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 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 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 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.
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!
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.
Gabriela Aleman hails from Washington State and has grown up raising and training hunting dogs. She has extensive experience working with dogs 80 pounds and up, specifically Labrador and Retriever breeds. Her current dog, a black Labrador named Moose, still lives in Washington. Gabriela joined the Pooch Pals team in order to make some new dog friends and at least partially heal the pain of being separated from her best friend back home.
James Rice is originally from Southwest Florida, but he has lived in New York City for three years. James grew up with a Golden Retriever, two cats, and a parrot, as well as the occasional snake or frog that happened to find its way into the house (usually smuggled in by one of the cats)! Later in life, he enjoyed the company of a Chihuahua, an Australian Shepard, and a King Charles Cavalier. Limited by his apartment circumstances, James currently only has one pet–a cactus named Duncan. He loves working with dogs because they are friendly, joyful, and just plain fun to be around. In his spare time, James likes to do comedy and theatre activities.
Nora Kharmoudi (Client Relationship Specialist) was born in Alaska and raised in Hawaii, where memories ranging from her family’s participation in the Iditarod Sled Dog Races to helping care for a menagerie of animals on tropical farmland shaped her into a lover of creatures great and small. After graduating with a B.A. in Art History, she sought out a place where she could make some new fuzzy friends and found Pooch Pals! Nora enjoys nachos, penguins, and all things droll and British. Her fuzzy child, Freyja, enjoys stealing human food, obnoxious squeaky toys, and cuddles.
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.
Sara Tickanen (General 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.
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.