Our Staff

Human Resources

James F. Lessenberry

CEO, Clinical Animal Behaviorist

My first dog, born in 1973, was a Labrador Retriever, named Ebony. She was a cornucopia of behavior problems, yet I loved her. For five years I tried books, classes and tears all to no avail.

The books I used were poor at best; the classes I attended were cruel at the least. Because of her many problematic behaviors, she was not an acceptable house companion. Eventually, I was forced to make a decision. This animal didn’t deserve to die because of her impractical behavior, but I didn’t deserve to live with her behavior either. As a compromise, Ebony was moved to a large run in my yard, where she was well cared for living to the age of fourteen.

Memories of Ebony bring about much sadness and guilt. She was a victim of misunderstanding and misinformation.

Since Ebony I have enjoyed the companionship of many dogs: Retrievers, Shelties, German Shepherds, Spaniels, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Terriers, and mixed breeds. I was always captivated by their common traits as dogs and their uniqueness as individuals.

Because of my experiences with Ebony I began developing my approach to training in the early 1980s, later earning a degree in the biology of psychology, motivation and behavior. I have been working professionally with pets and their families since 1986.

Today, in addition to a busy clinical practice, I am responsible for the oversight of our services and products, which are built on a solid academic foundation of biological and environmental influences on behavior, combined with over 30 years experience as an animal trainer and behaviorist. I look forward to educating and helping you.

Evan Towne

Senior Trainer, Instructor

Evan began as a Caretaker at our Urban Dog Campus. A pre-veterinary student he quickly became drawn to the behavioral aspects of our work, changing majors to psychology and biology, and is a graduate of Oakland University.

Evan is our Senior Trainer and course instructor, and works as an assistant to Mr. Lessenberry in behavioral work with our client’s companions.

He is well respected by our clients, their dogs, and his co-workers.

When he is not enjoying the company of dogs, Evan is an avid and competitive gamer, and film buff.

In addition to psychology and science, Evan minored in religious studies, contrasting science and theology.

After a long day of working with challenging dogs, look for him at local Seafood and Italian restaurants.

Kim Watson

Operations Manager

Like most of our staff, Kim began as a Caretaker at our Urban Dog Campus. Her leadership skills quickly saw her rise from caretaker, to kennel supervisor, to administrative assistant, to Operations Manager, where she oversees staffing and operations in all our departments.

Kim is a caretaker in the fullest sense of the word. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Missions and Economics from Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas. She has worked with homeless people, at-risk children, and shelter animals in a variety of settings, including: Heifer Ranch, Flaming Pine Youth Camp, and Micah 6. Her work has taken her to Arkansas, Minnesota, Michigan, Mozambique, Dubai, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

Kim is all about improving the lives of people and animals through community education and programs, including: community gardens, livestock management and husbandry, special needs pet sitting, shelter volunteering, and work in spiritual communities.

Kim and her husband Zac enjoy a near purr-fect life at home with their cat, Rusty. All that’s missing is a much dreamed about Welsh Corgi.

Rita Badalament


Rita brings a diverse background of business experience to our organization having responsibility for all aspects of our company’s bookkeeping. Outside of the office she keeps busy at home as an accomplished gardener and exquisite cook. She and her husband, Mike, have enjoyed the company of two Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen dogs – both alumni of our Off-Leash Programs.

Alex Emming

Senior Caretaker, Kennel Supervisor

Although a graphic artist, Alex has a long love for animals and lives with a Jack Russell Terrier and a Terrier Mix.

Since joining us he has developed canine husbandry skills that make him an asset to our team. In addition to caring for the animals in our facility, Alex operates our shuttle service. If your dogs are coming or going, to and from our Urban Dog Campus, don’t be surprised to see Alex at your door!

Animal Caretaker Staff

Our Urban Dog Campus is staffed by a dedicated group of caring and hardworking people who are tasked with the daily care and enrichment of dogs in our care.

Caretakers feed, clean, exercise, and play with the dogs staying with us whether it is for a day, a night, or longer term boarders, as well as, those in therapy and training programs.

Here’s a shout-out to our crew!

