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. In my free time I love to travel, spend time on the beach and in the yoga studio!

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.

Michelle Montoya

Hi! My name is Michelle Montoya and I am so excited to be a part of the Back to Basics team! I have an extensive background in animal care, including 13 years taking care of the animals at Disneyland.  I have worked with animals of all kinds, dogs, cats, horses, livestock, reptiles and exotics.

I have a variety of fur babies of my own, including Chihuahuas, a Pit Bull, a Cane Corso, a Sulcuta Tortoise and a beautiful mare.

I am so looking forward to meeting you and your fur babies!

Judee D.

Animals have always been a part and love of my life. Therefore, when my family and I moved to orange county five years ago,  I knew that I needed to follow my passion.

I have worked with the SoCal Weimaraner rescue as a foster and I have one dog, Lola. I am dependable and energetic.

In my free time I enjoy Pilates and gardening and I look forward to meeting some new furry friends.

Kathryn MacAllister

Hey there, I’m Kathryn. I enjoy spending time with all kinds of animals, and I am currently parenting a baby crested gecko and rambunctious kitten.

I have worked with dogs and cats in a veterinary setting for three years, aiding with treatment and care of the patients. I have also volunteered at a wildlife clinic where I helped rehabilitate and nurture many different species including baby birds, raccoons, and fawns.

In addition to hanging out with new furry companions, I enjoy hiking, traveling, and exploring beautiful California. I look forward to meeting you and your little ones!

Paige Fischer

Hi, my name is Paige and I was born an animal lover! I’ve owned dogs all of my life including lab/pit bulls, a boxer, samoyed, Shih Tzu, French Bulldogs, and a Pug. I’ve also owned horses, cats, pigs, goats, birds, guinea pigs, lizards and exotics, and have a large span of knowledge for all kinds of animals, no matter their shape or size!

I currently own two furbabies – an eight-month-old French Bulldog named Thunder who is very friendly and loving. He gets along with people and dogs of all sizes. My other puppy is a six-month-old Pug named Storm. She’s a super loving, ball of energy who loves meeting new dogs and people. Her best friend is a large husky.

I have experience with treating injuries (even humans, I was an EMT for six years!) and I’ve had a few dogs in the past with severe allergies that took special care.  I’m looking forward to taking care of your pup!

Michelle Manzo

Hi, my name is Michelle and I have over ten years of experience sitting, boarding and providing basic command training for canine friends and family.

My own fur baby is a 7-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever named Coco and we enjoy going on hikes, visiting the beach and exercising on local trails and paths to stay in shape.

In my free time I like spending time with my two kids, traveling the world and scuba diving. I love dogs, cats and animals of all kinds and look forward to meeting your pet soon!

Tauna Vandeweghe

I have been involved in raising, training and showing dogs for the last 3 decades. Growing up we always had two to three dogs. I learned obedience training and comfort companion training from master trainers. I would be able to reinforce the existing training or newly learned skills, making sure your dog stays on track.

Most importantly I feel dogs need to be a part of the family and well-loved.

Having been an athlete all my life I still exercise daily.  I always include my dogs, whether it’s long walks or playing in the yard, I love the companionship. I also have an 18-year-old son, who plays basketball and will do long vigorous runs.

During my life I have raised everything from German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Fila’s, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, German Pointers, Poodles and my favorite, a Chiweenie, which we found and rescued from the woods over three years ago.

Currently, I am a Behavior Therapist for Autistic children.  I live in a gated community, in Mission Viejo.