his beautiful wife Nita. They have been happily married for over 54 years.

Bob served in Vietnam from Nov 1967 through Nov 1968. His original assignment was Pleiku AB. He was sent to Phan Rang AB TDY to assist on maintenance of the Tactical ground navigation system. After that he was assigned 8 months to Ban Me Thuot MACV to train the Vietnamese AF personnel on maintenance of tactical ground navigation systems at a remote air field. He was also was in charge of ground radio and generator maintenance personnel.


Throughout his Air Force career, he served in numerous different assignments, such as training Air National Guard Ground Radio personnel and Ground Navigational Aids personnel. He also performed various special assignments at different sites in Europe and the Mediterranean. He went on to become the Ground Electronics Quality Control Inspector for the 1833 Engineering and Installation Sq out of Sacramento, CA. His last assignment prior to retirement after 22 Years of Military service was as Supervisor of Maintenance Control Branch at the AF Communications Sq Travis AFB, CA.

After retirement, Bob went to work for various Civil Service agencies including the General Service Admin and the Federal Protective Service as Electronics Security Systems Installations, System Specifications for contract bids and contract monitoring. He worked for the Navy (NAVELEX) on Electronic Ground and Ship Navigation and Communication Systems. He also worked for the Dept. of the Navy at the Bermuda Airfield as a Technical Advisor for all the Ground Electronic Navigation Systems, Communication Systems. and Computer Systems. Due to closure of the Bermuda Airfield by the Navy, he transferred to the National Weather Service as a Electronics Systems Analyst, Systems Administrator and Manager of the electronics maintenance personnel. His last assignment was in Fort Worth, Texas where he retired in 2003.

Bob and his wife Nita moved to Boca Raton, Florida in 2012 to be closer to their adult children and their families. It was after this move that Bob’s PTSD worsened to the point that it was negatively affecting his ability to have any quality of life. One day, a retired Veteran and his service dog walked into his daughter Debra’s shop. His story was so similar to her father’s that she knew that a service dog was exactly what Bob needed. They began searching and that’s when his wife Nita met Corie Braun from CCUSA at the VA Hospital. She calls Corie their Angel. Bob now has his service dog and best friend Rusty and life is getting better ever day. Bob knows first hand the life changing effect a service dog can make and is committed to helping in every way he can to help others to get their service dog too.


Adrianne Cristofaro

AdrianneArt Director, Web Development, Canine Companions USA

Adrianne majored in Visual Communications at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. After graduation, she immediately began working in the then new field of web design. During the course of her career, she has acquired additional skills and has become a well-rounded web developer and administrator as well as graphic designer. She did graphics and web development at an online brokerage for 9 years before deciding to go out on her own and become a freelancer.


As an avid dog lover, when Robert Tucker put out the call for a volunteer to do a new website and marketing for CCUSA, Adrianne jumped at the chance. Loving the idea of what Canine Companions USA does for the people in the community, Adrianne was excited to be a part of the organization. She designs and maintains the Canine Companions USA website and marketing materials.