Carmelle Flanagan

Teaching Assistant

Carmelle spends most of her days spinning yarns as a creative editor for commercials and films in the dog-eat-dog world of advertising. After brushing off those canines, she looks forward to moonlighting with the lovable Fidos and Spots that come to Animal Learning Systems for guidance in our group training courses. As a full-time dog lover, she and her husband. Chris, have two rescue dogs, both proud graduates of our Family Training Courses.

Canine Resources


Headmaster, Urban Dog Campus

Born May 3, 2009, Maverick comes from fine German bloodlines of working Schutzhund dogs.

“Made in Michigan,” Maverick was bred by John O’Neil in Munger, Michigan. The pick of the litter, Maverick was selected for confidence, intelligence and looks.

His full registered name is, Animal Learning System’s Top Dog Maverick.

Maverick resides at our Urban Dog Campus, where he assists with therapy and training work with the dogs in our programs. He is cross trained to work in all aspects of our business: evaluating other dogs, facilitating training of others, classroom demonstrations, and public relations.

He is a kind animal that brings joy to all lives he touches.



Born July 15, 2011, Axis is a beautiful sable and black, German Shepherd Dog. His name has nothing to do with “evil,” rather it reflects his athleticism and agile ability to weave through space in three-dimensions.

Axis is a family dog, residing at home with Mr. Lessenberry and his family. But, he is a working dog, too!

Axis is cross trained in all aspects of our business: assisting in evaluations of dogs, classroom demonstrations, and as a teaching assistant and role model for dogs in our Capstone Program.


Small Breed Diplomat, Retired

Born September 2, 2002, at eight weeks Razor became Mr. Lessenberry’s answer to those who suggest that he not understand the problems of little dogs.

She could be walked off-leash by the age of 6 months, but required two years to earn the title “house trained.” From 18 to 30 months and for no apparent reason, if unsupervised, she clawed random nose-height peep-holes into the drywall around the house. As a puppy, she had no use for children, rules, or rodents. Today, she loves children, follows the rules, and happily keeps the rodents at bay at her rural home.

In her prime, she was instrumental in developing the personalities of dogs undergoing one of our Off-Leash Training Programs. She is the optimal distraction in teaching dogs to pay attention to their handler and to be responsive under the competing stimulation of a terrier.

At almost 15 years of age, she is deaf, has 8 teeth left, and spends most of the day sleeping. But, when up and about she is still and avid predator of rodents, keeps the other household animals in line, and enjoys her country-living walks.

Under the Rainbow Bridge

A modern-day poem of disputed origin, Under the Rainbow Bridge, offers comfort to those left behind after the loss of a pet.

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

Here, we offer remembrances of those pets who have touched our lives and contributed to our success.



Born January 12, 1996, Mr. Lessenberry first saw him at 3 weeks, again at 7 weeks and brought him home at 10 weeks of age. Yukon went to work in our Family Training Courses the following day and continued to earn a comfortable life in canine academia through the fall of 2008. He lived to the age 12 1/2.

Yukon oversaw all our canine programs with exemplary paternal skills. In addition to being highly trained as a working companion and teaching assistant, he had valued skills for teaching dogs to be well mannered. Not an aggressive dog, he was nonetheless the keeper of the peace.

Too, he was a spokesman for our organization attending many lectures and events across the country.

Bred by Windrock Rottweilers’, Jane Justice, Jane’s naming convention for this litter was that each puppy’s registered name contained the word “Justice.”

He lived up to his name in every aspect: Yukon Duit Justice.



Born Happylegs Croonin’ Hearts, on January 6, 2006, Frankie outgrew his family in size and attitude and was adopted by Animal Learning Systems days before his 1st birthday.

Frankie loved men and children, tolerated women and dogs, and was a loyal family member.

He was cross-trained in evaluating other dogs, assisting in our therapy and training programs, worked in our Family Training Courses, and made many public appearances over the span of his career.

Because of his size and exuberance for children, Frankie had been taught to immediately lie down whenever children approached to help contain his excitement for them. Frankie, resided at our Urban Dog Campus, assisting in behavior therapy and training of dogs in our resident programs. He was a lean 145 pounds of muscle, living to just shy of 9 years.