Vice President, Treasurer
Melissa Cushman is a trained Veterinary Technician and Dog Trainer. Her love affair with animals specifically dogs started with her own family dogs, attempting to teach them tricks beyond basic obedience. Her first job at age 15 was as at a Veterinary Clinic that also housed a boarding kennel. She learned an immense amount about dog behavior and body language immersed in a busy clinic and boarding facility that could house over a 100 dogs during peak times.
After suffering trauma as a teen she suffered from PTSD and sought comfort from her pet dog. This was her first experience with dogs providing support and assistance. This pet was never trained to be a service dog and ultimately suffered from its own behavioral problems as a direct result of PTSD suffered by Melissa. He became reactive to both dogs, some people and developed separation anxiety due to extreme attachment. The lessons learned during this experience of what to do and not do with a dog during training continue to influence her as a trainer today. This dog required her to do extensive research into different training techniques and theories and increase her personal dog training skills immensely.
She continued to work in Veterinary Clinics as a technician for over 10 years while also working with dog training clients until having children. After having children she focused on training her personal dogs and worked occasionally with pet dogs with behavior problems. Her personal dogs have been trained in a variety of dog sports such as agility, carting, mushing and scent detection.
When her daughter was diagnosed with celiac in 2017 she began her research in how to manage celiac in a world full of gluten. She stumbled across an article about gluten detection dogs and Willow Service Dogs. After much discussion with Dawn and personal research she started training her personal dog Lilly with Dawn for gluten detection. Lilly completed her training but passed away unexpectedly shortly after. Not too long after she started training a new puppy named Gunther with guidance from Dawn. She constantly seeks to improve her training knowledge with scientific-based continued education especially in the field of scent detection. She is an O.D.O.R. PAT and Scent Detection Evaluator.