Meet the Puppy Development Team
Our puppy development team brings years of knowledge and skills to the vital process of raising and training our Future Leader Dogs and supporting the hundreds of dedicated puppy raisers and on-campus volunteers who help to make our mission possible. Each member of the team has a wealth of experience in dog training
Bev has been with the Leader Dog team for more than 20 years. She became a volunteer when she was just 11 years old when her family started as puppy raisers. Bev has raised 13 puppies and hosted three breeding stock dogs for Leader Dog. Bev oversees all aspects of our canine development including the breeding team, puppy development team, Prison Puppies and all associated volunteers.
Bev’s main hobbies are centered around dogs. She presents 10 seminars a year on dog training in the areas of canine freestyle and clicker training. Bev also competes with her personal dogs in a multitude of different dog sports including nose work and dock diving. If this doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also a classically trained musician, with oboe and piano being her main instruments. Bev has four dogs: Vinnie, Rave (a retired LDB Mom), Peri and Wink, a German wirehaired pointer that won best in breed at the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Laura has been with Leader Dog since 2013. Her position includes a lot of contact with puppy raisers, including matching puppies with appropriate raisers, teaching training classes and supporting Prison Puppies. Laura has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and over nine years of dog training experience. Her first contact with Leader Dog was in 2008 when she donated a dog that successfully completed guide dog training. The experience was highly memorable and eventually lead her to seek a full-time career at Leader Dog. She loves coming to work every day and enjoys the wide spectrum of experiences available from witnessing a C-section to meeting the clients. Laura’s family has raised seven puppies for Leader Dog. In her free time, she likes baking cakes, watching her kids sporting events and playing with her poodles, Mike and Jasper.
Melissa joined Leader Dog in 2015 as the coordinator of Prison Puppies, overseeing the training and care of puppies being raised in correctional facilities in four states. Her connection to Leader Dog began earlier when she was a volunteer training assistant during puppy raiser training workshops. As Prison Puppies coordinator, Melissa gets to combine many of her passions including travel, educating others on how to work with dogs, philanthropy and personally caring for dogs. She has been involved with animal care and training since 1997. Melissa has been a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) since 2002. In 2004 she began working with a veterinary behaviorist where she assisted in treating dogs and cats for a variety of behavior issues. In 2006 Melissa graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health services administration and she is a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy (KPA-CTP). Melissa is passionate about her work at Leader Dog and finds the experience of working with inmate raisers exhilarating and rewarding.
Before volunteering at Leader Dog, Vijay worked as a labor and delivery nurse. In 2014, she joined Leader Dog as a volunteer puppy raiser and is currently raising her fifth puppy. She has been a volunteer puppy counselor for Leader Dog in a correctional facility in MI, translated for Spanish-speaking clients and assisted with Leader Dog training weekends. Leader Dog is an organization with values and a mission that pulled at Vijay's heart. She believes that the volunteers have heart and compassion that this organization nurtures and appreciates. Her position as coordinator of Prison Puppies and Campus Puppies allows for her creativity, joy and passion to be a part of an organization that she deeply respects. She has a bachelor's degree in biology and an associate degree in nursing. She is also a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy and TAGTeach Level 1 certified. Vijay enjoys working with Leader Dog's puppy raisers whether they are raising in a correctional facility, on a college campus or in an outside family environment. Helping them and sharing their experiences is both rewarding and humbling. Outside of work, she loves to travel, zipline, garden, roller coaster and hike.
Zach joined the Leader Dog team in 2019. His position includes supporting multiple departments, volunteers and 400 dedicated puppy raisers in all raising environments. Before coming to Leader Dog, Zach spent a gap year after high school in Israel where he volunteered in Bat Yam and studied in Jerusalem. He also spent time with a youth village on Mount Carmel, where he taught English to new immigrants and at-risk youth from Ethiopia, France, the former Soviet Union and Israel. Zach is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in leadership of organizations. Zach is a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, a student member of SHRM, and TAGteach Level 1 certified. Zach can be found in the canine development center facilitating inter-departmental training and coordinating puppy raiser training weekends, though he also spends time working in the field visiting correctional facilities. Zach continues to streamline processes, undertake special projects, assist with workshops and training, and develop media content for his team.