The UnShelter Me Team


We would like to introduce you to the team of heart-full, dog-loving, slightly crazy individuals who are leading the charge.


Erika Dugas, President

Erika Dugas, Strategist, Builder of the Brand, and CPDT-KA

Erika is a classically trained, award-winning, graphic designer and photographer. She is an entrepreneur and has owned her own studio since 1996. In that time Erika has been building brands and telling stories for companies small and large.  She holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Rhode Island College and is an Alumni Award winner for outstanding achievement in her field.

After adopting an aggressive dog and being unknowingly thrown into the world of canine behavior head first, Erika set herself on a mission to find answers and help as many dogs as she could. In 2009, after 2 years of study, apprenticeship with trainers and working with behaviorists, Erika received her CPDT-KA, joined the APDT, and was certified as an AKC Canine Good evaluator. Over the last 10 years, Erika has rescued multiple animals, including 5 dogs, 2 ferrets and 6 mice. She worked with her rescue Weimaraner to become a certified Pet Partner Visiting team, receiving a perfect score at their evaluation. In her time working with dogs, Erika has trained and/or evaluated hundreds of dogs in both private settings and shelter environments. Currently, Erika is pointing all of her skills at a single mission: To improve the quality of life for dogs through the education and inspiration of the people who care for them.

Erika is a total geek on many levels. She can be found trolling Kickstarter and Mashable on her iPhone 6+ ready to discover and adopt the next best thing. She is also a triathlete and an amateur cook, testing gluten-free, vegetarian dessert recipes.


Heidi D’Ascoli, Secretary

Heidi D’Ascoli, Fundraiser, EBAY Guru, CPDT-KA

Heidi is a licensed respiratory therapist and has worked for the Veterans Administration since 1991. She has been charged with the care of veterans as the administrative director of the department at the Providence VA.

Heidi has been an animal advocate since childhood, adopting her first dog at the age of 18. In 2006, Heidi received her ABC-CDT certification followed by her CPDT-KA. Heidi has worked as the head trainer for the RISPCA for 8 years, evaluating the temperament of over 4000 dogs. She has also structured and taught group classes and is a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Her rescue work has not been limited to dogs. Heidi has fostered for Mainely Rat Rescue for the last 4 years and has been known to bottle feed newborn kittens and raise orphaned birds.

Heidi is a selling machine and raises funds through the collection and reselling of donated items. She is an EBAY Power Seller and a Master Craigslist Hawk. Heidi is also a self-admitted bad dresser who loves ugly shoes.



Eduardo Lessa, Treasurer

Eduardo Lessa, Business Development, Online Genius, and Dog Lover

Eduardo has spent his professional life helping companies innovate their digital initiatives. Coming from a financial and business background, he quickly found a love for technology and implementing it strategically to achieve a bevy of business goals. He has held long tenures tasked with responsibilities ranging from business development to CTO at companies like Gem Home Services and Fidelity Investments. He has a uniques ability to absorb and translate an organization’s digital needs into an actionable plan and then act as liaison between the business and technology groups. He is also a hands on developer producing web sites and apps for iOS and Android platforms.

With all of these skills, he is currently overseeing Cooperation Canine and UnShelter Me’s business management, web development, and app development. He is also handling the treasury responsibilities.

Eduardo is fresh on the dog scene and learning first hand all about canine charisma. He currently lives with 3 rescue dogs and is enamored by their uniqueness and capacity. Geeking out not with standing, triathlons are his life-long passion. He also thinks ice cream should be a food group, speaks 5 languages if you include PHP, and loves to collect apps on his iPhone.


Mary Ella Dubreuil, Director

Mary Ella Dubreuil, Volunteer and Human Engine Manager, and Fairy Dog Mother

Mary Ella is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Chemical Dependency Clinical Supervisor, with over 36 years of experience in the field of behavioral health. She currently serves as the director of Alcohol Drug Treatment Services and manager of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. Mary Ella is a published author in her field, a Senior Teaching Associate for Brown University and holds a Master’s degree in Holistic Leadership from Salve Regina University.

Mary Ella has long recognized the need for a holistic approach to the healing process. It was through her interest in the integration of multiple treatment modalities that her commitment to Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) began. Recognizing the existing evidenced-based research supporting the use of animals in the healing process and observing the interactions between her patients and the animals, ideas for expanding this therapeutic relationship were born.

Mary Ella’s love for animals led her to care for a canine/feline family of six for over 13 years. She worked with four of her own dogs to become certified in Animal Assisted Therapy and they quickly became partners in supporting the healing process of people working to recover from various behavioral health issues. Although three of her animal family members have recently passed, three of her dogs continue to work with her at the hospital. They are enthusiastic treatment team members. Mary Ella has been dubbed “Fairy Dog Mother” since her generosity for the salvation of dogs, and animals of all kinds, knows no bounds.

If you have any questions for the team, please send us a note!


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