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.
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