Where Integrity Meets Commitment & Expertise

Certified • Government-Approved • Instruction • Assessment • Training • Experienced • Skilled

Maria Illes

Co-Owner, Chief Trainer & Program Director

There is an incredible fortitude and skill required to train canines to be of service to a person in need. Maria Illes, Certified Guide & Service Dog Instructor, has over 25 year’s experience teaching dogs to give their best. Service Dogs, under Maria’s instruction, receive the expertise in training she has developed over a lifetime. Maria has trained, certified, and placed over 300 Service Dogs with their human partners; lasting, life-changing partnerships have been created for the people in need and their Service Dogs.

Certification for Guide Dog Instruction received in Slovakia and certification for Service Dog Instruction received in America, Maria has worked in Canada since 1999 training many canines to be Service Dogs. Maria worked as Director of Training at a service dog organization for 18 years. As a government-approved Assessor and co-owner, Chief Trainer & Program Director at Aspen Service Dogs, Maria has the know-how, experience, and wisdom to know when a dog is ready to be fully of service.

“Not all dogs have what it takes to be a Service Dog, but those that do are my greatest inspiration. Together, that dog and its trainer get to change the life of the recipient in wonderful ways. It’s truly a win-win.”
— Maria Illes

Maureen MacKay

Co-Owner and Chief Executive Officer

Co-owner and CEO of Aspen Service Dogs, Maureen MacKay has been an active member of Edmonton’s business community for decades. An entrepreneur known for her integrity and business acumen, Maureen is a stalwart advocate of Service Dogs. Maureen has provided basic training and a loving home as a Puppy Raiser. Her love of animals has her volunteering at the Edmonton Humane Society, and Scars.

“Having fostered a Service Dog in training, I found myself in awe of the ability of the dogs and the incredible relationship they have with their human partner. I have family members with disabilities who’s lives have been changed immeasurably by their Service Dog.”
— Maureen MacKay

Megan Waknell

Trainer, Volunteer & Health Coordinator

Meg has grown up around dogs and has always had a passion for training animals, having trained her own dogs and horses. She studied Animal Care and Management and has worked in a zoo, at an equine facility assisting with lessons for riders with disabilities and was a puppy raiser in the UK for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Since moving to Canada, she is eager to continue her career in the animal sector and learn more about the Service Dog industry.

“I am very excited to be working at Aspen as I get to experience first-hand the process involved in training a puppy all the way through to seeing them graduate and go on to change someone’s life. I am very grateful to be part of this journey for so many deserving people.”
— Megan Waknell

Our Trainers

Edmonton • Calgary

Ashley Holowaychuk – EDMONTON

Apprentice Instructor

Ashley grew up surrounded by dogs, training alongside her dad in a small Alberta town. Since she was a little girl, she has had a passion for training dogs and helping others. She is also a mom, who was able to provide support to her family by training her daughter’s service dog, Ella. Today, she is a short-term boarder, and is proud member of the Aspen Service Dogs Team and she is very excited to learn from the best, Maria Illes.

“I love working with these dogs. I love that what I am doing with them is going to help someone with a disability. I am passionate about caring for people with special needs, and I am so excited to continue doing that through service dog training.”
— Ashley Holowaychuk

Jessica Gallant – EDMONTON


Jessica grew up in a small Nova Scotian town where she spent many hours volunteering at her local SPCA. Ever since her family adopted their first dog, she began training and competing in several dog sports. Jessica is passionate about teaching dogs how to be of service because she cares very much about people dealing with various needs and wants them to be able to live their best quality of life. She is very excited to learn and expand her knowledge in this very important industry.

“A dog’s loyalty is extraordinary and something to cherish. It is amazing how intelligent and capable these dogs are. They love having a job and aim to please. I am very fortunate to be a part of the Aspen Service Dogs team!”
— Jessica Gallant

Olivia Illes – EDMONTON

Junior Trainer

Olivia Illes has been around service dogs since the age of three, under the mentorship of world renown Service Dog Trainer, Maria Illes. Olivia has been involved with Aspen Service Dogs since day one and she is always highly engaged in training sessions. In fact, Olivia hopes to step into Maria’s shoes upon graduating. In the meantime, Olivia’s home is always filled with foster service dogs in training.

“I have a very natural and strong connection with dogs. I want to continue learning and expanding my knowledge of training service dogs over and above what I have learned since the age of three. My ultimate goal is to become a fully certified service dog trainer to keep my family’s legacy alive forever.”
— Olivia Illes



Jarka grew up in a small European town and has been around dogs her entire life. She cared for her younger sibling which gave her a passion to care for not just dogs, but people. Her organizational skills come from her accounting background, following completion of a Business School in Slovakia. After years of training dogs on her own, she joined Aspen and is now a service dog trainer covering the City of Calgary and surrounding areas. Jarka’s passion is to help make service dogs more accessible to those seeking them

“Dogs have always been a passion of mine, the same as the feeling you get when you help others. Aspen really makes an effort to create a family between dog, owner, and trainer. I am very excited to be part of the Aspen Team and love working with the amazing families I get to accompany as their dog reaches certification.”
— Jarka