Local Talk: Q+A with Montclair Entrepreneur Janine Ruella (aka Montclair Pet Girl)

Tell us about your earliest connection to pets. Did you have dogs, cats, birds...growing up?

Our first family pet ever was a canary. We had a place “down the shore " and every Friday my Mom would pack up the kids, the car and the canary and head out of town for the weekend.

As children tend to do, my sister and I begged relentlessly for a dog. We campaigned on the promises that we would walk, feed, and otherwise provide stellar care for said dog. We got our wish and were surprised one afternoon with a tiny Bichon puppy we named Benny. Despite our promises, the dog quickly became a third child for my Mom, and Benny remained after we left home for college. It’s safe to say my pet care skills have grown exponentially since the Benny days.


Do you have pet(s) now? Tell us about them.

Currently I have two rescue pups, Remy, an affectionate lemon beagle ruled largely by her nose and her next meal and Desi, a cantankerous Chihuahua who is not a fan of most humans and requires a temperature of 60 degrees or more to even entertain the possibility of going outside. Suffice it to say, it's been a long winter. They shed like crazy and bark at everything, but they are fiercely loyal and always forgive me quickly for coming home smelling like 9,000 other dogs. In our free time, we can most likely be found on the couch snuggled up watching Netflix. I also have two rescue cats, Kuma and Keiko, who spend most of their time sleeping and avoiding the dogs.


Entrepreneurism is not for the faint of heart. What was the tipping point for you to decide to start the business in 2011? Was there a certain moment or event that triggered you to take the leap?

I was working as a school teacher and was quite frankly pretty miserable. I hated the commute and being in the same room all day long. I had worked as a nanny when I was in college at Montclair State, and was fortunate enough to able to be out and about all over town all day, taking kids to the park and other activities. As the kids got older, the family I worked for began leaving me in charge of the dog when they traveled. As my discontent in education grew, I wracked my brain for alternate means of supporting myself. I knew there was a need for quality pet care in a town where so many people have pets and full lives and busy schedules. I decided to draw on my natural inclination to nurture coupled with my passion and experience with pets and Montclair Pet Girl was born. I quit teaching and took a part time nanny job and also taught (and still teach) yoga to support myself as my fledging business grew. We have retained some of our very first customers, and those relationships and dogs mean more to me than I can ever express.


Starting and growing a business is tough but carries many valuable lessons, what is the most important element that you have learned thus far?

I am only as strong as my team and the people I surround myself with. I have a great team of pet lovers who seldom complain despite ever changing weather and physically demanding work. I trust each one of my teammates implicitly, and they are an integral part of my business and my life. I value them, and it’s important to me that they feel appreciated and supported. If they’re happy, the pets are happy!

 I have also found that when you are doing what you love and are passionate about, even the “hard stuff” is easy.


What is it about the Montclair area that served as the perfect community to launch your business?

Beyond the fact that town is full of so many awesome people and pets and is home to so many parks and green spaces, people here are BUSY! Living along the train line means so many folks are traveling to the city and working long hours leaving their pets at home for long stretches of time. If they’re not in the city, they’re busy with kids and juggling activities and schedules and don’t always have time to give their pet the attention and exercise they crave. Also, as awesome as town is, Montclairian’s seem to love to travel, creating a need for our overnight “pawjama party” service.

Montclair is also a “love your local” small business supporting type of place. There is not a cookie cutter, one sized fits all approach to anything here. Your neighbors want to know you and want you to succeed and to do well. The town literally lends itself to a hyperlocal small business like mine.


What advice can you give for any prospective or current pet owner?

Be prepared for a big commitment that will reward you for years to come. The time you invest in your dog when he/she first joins your family is invaluable and sets the precedent for life! Establish a routine and be as consistent as possible. Dogs thrive on routine and generally want to please you, but they need to know what you want from them. Every dog/cat has their own unique personality traits and disposition, it can be helpful to pay attention to patterns of behavior, so that you can anticipate a reaction and not miss an opportunity to correct/reward.


Tell us something about animals that very few people or no one knows.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear, which allows each ear to move independently of the other. All the better to eavesdrop on your conversation and plot your demise. As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.


What does local mean to you?

Close, familiar, community. I think “local” is more a feeling than geography. It’s what feels like home, an energy, a sense of belonging. A feeling that you’re in the company of others with the same affection for a place that you have.


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

I have long been a latte girl, but lately I have been a fan of the cappuccino at Local!