Interview: Mark Thomas of PetNerds, LLC

Thanks to the wonders of social media networking, we have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mark Thomas, founder and owner of PetNerds, LLC.  PetNerds provides "in-your-home" pet sitting and dog walking services in the Southern Bergen County area of New Jersey.  Mark runs the company, which he describes as a "dream come true," with his wife, Patty, and their little Havanese, Buttons (who was the model for their logo.)  We have been especially impressed by PetNerds' passion for exceptional pet care as well as their creative use of technology to improve customer experience.  So, of course, we had to have a chat with Mark!  Read on to learn what we found out about this great New Jersey dog service!

BBS: PetNerds is, as you say, a dream come true.  When did you start PetNerds and what were your goals in doing so?

PetNerds: Being lifelong animal lovers, my wife and I had always thought that working with animals for a living would be both fun and rewarding. While traveling we realized that leaving your pet behind in someone else’s care could be very stressful.

When we started PetNerds in 2010 we did have certain goals in mind. We strive to help our clients feel secure and give them complete peace of mind while they are away. We care for our clients' pets as if they were our own, taking care to follow their owners specific directions and giving them lots of love and attention. After all, they miss their owners too!  Being an animal lover is of course very important but it is only a part of our vision. Our clients trust us to come into their homes and care for their pets… which in our eyes are family members! They expect that we will treat their home and belongings with care and respect and leave it clean and secure when we are finished. Back when we first started many pet sitters were still leaving a hand written note on the counter when they left which of course the client would not see until they came home. We chose to use technology to let clients know in real time how things are going with their pets and their home.

We also wanted to be prepared for life‘s little emergencies should they arise so we are also trained in pet first aid/CPR.

BBS: You can broadcast video of your dog walks and sitter appointments using your smart phones - cool!!  What else can you do, technologically speaking, that sets you apart from other companies?

PetNerds: Yes, people enjoy seeing that their dogs are enjoying themselves while out for a walk or that their kitties are having fun playing! I feel that it’s important to be mentally present while walking someone’s dog. They enjoy the interaction so I don’t want to be walking along constantly looking at my phone (DDW - distracted dog walking) Lol!

When conditions are safe to do so I enjoy shooting a short video for my clients!

Prior to starting PetNerds I worked for many years in customer service and technology so I am very comfortable adapting to new tech trends if I feel it is something that will actually add value for my customers. I can offer advice on things like installing WebCams, making back ups of their pet pictures, gps tracking etc.

Mark with one of his clients, Molly!

Mark with one of his clients, Molly!

BBS: We have something important in common!  BBScoopers is run by three women in the same family and you run PetNerds with your wife.  Talk a little bit about that intersection between family life and work life.

Wow, we do have that in common! Well I guess I don’t have to tell you that running a business requires you to wear many different hats and requires so much of your time. Pet sitting is not a typical 9-to-5 type of operation because clients require pet sitting from early morning until late night if they are working late or are away on a business trip or vacation. Since starting PetNerds my wife has transitioned to more of a back up/support role and helps me occasionally with administrative tasks and she is working on her own career, so yes… we both work long hours!

It’s important to set boundaries and specifically schedule time off occasionally for family.

BBS: We love that your doggo, Buttons, was the model for your logo!  Tell us a little about both Buttons and the idea behind your very inventive logo.

PetNerds: Thank you! Buttons is very special to us! Well, we had to say a tearful goodbye to our 14-year-old Jack Russell when she went to the rainbow bridge. After some time had passed we began looking around for the right dog for our little family. It took quite some time but eventually we discovered Buttons and felt that she was “the one” and that we should try to adopt her. Out of the many applications that were submitted they chose us!

Not long after that when we were thinking about starting our business we realized that the addition of Buttons to our family and starting a new business venture were both new beginnings for us and we wanted to somehow incorporate Buttons into our business. We couldn’t think of a better way than have her be our logo! As far as the design of the logo I give total credit to my wife… she spent countless hours sketching out different designs on a notepad until she came up with the one that you currently see!

And since that time we have adopted another dog...Murphy! So who knows...we may one day have to revisit our logo!





BBS: Going hand in hand with technology, you are also a savvy user of social media.  With so many different applications coming and going, how do you decide which platforms to use for your business? 

PetNerds: You are correct… There are so many apps coming and going it’s hard to keep track of them all! I concentrate mainly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These are the apps that many of my clients use and it’s fun to interact with them especially when they see pictures of their pets! I find Instagram especially useful for networking with other pet professionals like yourself.

BBS: Give us a run down of your most popular services and how you strive to be the best service provider in those areas.

PetNerds: I would say that I have two services that are the most popular with our customers. The first one would be our basic visit which ranges from 20 to 30 minutes. This is mainly for during the day when people are at work or out running errands and need to have their pooch either let out in their completely enclosed yard or walked. It is also for cats, birds, fish, reptiles or any other small animals.

Our other really popular service is our vacation package. It includes several visits per day. It also includes the benefits of watering of house plants, bringing in mail/newspapers, opening and closing blinds and alternating lights so that it looks like someone is home.

Another added benefit for all of our clients that provide us with keys to their home is the ability to let them in should they ever lock themselves out of their house! I’ve had late night requests for this and it was great to be able to help. PetNerds to the rescue! Haha!

We are happy to add PetNerds, LLC to our "Friends" page and very much look forward to watching their continued growth and success unfold!  If you'd like to learn more or connect with Mark please use this contact page.

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: