DEMAREST, N.J.– It's not easy for dog groomer Janusa "Jan" Rivero of Demarest to separate her personal and professional lives.
Not that she'd want to.
"For me, they are inextricably tied," said the former flight attendant, who owns and operates Jan's Dog House from her Park Street home.
"Whether I'm in my living room or in the office, I am constantly thinking about the dogs, clients and work that needs to be done."
Rivero grew up in Brazil with at least 10 dogs and cats at all times. There were also roosters, chickens, rabbits and ducks rescued by her mother, Wanuza Pinheiro Cruz.
"She taught us to be kind to all living things and from a young age," Rivero said. "My mom took in animals who were hurt or abandoned. She always had her two dogs, Mopsey and Gabriella, by her side."
Rivero moved to the U.S. in 2003 and began working with her sister, Rita, who has a veterinary practice in Demarest.
"As a result, I was reminded of how much I loved caring for animals," she said, adding that she "knew that I wanted to develop my own business where I could care for animals, too."
Rivero earned her grooming certification in 2004 and opened her home office four years ago.
"Animals are especially capable of unconditional love," the mother of three said. "Even without being able to speak our language, they are able to communicate this love with us, and that's something I find incredibly special."
Jan's Dog House is a family operation: The staff includes Rivero's husband, Carlos Ramalho, a retired Brazilian Navy captain, daughters Ursula and Ingrid and son Patrick.
"We have unparalleled trust," Rivero said. "Working with my family allows me to spend more time with them than I would be able to if we all worked independently."
Ingrid, 25, left her Wall Street job to work for her mother and "we've never been closer," Rivero said.
This year, Rita launched the Wanuza Pinheiro Cruz Animal Medical Care Foundation – in honor of her mother, who died in August – which provides pro bono animal medical care to low-income pet owners.
"Our dream is to open an entire state of the art medical center dedicated only to pro bono work separately from Rita's private practice," Rivero said. "We plan to additionally open mobile pop-up clinics in under-aserved neighborhoods, and we will do community outreach to educate pet owners on how best to care for their animals."