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Our Team 

Melissa Bahleda

Melissa Bahleda founded PARTNERS! Canines in 2001, initially as a for-profit Canine Training and Behavior Counseling business. Realizing her deep love for shelter dogs and the great need to help reduce the number of dogs being euthanized in animal shelters across the country, she began the process to turn PARTNERS! into a solely non-profit venture in 2007 with the help of her husband Tom. The organization was eventually gifted a transport van from the Fried Foundation, and thus began years of bi-monthy transports from high kill shelters in VA to no-kill partners in NY.

Upon moving back to Boone ("Boonerangers") in 2012, the need to assist several rural western NC shelters with a transport program was undeniable, with some of the shelters euthanizing over 95% of the animals coming into their facilities. Today, euthanasia rates continue to drop throughout NC, thanks in part to the efforts of PARTNERS! Canines.

Melissa currently continues to assist with transport efforts and provides free training for shelters throughout the South wishing to start similar rescue transport programs. In 2006, she received Glamour magazine and Toyota's Mountain Mover award for her shelter dog rescue efforts. She lives with her husband, 4 dogs, 2 horses, 4 goats and 1 guinea pig in Boone, NC.

Eva Hyatt
Executive Director

After 30 years as a Professor of Marketing, Eva has retired to devote more energy to her passion of dog rescue. She has been involved in dog rescue for 36 years. For the first 25 years Eva rescued and found homes for over 300 dogs on her own, as well as volunteered with local shelters. Then she began serving on the Board of Watauga Humane Society, where she edited their newsletter for 4 years and served as VP. In 2013 Eva became the Executive Director of PARTNERS! Canines, where she continues today.

Board of Directors - 2022/2023 (updated 7/14/23)

Melissa Behleda - Founder, Board Member Emeritus

Eva Hyatt - Executive Director; Fundraising & Transport Committee Member

Meg McDonough - President, Driver and Van Manager, Transport Co-Coordinator

Dr. Lillian Royal - Transport Veterinarian and Medical Director, Transport Committee

Judy Vincent - Vice President, Facebook Coordinator, Transport Co-Coordinator

Barbara Rule - Website Coordinator, Fundraising Committee Co-Chair

Melissa MacKinnon Helms - Fundraising Committee Co-Chair

Susan Slingland - Facebook Coordinator, Fundraising Committee

Conor Haecherl - Driver, Transport Committee

India Foy - Fundraising Committee

Cathy Johnson - Fundraising Committee

Brittany Underwood - Transport Committee

Debra Aaron - Fundraising Committee/Grant Writer

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