Gina Protocollo, the friend to animals
DAVID ROSS - Courtesy of Valley Roadrunner
could call Gina Protocollo the friend to anything furry, or
for that matter scaly or feathery. The fact that she also runs
a mobile pet grooming service is only incidental to that fact.
“I guess you could say that I’m the voice of the dog,” she says.
“I will do whatever I can when I find a dog that needs care.”
“I’ve always been a dog person, really an animal person,” she
says. “I’ve had pigs, birds, even an iguana.” Her
cause is to encourage responsible pet ownership. This is something
she promotes, this is something she lives.
December 2013, Protocollo, who has operated K-9 Cleaners in
Valley Center since 2004, came across a dog named Vito, an adorable
Pitbull who didn’t look all that adorable when she first saw
him. His owner had neglected him to the point where he was covered
with Dimodex mange. The owner reached out and asked Protocollo
to help. The dog was so afflicted by the mange that he could
barely see, and that was his condition when he walked in front
of Protocollo’s mobile van.
told the owner, “I’m not leaving without the dog.” She didn’t.
“I took him. I treated him, with the help of a veterinarian
technician. If we had taken him to a vet at first, they would
have put him down,” she recalls.
took a year of treatments before anyone could touch Vito without
their hand coming away with blood on it. Protocollo and her
vet assistant friend gave the dog, who was about six months
old at the time, cold laser treatments to promote hair growth.
She had to put medicine in his eyes constantly to fight the
infection that threatened to make Vito permanently blind.
he progressed enough that she took Vito to Dr. William Hernandez,
an Escondido veterinarian. He was able to treat Vito’s mange
with ivermectin. Today when she shows up at the office of Dr.
William Hernandez all she has to do is say “Hey, it’s Gina with
Vito,” and the veterinarian will stop what he’s doing and come
out to greet the friendly pooch.
Dr. Hernandez and his daughter Alia Hernandez operates Parkway
Pet Clinic in Escondido, which Protocollo has also partnered
with for pet rescues and to provide low cost spay and neutering
services to attempt to reduce the population of unwanted animals.
“I want to acknowledge them for their dedication in rescuing
animals in need,” she says.
What condition is Vito in today?
“He doesn’t look normal but at least he’s healthy,” says Protocollo.
She still calls him “Stinky Boy,” although he doesn’t smell
bad anymore. Another rescue dog is a Chihuahua whom Protocollo
met six years ago. She also occasionally finds homes for dogs
that need them. “If there is a need, I will do it,” she says.
Protocollo has five dogs and all of them are rescues. They include
Vito the Pitbull, Peanut the Chihuahua, a Terrier mix, a Queensland
Heeler and a Doberman. She just acquired Button, a Maltese-Poodle,
who needs a home; and recently found a forever home for Lily-Ann
It figures that a woman who cares this much about dogs also
gives tender, loving care as a groomer. Besides basic grooming,
Protocollo offers therapeutic grooming, including massage, laser
and Reiki treatments. She also does bath, brush, ears, nails,
teeth—and grooming always includes a haircut. She doesn’t have
“regular” hours and, although she doesn’t like to work every
day of the week, it is possible to make appointments for any
of the seven days.
“My schedule is flexible,” she says. She does all the work herself,
from a converted ambulance. She often does fund-raising dog
washing, and has raised funds for the American Cancer Society,
Angel’s Depot (a now defunct organization that used to provide
elder care for veterans,) and for the Humane Society. “It breaks
my heart to go down there and I see these dogs and I just want
to take them home,” she says.
A one-stop shop
Protocollo is also a resource for people who want answers to
questions such as, “My dog is old. Where can I find special
care for him?” “I’m sort of a one-stop shop for everything from
the puppy years to the senior years. I can usually figure out
what to do. People are customers first and clients forever and
in some cases friends, as well.”
years ago, she opened her house to Leela, who belonged to a
homeless veteran named Mike Toretch. As Toretch describes it,
“Almost two years ago, I fell on some hard times. I had to move
into a Veteran’s shelter because I was broke and unemployed.”
Dogs were not allowed at the shelter.
“Gina took my baby girl in and took care of her until I picked
her up. The thing is, I only met Gina 10 minutes before she
said she would take her in. Gina was a ‘friend of a friend.’
I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant to me to have ‘Leela’
in a foster home instead of having to take her back to the Humane
Society where I got her in 2004. I can’t thank Gina enough for
opening that big heart of hers for my ‘Leela.’ This woman is
“I always knew I would have to give Leela back, but that didn’t
mean I didn’t give her all my love,” says Protocollo.
Perry Morrow describes how Protocollo persuaded him to provide
a forever home for a senior dog. “Gina called and ask if I wanted
another dog. She sent me pictures so I asked her to bring KC
by so I could meet her. Her owner had passed away and KC was
13 at the time. Of course, I took her. She escaped a few times
as I only live a half mile from her old home. Gina came and
helped me find her and bring her back. Now she’s a happy dog
and full of energy. Gina still comes and grooms her. KC is always
excited when Gina come to see her. Thank you, Gina.”
and Tamara Moravec describes how Protocollo groomed, “my parents’
small dogs for many years. Gina’s compassion and care really
came through for our family when my mother passed away quickly
at age 90. We needed to find a placement for my mother’s very
elderly Yorkshire terrier, Gidget. Gina found a foster placement
for Gidget and followed up with Gidget’s care. In fact, because
the foster situation was not suitable, Gina took our little
Gidget into her own home where she cared for her out of the
goodness of her heart for the final weeks of Gidget’s life.”
added, “Gina is also our go-to resource for all things related
to the care of our animals. She is very active in the Valley
Center community, as well, and we always love to see her truck
on the road or in the Western Days parade.
sum, Gina is a wonderful person and we highly recommend K-9
Cleaners to all local families!”
an appointment, call 760-749-0911.
Come To You!
Cleaners is located in Valley Center, CA. Owner Gina Protocollo
has performed thousands of mobile pet grooming services throughout
all of San Diego county.
clients rave about her service.... and so do their pets!
Many clients comment on how their pets simply love Gina and
get overly exited when they see her truck approaching.
Cleaners' convenient grooming is done at your home or business
in a fully equipped, self-contained, mobile unit that provide
heated and air conditioned comfort for your Pet, who is bathed
and groomed stress free at your location.
Pet is happy because he does not have to wait for you in a
equally important — no more travel time for you!
Member of the following organizations: