Compassionate, One on One Petcare with Pooch Pals

Every service we provide makes personal and one-on-one attention a priority.

Private dog walking and dog training are some of the best ways to create a stronger bond with your dog. At Pooch Pals, we implement positive reinforcement dog training, and we believe reliable, trustworthy, and caring attention bring out the best in every dog and every owner. We have a strong foundation of compassion and cooperation. We get to know each of our clients and welcome every new partner into our loving community of pet owners and professionals.

All of our pet care professionals have undergone our comprehensive training program. We also ensure that a full criminal background check is conducted and that references are carefully checked.

Your assigned pet care provider takes great strides to ensure they build and maintain a lasting relationship with you and your pets for years to come. Take a moment to meet your pet care provider:

Laura Nectow PhotoLaura Nectow was born and raised in the beautiful town of Plymouth, MA. Growing up with a black lab named Duke and a chocolate lab named Shadow, Laura was a dog lover from the very start. “I can’t imagine my life without them. There’s something so special about communicating with dogs of all breeds and getting to know their individual personalities.” Laura studied photography at the New England Institute of Art in Boston. She now owns a funny little Jack Russell/Corgi named Frankie and resides in Astoria, NY.


Mikaela Gallego PhotoMikaela Gallego is a former creative writing major at Pratt Institute and working on a collection of poetry. Raised in a unique environment filled with all sorts of pets – from sugar gliders to a 100 pound yellow lab – an opportunity to work with Pooch Pals seemed like a perfect fit.  Mikaela has quickly found her passion for providing the most personal and quality care, as she strives to build strong relationships with both her new canine and human friends.


Victor Rivera hails from the sunniest of states to bring his shining personality to the Pooch Pals team. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Victor has always had an inherent love for animals. He believes that his spirit animal might actually be a dog; he is loyal, energetic, laid back, and a loving individual. He studied Deaf Education in the Midwest for a few years before moving to NYC to pursue a lifelong dream of living in the most electrifying city on Earth. Two of his favorite roommates are cats (Pippin pictured left). Victor’s other interests include reading, petting dogs on the street, exploring the city, going to Disney World as often as possible, and being around positive individuals.

Allison Gish PhotoAllison Gish is a life-long animal lover who loves nothing more than spending time with her furry friends! Hailing from Louisiana, Allison moved to New York to continue her career as speech-language pathologist. After moving to the city, however, Allison’s passion for singing was reignited, and she is going back to graduate school at Mannes College of Music to pursue a professional studies diploma in vocal performance. She is thrilled to be able to spend time outdoors with dogs every day and seeks to radiate joy in everything she does! Allison resides in Manhattan with her husband, Nick, and cat, Kitty.

Sarah Wainwright grew up in Boston, MA. She has a broad history in animal care, including volunteer work in the Live Animal Center at Boston’s Museum of Science, fostering dogs through the North East All-Retriever Rescue, and pet sitting. She moved to the big city to become a professional dancer, graduating from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 2013 with a job in a dance company, but had to leave her lovable Labrador Retriever at home in the process. Combining her love of New York with her passion for animals is exactly how Sarah wants to spend each day, and Pooch Pals is where she gets to do just that!

Patricia Richards is a lifelong animal lover who hadn’t actually thought about making animals her career until she started working with Pooch Pals in June of 2015. Today she is enrolled in the Animal Behavior College’s Professional Dog Training program and hopes to one day have a career training service dogs and other working canines. Born and raised in the Midwest before moving to the city two years ago, she and her three furry children now calls the South Bronx home.


Lauren McKenzie PhotoLauren McKenzie was born in London and recently moved to New York to attend NYU. She is majoring in Classical Civilization and Psychology. Being so far from home, she misses her dog, Jessie, and her tortoise, Sonic. Lauren has always grown up with a love of animals and has owned many pets including frogs, hamsters, and a horse. By working with Pooch Pals she hopes to fill that void in her life and reconnect with her love of animals.



Denis Vlasopoulos grew up moving between both Europe and New York as the first child of an immigrant couple. He always wanted dogs, but he was never allowed to have one. Owning his own home changed that! Denis has fostered many dogs and currently has 2 rescued pitbulls at home. Leaving his family’s chain of restaurants and settling in the Village of Manhattan, Denis is currently doing what he always felt was his calling–working with dogs.


Justin Fontanez has lived in the Bronx his whole life and has always wanted to work with animals. He is currently living with 2 fish, 2 tortoises and 1 dog and loves being a dad to all of them. Although he was never allowed a dog while growing up, his love and passion for dogs never faded, and he took every opportunity to interact and learn more about them. He was originally employed as a medical biller, but he is now pursuing his dream to work with dogs and spends most of his time with his loved ones, especially his 7 year old Beagle Jack.


