Photo of four women outdoors holding small yellow lab puppies. Three women stand in the back and one woman sits in front. All are smiling. All the puppies are wearing blue Future Leader Dog bandannas

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 

Beverly Blanchard, KPA-CTP, Manager of Canine Development

Photo of Bev smiling at the camera and holding a yellow lab puppy, who is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandanna

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.

Deb Donnelly, KPA-CTP, Puppy Development Supervisor

Deb sits outdoors on a yellow chair smiling at the camera and holding a young yellow lab puppy in a Future Leader Dog bandannaDeb has been associated with Leader Dog since 1995 when she raised the first of 21 puppies (she is currently raising Davey, her 23rd Future Leader Dog) as a volunteer puppy raiser. She came on board in  2012 and is currently the puppy development supervisor. Her decision to work at Leader Dog was predicated by her desire to change peoples' lives on a bigger scale than one puppy at a time. The transition from volunteer puppy raiser to full-time employee opened her eyes to the amount of hard work it takes to create a successful guide dog.

Deb views the best part of her job as witnessing the puppy raisers when they have an “Ah-ha” moment and grasp the understanding of our training techniques. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP) and is Level 1 certified in TAG teach. Deb has a career-changed German shepherd, Strider, and Arya, a chihuahua and Pomeranian mix rescue dog that is blind. When she isn’t working, Deb likes to walk, meditate, read, attend dog training conferences and spend time with her family.

Laura Fisher, Puppy Development Coordinator

Laura sits on an indoor bench in a hallway smiling at the camera and holding the lash of the young yellow lab in Future Leader Dog bandanna. The lab is sitting in front of Laura's legsLaura 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 Spooner, LVT, KPA-CTP, Prison Puppies Coordinator

Melissa sits on a chair in the canine center lobby smiling at the camera and holding the leash of a seated golden retriever in Future Leader Dog bandannaMelissa 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.