Founder and President
Michelle always knew her life would revolve around dogs. Her dream was to one day start a rescue. Well her dreams have come true beginning with L.E.A.D. Rescue!
Michelle adopted her first rescue dog, Oliver, from the humane society and for the next 15 ½ years with him, Michelle grew into the rescue world. Michelle worked from 2012-2014 at The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago as a kennel assistant and then transferred over to clinic receptionist in the low cost spay/neuter department. During that time, Michelle found a stray wandering around her neighborhood. Michelle never gave up on that dog and eventually caught him three days later. Her interest peaked even more and she made it her life goal to help more dogs in need. She sought out resources and education on how to rescue stray/lost and abandoned dogs.
From 2013-2017, Michelle (along with fellow dog rescuers) has helped to humanely trap, rescue, and foster over 150 dogs from the streets of Chicago, and that number keeps growing. Michelle was also featured on an episode of Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation episode called, “Chicago Hope” on National Geographic which highlighted some of the cases that are all too common on Chicago streets. Cesar Milan, impressed with her, invited her to his Dog Psychology Center in January 2017 on a full scholarship.
Through their rescue efforts, Jared and Michelle have gained new friendships with other street rescuers, began networking with local dog rescues, and have helped The Chicago Police Department with calls about dogs running loose. A fellow officer even awarded Jared and Michelle with certificates, congratulating them for all the animals they have saved.
Jared and Michelle started LEAD in January 2018 with the hope and dream that every dog can find the perfect home. The name LEAD stands for 'Love Everything About Dogs', which she came up with because she loves dogs, and for some reason acronyms. She also has a weird obsession with leads (leashes) and why not call her rescue something she cares so much about?
Michelle shares her home with her husband, Jared (see below), and their four dogs: Tater Tot, a Maltese/Poodle, Elmer’s Glue, a Shih Tzu, Letty Ortiz, a Great Pyrenees, and one of LEAD's own dogs that Michelle just couldn't part with, Tum Tum, a French Bulldog/Pitbull mix. Follow Tum Tum on Instagram at Tum Tum_french pit!
Vice president/Medical Director
Daisy grew up with pets of all sizes and shapes so she always knew that she loved animals more than the average person. She didn’t care whether they were big or small, she just wanted to cuddle them all. Because of this, she knew that her future career had to be something she was passionate about. Daisy went to school in hopes of becoming a veterinarian, but in her junior year she had an internship at an animal shelter that completely changed the direction she wanted to take. She witnessed countless animals that had to sit in small cages for months or even years before they finally got adopted and some that never even got that chance. That was when she knew that what she really wanted to do was help homeless animals.
Jared got into rescuing dogs the same way he gets into most situations. By accident. He has a big heart for the underdog (pun intended) whether that be of the human or animal variety. After completing his undergraduate degree at DePaul University he has enjoyed a career in commercial lending with a Chicago area company. He was pulled into rescue by his wife Michelle (see above) and has slowly grown into something of a magnet for lost dogs. He is primarily responsible for managing the finances of the rescue and handles most of the transport needs and stray dog rescues with Michelle. He is a sucker for big fluffy dogs, and especially loves herding breeds.
Ana, when she was little, dreamed of becoming a vet. But growing up in a Mexican household, pets were not always welcome so that dream was forgotten. Ana had to wait until she was on her own to get a pet. She adopted 2 cats right off the bat. Ana went to school for Fine Arts and at that time was working at an indoor soccer facility. None of them had to do with animals until one day she realized what she wanted the most was to work with animals and she applied to an animal shelter. Two months passed and she got a called from the animal shelter, nailed the interview, and started working for The Anti-Cruelty Society as an Animal Care Specialist. Three months passed and Ana fell in love with her fur baby named Fermina, a hound mix. She then moved to the clinic as a Vet Assistant and has been there for 3 years. Ana became a board member of LEAD Rescue and became a foster failure to one of LEAD’s own dogs, Cameron.
Diana grew up with dogs her whole life, from huskies to small mutts. When her very first fur baby (not the family's dog) crossed the rainbow bridge, her heart broke and she was depressed for many months. In an attempt to fill the void in her heart, Diana's husband suggested she try looking for a new friend. Not feeling ready yet, she applied to foster a chihuahua (Izzie)... which she adopted a month later. One year after that, she went on to foster 3 more dogs for LEAD, of which she foster failed and adopted the most recent one, now named Scooby! Diana graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and works in the healthcare industry. There is nothing she loves more than to see the light gleam from the eyes of our transformed dogs!
Lennifer grew up with a handful of cats but has always enjoyed dog sitting and playing with family pets at house parties instead of socializing with people. She wanted to be a vet when she was younger but was convinced not to once she realized she would have to spend 4 extra years in school to become one. Her love of animals didn't die with her school applications though, and she continues to get involved with animals in any way she can. She loves seeing animals in their natural habitat and some of her bucket list items include visiting the elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, diving with sharks in the Galapagos, and going on a safari in Kenya or Tanzania. She recently foster failed and adopted the drooliest English Bulldog (Boba) as a family pet. Lennifer graduated from the University of Virginia and works in data consulting. Her favorite thing about fostering is watching a dog meet a potential adopter and knowing right away that (s)he's found his/her forever home.