Sally Montrucchio, CPDT-KA

Vice-President/CEO/Training Director

The founder of Next Step Service Dogs, Ms. Montrucchio is our Vice-President and our CEO/Training Director. With over twenty years of experience in training service dogs for people with disabilities in San Diego County, Sally was previously the training director for Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dog, Inc. This training covered several disciplines including Seizure Response, Hearing, Mobility, Specialty (Balance, Tourette’s Syndrome, etc.) and Facility (working with a school or hospital facility), autism, TBI and PTSD. She has been a speaker nationally and internationally, is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, is the author of a book on dog behavior and temperament, and is an expert witness in court cases involving service dogs. Sally as been awarded the Red Cross “Real Heroes” Animal Welfare Honoree, inspired to save the lives of both dogs and military service members.

Gina Esoldi, CPDT-KA

Assistant Training Director

Gina comes to us as Business Development and Assistant Training Director, with over 20 years of non-profit work experience and a passion for animals. Gina helps us to serve our veteran community with the power of service dogs. Experienced in all aspects of business operations, her talents include impressive fundraising and event planning from conception to execution. She is the mother of three boys; her youngest currently attends the United States Naval Academy.

Taylor Jensen

Trainer/Residential Assistant Director

Taylor brings a remarkable range of experience to Next Step, following her career as a dolphin trainer for the Navy and later as an educator and trainer of exotic animals at San Diego Zoo. Touched deeply by the needs of wounded warriors and the huge joy of seeing service dogs help them, Taylor loves training our service dogs for and with our veterans, and works closely with the Navy treatment program for severe PTSD military.


Senior Trainer - Veteran

Brad joined NSSD in September of 2013. He is a retired Marine combat veteran with several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Highlights of his service include leading Marines in several combat actions, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor. After retiring from the Marine Corps Brad moved to Idaho where he put his experience to work with NSSD starting our Northwest Chapter. With more than 20 years of leadership, coordination and training experience Brad uses these skills to improve the lives of veterans in need.

Jeff Tesoro


Jeff Tesoro has established himself as a superb professional canine trainer. He has over 20 years experience evaluating rescued dogs and providing private and group classes for obedience, distance work,  and therapy work.  Jeff is a wonderful addition to our staff of volunteer trainers, and offers Next Step service dog training in Orange County to help veterans north of San Diego.

Joan Shaw


Joan and her husband, Ron, were puppy raisers for Guide Dogs of America for 29 years.   They have trained 22 dogs for that organization and were the Area Leaders for all of the San Diego County puppy raisers and most recently for the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. Their training experience is with Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and  Poodles.

Joan is a Registered Nurse and prior to retirement, she served as Nurse Executive for several large hospitals in southern California.


Sandie Hicks

Board Member/Trainer

With a deep appreciation for the healing power of dogs and practical management experience based on a career with disadvantaged teens, Sandie Hicks goes everywhere with her service dog Ziggy, and provides insights into the management of clients and specialized training. Her enthusiasm and compassion encourage and inspire clients, dogs, and our Board, greatly helping the growth and success of Next Step Service Dogs.


Cindy Pruitt – Trainer

Kyle – Trainer – Veteran

Tony  – Trainer – Veteran