Diana (Bear) Spiegel grew up in Los Angeles, California and moved to New York in the Fall of 2014. She is currently a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College pursuing her BFA in acting with a minor in Gender and Sexuality studies. She has been a lover of all animals since before she could speak and has never met a furry friend she hasn’t liked. She grew up with her wonderful cat, Mystery, who still resides with her parents in LA. Diana has always been obsessed with her friends and neighbors dogs and constantly took them for walks, played with them, and pet sat whenever possible. She also has a close connection with Winston, her director’s dog from back home. Whenever her director was busy, Diana was put on “Puppy Duty,” which included playing, walking, feeding, and making sure Winston wasn’t sneaking anyone’s food.

Andrea Byrnes was born and raised in New Jersey, and moved to New York City after spending four years traveling the country while her husband served in the military. During that time, she was unable to have a dog of her own and she felt a great void in her life. She has been a dog lover since childhood, and has always had a dream of helping to make a difference in the lives of our canine companions. After spending time working in retail, Andrea decided to follow her dream of working with dogs upon moving to Manhattan. Andrea studied public relations while attending Montclair State University, and would like to return to school in the future. After seeing much of the country, Andrea is happy to have settled in a city that is as dog-friendly as New York!

oie_jpg (6)Ayleen Cruz grew up in New York. Animals have always been a big part of her life, as she has lived with everything from dogs and cats to snakes and turtles. Ayleen has a BA in graphic communications and has her own design business, but she has always felt the desire to incorporate animal care into her life. After rescuing two stray cats from the snow covered streets of New York, she now finds herself with a pocket of cat treats to share with every stray she passes. She finally decided to follow her passion and work with Pooch Pals’ dogs, providing care and getting a better understanding of the bond between humans and our furry companions.

Sara Tickanen (Staffing Manager) has wanted to work with animals since, well, forever. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Sara recently relocated to New York to pursue graduate studies and earn her Master’s degree in Creative Writing, Nonfiction. She has always had a soft spot for helping save rescue animals, and is currently a devoted volunteer with Mighty Mutts animal rescue. Sara lives at home with her rescue cat, Samara Reese (Sami), whose interests include mousing, eating, and sleeping. Sara’s interests (of much less importance than Sami’s) include animals, writing, teaching, and binge watching Netflix.

Nora Kharmoudi (Client Relationship Specialist) was born in Alaska and raised in Hawaii where her adorable Shih Tzu-Dachshund mix, Kukuilani, is currently waiting for her. She grew up in a family that participated in the Alaskan Iditarod Sled Dog Races and created a menagerie of animals on their farmland which fostered her lifelong love of all animals. Nora is a recent Ithaca College graduate, an avid traveler, and is currently pursuing a career in Media Production.


Kimberly Tom (Client Relationship Specialist) has always dreamed of working with animals. While at the University of Connecticut, Kimberly started an animal advocacy group amongst her student body. After school, Kim continued pursuing her passions while volunteering at Animal Haven. During this time Kim also worked at Pooch Pals as a professional pet care provider. After a stint working in customer service, Kim has come back to Pooch Pals roughly two years later. When Kim is not spending time with animals, she’s in the kitchen cooking up a storm for her loyal canine customers at Pawsitively Pups.

Alex Loftus (General Manager) was raised in south Florida and moved to the Big Apple almost four years ago. Even though he grew up having family dogs, fate didn’t bring his rescue pup into his life until right before the move to New York. He and his wife currently reside in Manhattan with their dog Bentley and his cat sister Collins. Their very active daily play sessions lead many to believe that they are the only two who don’t realize their difference in species, but their humans wouldn’t have it any other way.


oie_jpg (4)Motty Gutflais (Canine Executive Officer) held a career in finance for seven years. Seeking another career more in line with his love for animals, Motty pursed his dream of opening a doggy daycare. He is now the proud owner of D is for Doggy. Motty’s goal was to create doggy daycare just like his home was with his two dogs growing up – cozy, safe, and full of love. He looks forward to keeping the same quality of care at Pooch Pals and is excited to be part of this great company.


Marc Elias PhotoMarc Elias (Head Dog Trainer) After six years of experience working for corporations, Marc sought a less traditional role aligned with his background in client services, operations and marketing, paired with his love of animals and helping people. Today, Marc Elias is the head dog trainer for Pooch Pals pet care and dog training divisions with a certification from the Animal Behavior College. Marc and his Goldendoodle Riley are active pet therapy volunteers certified by the Good Dog Foundation.


Click to read about “A Friend For Life“, an original editorial series showcasing the extraordinary professional pet care team at Pooch Pals.