Our Team

erin purgason

Founder / Chair

Erin Purgason

Erin is the owner of Highland Canine Training, LLC, an industry-leading dog training and canine education business. After graduating in 2001 from Appalachian State University with a BS in Criminal Justice and a minor in sociology, Erin became a sworn law enforcement officer in North Carolina the following year. While serving in the Reidsville Police Department, she was presented with an Award of Merit for rescuing a disabled individual from their burning home. Erin’s wealth of expertise has helped train Police K9s and service dogs across the nation, in addition to time spent working with local rescue groups through Highland Canine’s Second Chance Program. She now brings her enthusiasm and experience in leading Highland Canine Connect’s efforts to improve the community through canine connections.

Kim Holland secretary


Kim Holland

Born and raised in Iredell County, Kim graduated from Statesville High School as well as Liberty University with a Master’s in Business, and has worked in the healthcare industry for over two decades. Kim has been married to her husband for 25 years and they have two sons, as well a black Lab named Shadow (who grins every morning for a biscuit) and a chocolate Lab named Maddie (a rescue, who just wants to be loved). Kim loves to spend quality time with her family, whether it is going out on the lake, going camping, or just getting together. She has a passion for helping others and giving back to the community.

susie wiberg board member


Susie Wiberg

Susie moved to Statesville in 1997, having previously lived in a canyon in southern California. This move to North Carolina sparked the beginning of a Southern adventure for Susie, Tom and Bailey Wiberg. Having retired from career entanglements, Susie is now able to spend more time volunteering in the community. “Dogs are the best people ever – Highland does fabulous work and I am thrilled to be involved,” explains Susie. “Mostly, however, I’m doing this because I get to play with their dogs!”

Susan Ervin Board member

Board Member

Susan Ervin

An Iredell County native, Susan is heavily invested in the local community and seeks every opportunity to serve it. For six years, she ran a successful private practice, and currently is the Attorney Advocate for the Guardian ad Litem program in Iredell and Rowan counties, allowing her to represent abused and neglected children. Susan has always had a heart for animals and is passionate about advocating for the undeserved. She has joined Highland Canine Connect because she believes passionately in the mission of the organization, with her strong desire to assist with education efforts and implementation of creative plans that will allow canines to help those in need.

kim tatum

Board Member

Kim Tatum

Kim moved to Statesville in 1989 from Newport, TN. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice shortly after moving here from Gardner Webb University. Kim met her husband, Buddy, shortly after she moved, and they have been married for 30 years. They have one son, a daughter in love, three grandsons, and seven god sons. Kim and Buddy currently have three dogs – Diesel, Wiggles, and Precious. All three are rescues. Diesel is what started Kim’s ‘obsession’ with rescuing, according to Buddy. She spends her free time with her grandson, transporting rescue animals to a better future, and helping Highland Canine Connect. Kim loves being a part of HCC – she loves what the organization stands for and the goals they strive to achieve.

Dana Merrihew executive Director

Executive Director

Dana Merrihew

Dana was born and raised in upstate NY, she has two amazing adult children, each is married to two amazing humans – both families have two rescue dogs, that are delightful! Dana has been very involved volunteering in the rescue community over the last 15+ years – animals are her passion. She has four rescue dogs of her own that live a great life – she just pays the mortgage!

Dana loves to spend time with her family, loves being in the yard gardening, as well as hiking the NC mountains, in her spare time. She is delighted to be a part of HCC and is proud of the incredible work they do for the community.

Florida Chapter

nancy horbert

Program Director, Florida

Nancy Horbert

Nancy was born in Kingston, NY, and currently lives in the Tampa, FL area. She received an Associate Degree in Business Management from the University of South Carolina. She has been married to her husband, Everett for 21 years – they have a daughter, Brittany Mojica, who works for Highland Canine Training as their trainer in the Tampa area. Having provided pet therapy with her own dogs for over a decade, Nancy has seen first-hand how pet therapy changes lives. Now that she has retired, she is excited to use her non-profit experience and love for pet therapy to start a branch of Highland Canine Connect in Florida.