Melissa is an Air Force veteran, a Registered Nurse, a Program Instructor with Paws for Purple Hearts, a Certified NATIONAL Crisis Response Team with her canine, Alix and a NOVA Provisional Advocate. These roles have fortified a passion for connecting individuals and responders to support for recovery and resilience
building before, during and after critical times. She aims to strengthen her community by sharing resources and empowering others to help themselves and those they serve.
Her activities Include:
where to see melissa
Paws for Purple Hearts is a 501(c)(3) which had its beginnings as a research program with
Bergin College of Canine Studies and Menlo Park Veterans Administration Medical Center. We
are dedicated to improving the lives of America’s Warriors by providing the highest quality
service dogs and canine assisted therapeutic programs to veterans and active-duty.
Paws for Purple Hearts is the only service dog organization partnered with Bergin College of
Canine Studies which provides the best service dog trainers and the highest quality service dogs.
The Anchorage Facility is staffed by Debbie Zastrow Yanagida and Melissa Kitko. They are
graduates of the Bergin Service Dog program and are active handlers & responders with
NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines.
Among America’s warriors, there is high demand for service dogs and for new ways to help
trauma related conditions. We teach those with trauma related conditions to train service dogs
for their comrades which continues the time-honored tradition of Warriors helping Warriors. In
addition, the participants receive therapeutic benefits which can include; less anxiety, decreased
depression, increased emotional regulation, improved sleep, greater sociability and much more.