Canine Companionship Sets Former Event Rider Down a New Career Path

Written by Lia Hobel

Photos by Sienna Turecamo Photography 

Kate Yeutter has always had a soft spot for animals. She moved to Virginia in 2006 from Woodstock, Vermont, to pursue a professional equestrian career. “I had aspirations to be an Olympic rider because who doesn’t at 21,” she remembers about that chapter of her life. 

However, her dream of riding shifted to managing Locochee Farm, which she did for 10 years before deciding to go back to school to be a veterinarian.  

During this time, she adopted Kyla, a Border Collie-Doberman mix. “I just [got] out of an abusive relationship,” explains Yeutter, adding that she always wanted a puppy but was waiting for the perfect time. She remembers in college everyone telling her to do therapy work with Kyla as she had the perfect temperament. “She was just an old soul. She was never more than two feet away from me.” Listening to the advice of her peers, she did the therapy training with Kyla and would visit hospitals with her. 

Paws2Heal

Yeutter loved what she was doing but had no idea it would turn into so much more. “[Kyla was] the start of everything,” she says.  

Yeutter married in 2014 and credits her husband Jeff with encouraging her to shift from becoming a veterinarian to a mental health counselor. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “I wanted to combine my love for animals with helping people. And my husband being the straightforward person he is, was like, ‘Well, just go do that.’”

In July of 2020, she opened Paws2Heal in the town of Middleburg. Yeutter is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), nationally board-certified counselor (NCC), and certified clinical trauma professional (CCTP). Her husband Jeff helps manage the practice. Yeutter says she loves the play on words with “Paws2Heal” but also likes that the name emphasizes the importance of animals to her. “I find them not only to be therapeutic, but they can bridge a gap that people can’t necessarily repair when there’s been interpersonal trauma,” she says. 

Kyla unfortunately passed away in 2019, but she is still very much the heart and soul of the practice. Currently in a PhD program, Yeutter is writing her dissertation about using dogs to repair attachment trauma. She also has a new therapy dog, Ripley, who is two and a half years old and working to be at Kyla’s level of therapeutic ability. 

Additionally, Yeutter helps many clients adopt service dogs or figure out if they are a good candidate for an emotional support animal or service dog. “People don’t understand the difference between a therapy dog, an emotional support animal, and a service dog. So, I make sure people are educated and that they get an animal that is going to match their needs,” Yeutter says. 

Yeutter specializes in complex trauma, which is usually from childhood or chronic exposure to trauma. She works with first responders due to the high exposure to trauma they experience. In addition to her therapy sessions, she also runs a first responder support group at the Middleburg Baptist Church at no charge. Anyone who classifies as a first responder is welcome. She says people come from all over to these meetings, which signifies the need. 

“This is my passion. This is my life. I’m very happy to throw myself into it,” she says wholeheartedly.

Yeutter and her husband aspire to expand Paws2Heal, including adding interns and residents, which will launch as a pilot program this year. “I am a big advocate for affordable healthcare and a lot of clinicians charge $175 a service and don’t take insurance,” Yeutter notes. “I think that’s wrong. I feel like we have to find a way to make it accessible.” Her internship program will offer more affordable services at $20 or $30 per session. 

With just over a year in practice at Paws2Heal, Yeutter says what she enjoys most about counseling individuals is that “there is no mold,” and she has never done the same treatment plan twice. “Everybody is different with different sets of experiences and different ways they interpret those experiences.”

She remarks that she never ceases to be amazed by her job when people show her a new way of looking at things. “It’s always challenging me to look at things differently and be better,” Yeutter finishes. “And I love that.” ML

This article first appeared in the January 2022 Issue.

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