Nikki Charles, M.A.
Nikki joined the Hero Dogs staff in May 2018. Prior to that, she co-founded and worked as a co-executive director at Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC), a comprehensive crime victim services organization serving Washington, DC, for six years. In that capacity, she oversaw operations, advocacy, case management and therapeutic support for victims of all crime types, including a 24-hour on call sexual assault crisis response team. She is passionate about helping those who experienced trauma recover using the most progressive and effective treatments and programs available. Prior to founding NVRDC, she was the Administrator of Victim Services for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in Maryland. She has received two Governor’s Citations for Excellence in Victim Services. Under her leadership, NVRDC’s case management team was honored with a Navy Award of Group Merit, for NVRDC’s response to the 2013 mass shooting at the Navy Yard. She was also a full time faculty member at American Military University for a decade. She is a master’s level trained grief counselor who received her B.S. from Shepherd College and her M.A. from Hood College.
Breeding Coordinator/Puppy Trainer
Emily joined the Hero Dogs team in July of 2023. She was born and raised in New York, where she graduated from Ithaca College in 2020. Emily had the opportunity to become a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind during her sophomore year of college, and is now raising her fifth guide dog puppy for them (a female black Lab named Nova). Before joining Hero Dogs, Emily worked for Guiding Eyes as a kennel technician at the training school and was a receptionist at an emergency veterinary hospital. Emily is excited to work with puppies and dogs of all ages, and about getting to be a part of the Hero Dogs community. Emily lives with her partner Kathleen and their black Labrador Teagan. They are excited to explore all that Maryland has to offer.
James joined the Hero Dogs staff as Administrative Assistant in September 2012, becoming the organization’s first hired staff member, after ten years of working in administrative jobs at other organizations. He was thrilled to find a position where he could support an organization that works to help those in need, and delighted to find himself in an office where canines frequently outnumber humans. He and his wife, Jessica (a Hero Dogs volunteer) live near Frederick, MD.
Mike Clancy, LCPC, LCADC
Director of Applicant & Client Services
Mike joined the Hero Dogs staff as the Director of Applicant and Client Services in March 2018. He has extensive experience as a licensed clinician in mental health and substance abuse services and has served in the military in both the United States Air Force and the Maryland Army National Guard. Mike is originally from New York City but has lived many places because of his military career. He has been a program director in various mental health programs in a variety of behavioral health settings. He has a B.S. from the University of Maryland in Psychology, a MAED in Counseling from Northern Arizona University, a M.A. from West Virginia Graduate College (now Marshall University Graduate College) in Diagnosis and Intervention, and a M.DIV. from Liberty University in Military Chaplaincy. He has volunteered with a number of organizations such as the Howard County Police Department, Team River Runner, and Team RWB.
Becca Cooper, CPDT-KA
Director of Dog Programs
Becca, a native of upstate New York, is a graduate of SUNY Cobleskill in Animal Science. She is a certified dog trainer, CPDT-KA, who first came to Hero Dogs in January 2012 to do her senior year internship. As an intern, she supervised the kennel volunteers, cared for the four dogs then at the facility, assisted with classes, and learned new service dog training skills. After graduating in May 2012, Becca took a position at a local animal shelter. However, she missed the Hero Dogs she had spent four months living with too much, and she returned to Hero Dogs that fall as our Kennel Manager. In June 2018, Becca handed off the Kennel Manager duties to Sabrina and became a full-time trainer dedicating her time to working with the advanced training of dogs at our facility, puppies still with their puppy raisers, and Hero Dogs Teams. Having previous experience as a volunteer instructor at a therapeutic riding program, Becca enjoys coming to work every day on a horse farm, and sometimes tries to sneak extra cats into the kennel.
Puppy Program Manager
Destiny graduated from UMD with a degree in English. She is from Southern Maryland and grew up with a dog, cats, and chickens. She has always loved working with animals, especially dogs, as she worked at a boarding kennel and a veterinary clinic prior to joining Hero Dogs in October of 2021. She has spent the last three and a half years volunteering for numerous service dog organizations, including The Guide Dog Foundation, America’s VetDogs, and U.S. Veterans Service Dogs. Destiny held leadership roles within these organizations where she helped other puppy raisers through their experience. Her favorite part of working with these organizations was teaching puppy classes. Destiny is excited to be able to continue this in her position with Hero Dogs, and is glad that her dog, Banks, can sometimes accompany her to the office.
Stephanie began as a contractor at Hero Dogs in August 2019 and officially joined the staff in May 2020. Originally from Georgia, Stephanie obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Georgia State University in Atlanta. After graduating, Stephanie moved to DC and began her career in victim services, working for four years as a crime victim advocate – first in Alexandria, VA, then at the Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC). After moving to Chicago with her partner In 2015, Stephanie was given the opportunity to work remotely and pursue other professional interests by supporting NVRDC through development and communications. She worked at NVRDC in that capacity until 2019 and is happy to bring the knowledge she gained to Hero Dogs and work once again for Nikki. Stephanie is proud to work for an organization that supports veterans, as her dad is a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran. Stephanie is a dog lover and describes herself as “obsessed” with her own dog, a miniature dachshund named Brangelina. Though she lives in the great city of Chicago and works remotely, her heart is still in the DC metro area.
After volunteering at Hero Dogs for seven years, Julie joined the Hero Dogs staff in 2019 as a part-time Kennel Technician. She has always been passionate about dogs ever since she was a kid and is thrilled to be working where she is surrounded by four-legged fur friends. Julie lives with her family in Laytonsville along with two rescue hounds, Scooby & Lily, and a barn cat named Ninja.
Sabrina Zambito, CPDT-KA
Trainer and Facility Dog Coordinator
Sabrina Zambito graduated from Towson University with her Bachelor’s of Science, double majoring in psychology and animal behavior. She then received her professional dog training certificate (CCPTD-KA) in 2019. She has always enjoyed working with animals, and has previously volunteered at multiple horse rescues, as well as working at both a veterinary clinic and the Humane Society. After interning with Hero Dogs during college, she began working for them full-time in 2018. Being able to see the bonds that the dogs form with their partners is an incredible experience for Sabrina. She is proud to have a small part in helping those with disabilities regain their independence with the help of a service dog. Sabrina lives in Frederick, MD with her husband and their Labrador retriever, Hero Dogs Clara, who was actually the first breeding dog for Hero Dogs. During her free time, she enjoys adventuring outdoors, whether camping, kayaking, or hiking.