In 2001, Melanie established K-9 Kampus while also continuing to work with horses and their owners. By 2003, she was leading search and rescue command level operations, and began training the first known human remains detection horses in the United States of America for a mounted unit affiliated with a law enforcement agency in the state of Arkansas. She soon began developing, writing, and reviewing K9 Handler and Equine Rider Team certification criteria for organizations and private entities, and also developing, instructing, and writing professional handler courses and training curriculum geared towards search and rescue, human remains detection, patrol, protection, narcotics, and explosives detection.
By the time that K-9 Kampus was merging with Quality K9 Concepts in February 2008, Melanie had served as a Judge for the American Patrol and Protection Dog Association and an Animal Cruelty Investigator for the State of Arkansas and earned a reputation as a leading K9 and Equine training instructor, and as an animal care specialist and animal behavior expert. She felt like she was making a real impact on the world, going from one locale in the US to another, bringing her knowledge everywhere she went and taking part in missing and lost person cases leading the search command infrastructure alongside LEOs and private citizens.
Then, tragedy struck. It was October 2009. She had undergone surgery, and in the process she had become a victim of medical harm, a textbook case of negligence: no sedation, no Valium, a needle driven right into her spinal serves through the frontal dura sac, the doctor performing everything without an assistant. One of her best friends was holding her hand as this horrific event occurred. Melanie has endured battles with multiple conditions subsequent from the spinal cord injury including Adhesive Arachnoiditis, Gastroparesis, Congestive Heart Failure, and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) which is the most painful medical condition known in the history of mankind. The pain and trauma made her life into something out of a nightmare for years to come. Every system in her body had been grossly compromised.
In 2013, Melanie was once again admitted into the hospital, fighting for her life more than ever before. Her survival is nothing short of miraculous. Physicians agreed her life was no longer about quantity, but quality. She had been advised that the harm inflicted had robbed her of over 20 years of her life, that every diagnosis was progressive, and that she would be dependent upon a wheel chair. Upon hearing this devastating news, Melanie calmly explained how that simply wouldn’t work for her. Upon being discharged from the hospital, she was placed in an in-home health care program for the next two years.
In the years since that fateful October day, Melanie has done one-week and two-week stints in the hospital innumerable times. She has had to re-learn how to walk multiple times, and has become a master at improvising, adapting, and overcoming. Her analytical mind and problem-solving skills have led her down a path of reversing medical diagnoses claimed to be progressive without cures. Keeping meticulous records of her medical journey, she plans to write up and publish her story in a book, sharing some of it (plus other advice and tips that she has gleaned from her experiences) on her blog.
Although it was extremely difficult for her to come to terms with her life changes for a long time, Melanie has since become a patient and caregiver advocate. She has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, she has done guest spots on radio programs, and she has found a way to turn her suffering into something positive. Researching her condition and various approaches to treating it, she has become more educated than ever before in a range of fields, including organic chemistry, pharmaceutical science, and clinical therapy. Gifted with an analytical mind, she has applied herself wholeheartedly to figuring out how she can recover the life she once knew and help others who may find themselves in situations similar to hers.
As a former administrator for a global arachnoiditis support group and a delegate for the International Pain Foundation, Melanie has made it her mission to help those who are suffering. In October 2015, she earned her certification as an Usui Reiki Master Practitioner, founded Arachnoiditis Awareness Month alongside the International Pain Foundation, and recommitted herself to animals, fighting against animal cruelty and neglect and planning to go back to her roots with the launch of Primal K9 Academy and the Stand a Chance Foundation.
Melanie’s road here has been an arduous one. She had intuited what was to come – one of many such experiences in her life, including a day in 2007 that a dog training client had told her she would have full body RSD from a spinal cord injury – and had accepted her fate. The pain and suffering, though, have pointed her toward a future that is even brighter and more productive than any she could have imagined back then. In 2017, Melanie was able to begin traveling across the country filming chronic pain patients and victims of medical harm for upcoming documentaries to be produced by the Stand a Chance Foundation, and was accepted for a casting call in the Transformers Bumblebee Movie which led her to Santa Cruz, California.
Melanie remains optimistic for what is to come, and she is eager to continue empowering, improving, and saving the lives of others. Whatever she can do to make this world better, she is ready to do it, and after all that she has gone through, there is no challenge too daunting for her to take on.