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 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.

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.

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.

Patrick Mullins is an animal lover often described as a “friend of the forest.” A lifelong local now living in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Patrick grew up with two spunky dogs and has been a rescue parent for three amazing fur kids. Working with animals has been a life-long dream and the opportunity to work with Pooch Pals means that dream has come true! A writer by trade, Patrick is the perfect person to love and care for your pups while you are away from home. When not making friends with the local wildlife, he enjoys good music, lively conversation and inspiring joy among friends, whether they have two legs or four.

Natalie Maldonado grew up in NYC and has been surrounded by animals all her life. She started working with animals after the rescue of Sheba, her pit/boxer mix, from an abusive owner. Seeing the abuse Sheba endured, Natalie was inspired to help other animals who needed a voice. She has rescued stray cats, chinchillas, dogs, and injured birds. Her goal in life is to become a humane law enforcement officer or wildlife biologist. Natalie has also volunteered for the ASPCA, where she learned about dog and cat body language, behavior and wellness. She took that knowledge with her doing dog walking, dog handling and pet care to ensure the animals in her care receive the best care possible. As a professional pet care provider, your pet’s safety and well-being is her top priority.

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.

Jordan Duffy is originally from New Jersey but resided in sunny Burbank, California for several years. She graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2014 with a Bachelors in Psychology. Jordan’s love for dogs started at the young age of seven when her family took in a stray from the streets. She enjoys meeting new people, as well as getting to know and play with their lovable pets. She has an energetic 11 year old Silky Terrier that enjoys car rides, carrots, and belly scratches. Jordan currently lives in Astoria, Queens.


Lisa Vega is a long time pet owner and passionate animal lover. Lisa’s admiration for animals began at the age of eight when she first got a hamster named Fluffy. Since then, Lisa has owned a variety of different pets including guinea pigs, fish, hermit crabs, parakeets, cats, and even ferrets. Currently, Lisa owns two cats named Pipi and Kiki. In addition to working as pet care provider for Pooch Pals, Lisa is a part time student studying Multimedia Arts at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.


Kira Ruffin grew up in Brooklyn and has loved animals her entire life. Even though she lived in buildings that didn’t allow furry pets, Kira and her sisters cared for three unusual pets–garden snails! After being a Toy Designer, Kira began volunteering at Animal Haven in NYC to take care of dogs and help them get adopted. She writes, “I fell in love with walking dogs while volunteering. I just love seeing how happy and excited a dog gets when they know it is time to go on their walk. It’s the best time of the day for both of us!” Kira is certified in Pet First Aid and CPR and enjoys giving a belly rub and a good behind the ear massage!


Clarice Bloncourt was born and raised in the Bronx with a pet loving family. Since the age of six, she has had golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, doves, bunnies, and more—all which live in her father’s home upstate. She attended Fordham University and graduated in May of 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Right now, she lives in her apartment with her two cats, Frida and Cleo. Always ready to make a new furry friend, Clarice will gladly give your animal the best care possible!


Mary Kosch grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and has always had a passion for animals. She’s never met a dog she didn’t instantly fall in love with, and she always does whatever it takes to make sure all her furry friends were well taken care of! After graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan with a BA in 2018, she’s taken this love of animals from Nebraska to New York! She enjoys getting to know each pup’s personality and helping them make each walk the best! She has experience working with diabetic dogs and and knows how to give inulin shots and get a puppy to take his medicine. Altogether, she has worked with dogs for 6 years and cannot get enough!


Nora Kharmoudi (Assistant Manager) 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.

Sarah Wainwright (Assistant Manager) 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!

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. She has recently completed her Master’s degree in Creative Writing, Nonfiction and is currently working on a book about what working with dogs has taught her about living her life. Sara has always had a soft spot for helping save rescue animals, and is currently a devoted animal rescue volunteer. She 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.

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