About Us

-Melissa Ruthenbeck-Chiaramonte, CPDT-KA, Owner/Trainer

I’ve had a long-standing love affair with dogs going back as far as I can remember. I made my parents promise to bring a puppy home when I turned 10, they agreed thinking I would forget, and when I didn’t, we got Ranger!

I started working with animals when I was 12, volunteering at the local humane society – walking and spending time with the dogs. As I got older my passion for helping dogs evolved into working with shelters and rescues, and earning a psychology degree from Drake University, where I studied animal learning and behavior. After spending time working with veterinarians, rescues and well-respected trainers I became a certified by the Certification Council of Pet Dog Trainers, as well as an insured member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Over time I realized many of the dogs in shelters are there because of solvable behavior problems and decided I wanted to dedicate my life to changing theirs. I’m currently the President of Basset Hound Rescue of Southern Californiawhere I also provide behavioral evaluations and treatment plans for the hounds who come into our care, and help my foster dogs increase their adaptability with training.

I have an extensive background in rescue work (as well as fearful dogs) and understand the specific needs of newly adopted dogs. I specialize in solving problem behavior, from aggression to separation anxiety and I also enjoy helping adoptive families work through issues and bond with their new family member.

Professional, experienced and certified, I use positive reinforcement based training techniques (treats, toys, praise), paired with learning theory to help you learn how to effectively communicate with your dog so you can live together happily.

I live in Mission Viejo with my husband, Paul, and our two rescued bassets, Wilbur and Mia, as well our foster hounds. In addition to continuing education in training and behavior I also spend time studying canine nutrition, vaccination and holistic care.

Need help choosing a trainer?

Pet Care Team

Rachel Zeni

I have been a lover of animals all my life. For as long I can remember I would save strays and bring them home with me. My parents always wondered what I would bring home next. I followed up my passion for animals by becoming a Veterinary Assistant and working at a Veterinary Hospital in Irvine. I really enjoy working with Bark to Basics because it allows me to be able to bond with some great animals.

Laurie Weathersby

I gleefully left corporate America in late 2010 to be home with my family. About a year into early retirement I decided to pick up a fun part-time job, so I started working for a local pet sitting company. Within weeks, I knew I had found my calling. Spending my days (and nights and weekends and holidays) with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots, tortoises, goldfish and a few lizards brought a joy to my life I’d never known before. My heart is filled every day with the unconditional love of pets and the opportunity to be outdoors in beautiful South Orange County.
I spend most of my personal time with my husband, Jerry, our two rescue pups, and the rest of our family, which includes six grandchildren and five granddogs.

Jennifer Florez

I believe pet care services are a great way to keep your pet happy and healthy, whether they need an afternoon walk when you are gone for a long day, or extra TLC while you are out of town.

Along with caring for my own three dogs I am working on getting my dog obedience trainer certification to better understand the behavior, personalities and actions of pets.

Samantha Mackie

I am a marketing major at Saddleback College, and left a full time job to pursue my passion for animals! I am very active, and enjoy being in nature, which is something I love to do with my client’s dogs; dog parks, trails, and fun walks, depending on the dog of course! I tailor all of my services to the dog I’m seeing, making sure that they are as happy as possible!

I have adored animals my whole life, dogs especially. I am the lady that wants to pet every dog I see! Dogs have always made me happy, and I love to see them happy as well! They have a great need for companionship, and I really enjoy providing that for dogs whose owners are away. I have a dog, and I volunteer at local animal rescue, too.

I started training my first dog when I was 4 years old, he was a giant schnauzer! Everyone thought it was hilarious that I walked him at his trainings. I have had two dogs since my Giant, a pitbull and a poodle mix. All were trained, and treated like sons.  I always treat my clients animals the same way, like family.