AT 17, MELISSA was on a destructive path and described herself as a ‘troubled teen.’ “I was partying a lot back then and had no direction.” On two occasions she spent a few weeks at Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter, in addition to couch surfing. “I kept thinking about why I wasn’t happy and why I didn’t feel good about myself.”
Not able to have a dog as a child, she changed that in 1998 by getting a four-legged friend. She did some training with her pet for fun, and then got the chance to apprentice and learn how to become a dog trainer. Melissa recalls her career turning point while bartending in Toronto in 2004.
“This woman arrived with a broken boot heel. I gave her an extra pair I had that fit her, and told her to return them later. She did, and hidden inside them were a thank you note and a necklace. She wrote that the necklace brought her luck, and she hoped it would do the same for me.”
Melissa’s determination to pursue her dream of entrepreneurship took off from there. She kept the necklace as a reminder to be a good person and do good deeds whenever possible.
Melissa went on to launch her dog training school in London, “In Dogs We Trust.” With her positive reinforcement methodologies, Melissa helps hundreds of family pets and their owners each year. She holds training workshops for professionals in the pet industry including Veterinary Technicians and Service Dog Trainers. Each month she advises staff and volunteers at the London Humane Society, where her black lab Sophia was rescued.
Melissa shares her expertise on radio and TV, and is the host of “Doggy House Calls” on Rogers Cable 13. She is also the founder of the ‘Ultimutts’ dog show where her dogs charm and entertain audiences with feats such as tightrope walking, skateboarding, skipping, cue card reading and more.
Fifteen years after staying at Rotholme, Melissa returns there on Sundays so that residents can see her dogs perform and interact with them.
“The positive energy that the dogs bring is unmistakable. They clearly enjoy their time with the families and as working performance dogs, they should use their talent for more than monetary gain. Not only is volunteering good for the dogs, I can only hope that the families get as much out of it. For me, it’s the feeling of making the world a better place by sharing my passion with others. Visiting Rotholme also helps me remember a difficult time in life and shows me how far I have come through hard work. It is beautiful to see everyone appreciate the dogs, and to share something so special with my daughter, Sienna.”
Learn more about Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter.
(Story from Curb Notes July 2014 – cover)