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Meet Melissa Johnston of Cuddle Bear Pet Care in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Johnston.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Cuddle Bear was our real-life kitty, and he was the cat’s pajamas. Everything you could ever want in a friend, he had it. He would go for walks with you, read books, play board games, watch movies. You never wanted to leave him, and he was the best reason to come home.

Later in life, Cuddles got very sick. He was diagnosed with kidney disease. In the 15 months he was sick, we became his tireless advocates. We spent days upon days learning all we could to help him through his treatment. After his passing, we realized something crazy: we’d had to figure out so much stuff on our own, and that seemed ridiculous. Who wants to spend the last months of their pet’s life doing endless hours of veterinary research? No one. You want to spend that time with your furry friend having as much fun as possible. So we decided, we are going to be the people who help you through it. The ones who fall between a veterinarian and a pet owner. The ones who do the research and give you the right questions to ask and the helpful tips you seek, so you can spend more time with your fur nugget.

So that’s how we got started, hoping to do some good for cats when they weren’t feeling top shelf. It wasn’t long before we figured out that medical special needs were not the only special needs. We began offering services to animals with behavioral issues and physical impairments, and helping new rescue parents. We now offer seven services: training, grooming, pet sitting, walks, scoop service, pet taxi, and of course, special needs care. We travel from Simi Valley to Agoura Hills to North Hollywood and deliver custom care to each unique fur child.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting a business is never easy. Everyone makes mistakes. Thankfully, there are many successful entrepreneurs who are willing to guide newbies. One of them is my fearless partner.

A few months ago, a client surrendered to us an anxiety-ridden Italian Greyhound. We renamed him Gator. The main challenge at Cuddle Bear is making a schedule that allows one of us to always be with him. We are suckers for his little, rubber nose and satellite ears.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Cuddle Bear Pet Care story. Tell us more about the business.
Cuddle Bear Pet Care started out with a lot of old-timers, aggressive animals and sick pets. Now we care for all species, breeds, ages, and levels of health. I would say we are known for our 24/7 service, and willingness to work with any animal.

We charge by time, not by service, so we don’t cut corners to get things done faster. If we get a walk client who pulls on-leash or is reactive to other dogs, we train them in leash etiquette as part of the walk service. Our interest is in properly training and caring for animals so they can live happier lives.

I am most proud that we work together as a family to get the job done. There are just three of us who do the appointments, so it’s a very close-knit operation. All of our clients know us, and have open lines of communication with the whole team.

I also feel lucky to have the clients that I do. They are all super understanding and supportive of each other. Many times, they have accommodated slight schedule changes or group walks for the benefit of another animal.

Cuddle Bear has all the advantages of a larger company (liability insurance, GPS-tracked walks, online payment options) with the personal touch of a small, family operation.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” -Dr. Louis Pasteur

I learn as much as I can from as many people as I can, so I am prepared for opportunities when they come my way.

I am lucky to have such a supportive and understanding family. Owning and running a business takes up nearly all of my time, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to do it with.

I also believe that what goes around comes around, so we are big on volunteer work, giving back to the community, and raising awareness for animal welfare organizations. We are lucky to live in a time when there is so much focus on animal rehabilitation.


  • 30 minute service $19

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