Interview: Melanie Pellegrino of Bichon Frise Rescue of NNJ

One of the greatest perks of running a Pooper Scooper business is that our customers consist of all dog lovers ... the best kind of person in our opinion!  And we love to get to know our customers when we can.  It isn't surprising that a good many of them have dog-related businesses of their own or contribute to animal welfare charities and organizations.  Melanie Pellegrino is one such customer.  In fact, she is the Director of a 501(C)3 Non-Profit Charity called Bichon Frise Rescue of Northern NJ that rescues and re-homes Bichons.  Of course we had to find out more to share with you:

Bichon Frise Rescue of Northern NJ helps Bichons find foster families, adoptions, donations and more.

BBS: When and how did you first fall in love with Bichons?

MP: I have always had dogs my entire life (mostly standard poodles and once a shitzu) growing up and while I still lived with my parents. When I got married, Sam, my husband was allergic to dogs so for the first six years we had no dogs. I researched hypo allergenic dogs and found the Bichon to be one of the best breeds for people with allergies. That was over 14 years ago when my Bailey came into our lives (he is now 14 and still doing great). Bichons are smart, loving, affectionate, loyal and very, very attached to their families. They love to be with people and other dogs. They do best in a  home where someone is with them most of the time. They do not do well if left all alone every day while everyone is out working. 

BBS: How do Bichons who need a home come into your care?  Do you work with nearby shelters to spread the word about your Rescue?

MP: The breeder that I purchased my “Bailey” from (and my other 2 dogs Cody and Dex) was the president of the Bichon Frise Club of Northern New Jersey. She sent out an email to all her owners trying to find a home for an 8 year old Bichon who’s owner had passed away. I took Maxie in and adopted him. (He was my first rescued dog). About a year later she put out another appeal to see if someone would be interested in taking over their club’s rescue program which is “the Bichon Frise Rescue of Northern New Jersey.”  As I am an animal lover and animal advocate… I decided to take on the job. The rescue is a 501(c)3 non profit organization that runs solely on donations. I am not paid by the rescue and all my work is done free of charge on a voluntary basis. Most of the dogs that I find homes for either stay in their current home till I can find them a new one, or I find someone that can foster them in their home till I find a permanent home for them. In emergency cases, I do take in a dog or 2 to my home till I can find them their perfect furever home.

BBS: What is the perfect home situation for an adoptable Bichon?  Or otherwise put, what should people know about Bichons in order to determine if they are a good fit? 

MP: Bichons are smart, loving, affectionate, loyal and very, very attached to their families. They love to be with people and other dogs. Most are very good with kids and other animals. They do best in a home where someone is with them most of the time. They do not do well if left all alone every day while everyone is out working. They can be difficult to house train (especially the males) and require a lot of work with them in the beginning when puppies. Also, if they are not neutered early (before puberty at 6 months) they may start to leg lift and mark territory. Bichon owners must be willing to be vigilant with training… and even in some cases, have their male dogs wear a “Belly Band” (amle diaper) when they are gone for longer periods of time or overnight. They are also a big dog personality in a little dog body. So they are not typical "yappy little dogs" and are very confident and happy. They also have double coats… which require professional grooming at least every 6 weeks (I have mine groomed every 3) which can cost $60-$70 per grooming. They need to be brushed or combed out a few times a week or they get matted. So this is not the type of dog that can just “jump in the pool” or be washed in the tub… Grooming needs are high for this breed. 

BBS: Walk us through the process of adopting one of your rescued Bichons - point A to Z.

MP: My dogs are posted on our Facebook Page:  

As well as 6 or 7 other adoption sites online. One of them being Petfinder

Once someone responds to our sites or Facebook page they are asked to fill out an application at our website which is

I review all applications to find the best fit for the dog in question. Those that are approved are contacted and asked to send us Home Check videos via email or text showing all the rooms in their home, their back and front yards and any fencing in the yard. I also call the applicant’s previous or current vet for reference on how they have taken care of their previous pets. From there I narrow down to the perfect family or person for that particular dog. They then sign an adoption contract on the same day that they meet the dog (as long as the meeting goes well.) They give us an adoption donation and then take the dog home with them. During the first few weeks and months we ask them to check in with us the first few days… then each week for at leasts a month to assure the dog is adjusting well and to get updates on the dog. If there is ever a case where the situation does not work out, our contracts state that they MUST return the dog to ONLY ME! They are not permitted to dump the dog in a shelter or have the dog euthanized without our consent (even for medical issues). 

BBS: In addition to directing the Rescue, you are a Bichon mom!  Tell us a little about your crew and how you keep yourself from adopting all of them! :-)

MP: Well my crew currently consists of 4 of my own and 4 that ended up becoming mine (we call those foster failures). Dogs that I couldn’t place anywhere due to medical issues or behavioral issues that I felt I would be best suited to handle. They are all happy and I have worked to get rid of their issues with training and medical care. My original 4 are Bailey, Cody, Dex and Maxie. The permanent fosters are Mambo, Charlie, Sugar and Shallbe. Most of these are senior dogs.  With the exception of Charlie they are all between the ages of 10-14. I know that I can’t adopt them all (although my husband would love to take them all in… more about that later on.) So I am very strict about any foster I take in personally myself… must be adopted out before I can take in another one here. 

BBS: What are your future plans or wildest dreams for what you’d like the Rescue to accomplish?

MP: My husband and I are currently looking for ranch/farm property in western or north western NJ (Sussex, Warren, Morris or Northern Hunterdon County) so that we can open a RESCUE RANCH… I never want to have to turn away another dog due to space restrictions or have to scramble to find a foster for a dog in emergency situations. I want to be able to not only rescue small breed dogs but also horses and other farm animals. This is our dream and we are avidly searching now as we speak. We hope to find something in the next year or less if possible. 

As stated we are a 501(C)3 Rescue and rely on donations to save the dogs we do. Many of these dogs require extensive medical care, dentals, neuter or spay, updating of vaccines, check ups and other vet procedures. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to our rescue the info is below:

You can make a donation via credit or debit card securely at our PayPal Link:

You can also send a check to: 

    Bichon Frise Rescue of Northern NJ

    PO Box 136

    East Hanover, NJ 07936

If you shop at Amazon you can also make a difference by going thru their charity site: which is the same Amazon with the Same prices and merchandise, however all sales will have 1/2 of a percent donated back to us. You MUST make sure you designate Bichon Frise Rescue of Northern New Jersey, Inc  as your Charity of Choice.

Here is the link: