Just Who Is Mindy Pellissier – “OB Citizen of the Year”?

by on November 5, 2014 · 4 comments

in Culture, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach


Mindy Pellissier, Nov. 4, 2014, at Dog Beach Dog Wash. (All photos by Frank Gormlie)

At their recent annual awards dinner, the OB Town Council presented their “OB Citizen of the Year” award to Mindy Pellissier for her steadfast work on the OB Community Plan update process – a process that she alone has worked on for the last 12 years.  Mindy helped guide the Update through the City Council unanimous vote on the Plan last July 29th.

Mindy is well known in OB – Mindy was on the OB Planning Board for many years – , and she and her partner, Jane Donley, own and run the famous  Dog Beach Dog Wash on Voltaire Street. A ‘do-it-yourself’ dog wash had never been done before in San Diego, when she and Jane opened it nearly 22 years ago.

“People thought we were nuts,” to open such a venture, Mindy told me the other day as we sat down for an interview. “We were the very firsts do-it-yourself dog wash in San Diego. Now’s there’s 32.”

“In two weeks we’re going to have done a half million dog washes.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmazed, I whistled softly, trying not to spill my coffee cup as I sat it down on a railing near the storefront window.

“People come here from all over,” she said quietly but proudly.  She reminded me that the dog wash sponsors monthly clean-ups of Dog Beach. “When we first came here,” she said, “Dog Beach was filthy.” She and Jane are clearly dog advocates as they have given $25,000 to the San Diego Humane Society.

So, just who is this Mindy Pellissier, the dog-wash woman and citizen of the year, with a French last name? Where did she come from? I wanted to get her details.  (Four years ago, OB Rag writer Sunshine also interviewed Mindy.)

Mindy, I found out, grew up in the Bay Area, in the small town of Orinda on the east bay, with a population of about 10,000. “It’s just over the hills,” she said, “from Berkeley.”

She gets her French-ness from her father, Pierre Francois, who was an engineer – “we called him ‘the mad scientist’ – always inventing things,” she said; her mother was Joan, a housewife.


Jane Donley – on “her day off”.

I almost fell off my plastic chair when Mindy told me she had a twin brother, Tim, who lived in Huntington Beach – wow! can you imagine two Mindys? – and she told me they’re still close.  Tim helped them  construct the dog wash when they opened. Plus she has two  younger brothers.

In 1971 or thereabouts – Mindy graduated high school from a small, secular private, all-girls school.  The biggest thing, she said, that happened during her school career was that she was a foreign exchange student and lived in Melbourne, Australia with a local family for a year.

During high school, Mindy swam and dove competitively on the school’s girl swim team. “I was best at freestyle and the butterfly,” she said. “Our class was very small, had only 32 in the graduating class.” She got into synchronized swimming in college.

Mindy ended up going to nursing school at the University of Arizona – “definitely a party school” she admitted –  graduating a registered nurse in 1975.  And she has kept her license current in an “inactive” status. Her first job as an RN, she recalled, was for a year at the U of Arizona hospital.

Mindy’s told me that around 1976, she helped open the first abortion clinic in Arizona. “We called them TABs,” she said, for therapeutic abortion clinics. “It was right after Roe v Wade”, she added, “and it was very controversial.” She worked there as an RN for two years. It was also dangerous.

“We had to hold clinics in the evenings, because of the anger.  They called us ‘baby-killers’.”

They performed the abortions at the local county hospital – and she came to become the manager of their outpatient clinic –  this was an outpatient clinic for all kinds of medical problems. She did this for almost two years. “It was too hot,” Mindy explained, in why she transferred to Los Angeles from Tucson.

She ended up as the Director of the Hawthorn Community Medical Group – an association of physicians.  And for the rest of her career she worked in out-patient and psychiatric medical facilities.

“I became knowledgeable about HMOs before anybody else was,” Mindy said explaining why she was recruited by Scripps Clinic for 4 years.  At that point, she was living in La Jolla. But then, near 40, she had a mid-life crisis and had to change her lifestyle. It was around that time she moved to OB.


This is a sling in the shop that is used to trim dogs’ nails. It was invented by Mindy after she saw something similar used on horses.

She and Jane met while they both worked for the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. At the time, Mindy was the VP of operations and Jane was doing marketing and PR. Mindy was in charge of 13 satellite clinics and their projects overlapped. Mindy opened 4 to 5 clinics herself and Jane did the marketing.

They were married on their 25th anniversary in downtown San Diego. That was a year ago.

I asked Mindy about her being gay. “I really understood it when I was 22,” she responded.

“Upon reflection, I now know there were other signs. I came out with my family – they, my parents didn’t take it very well. Tim was okay.  He has been very supportive.

I was estranged from my folks for at least 10 years.

Her parents had divorced after 25 years.  Years later, when she was living in San Diego, she helped her father while he was dying, and he came to understand that she hadn’t changed, she told me. They had a reconciliation.  He was living in a van and was getting cancer treatment at UCLA every 3 weeks, and “he stayed with us in OB,” she said. She also reconciled with her mother, also while  she was fighting cancer. Her mom passed in 2000.

For a slice of Mindy’s life, she and Jane adopted a “Katrina dog”. She explained that thousands of dogs were abandoned after the hurricane, and they were sent all over the country, with 63 dogs being sent to San Diego.  And then, one year after Katrina, Mindy traveled to New Orleans to assist Habitat of Humanity in building housing. She had very good experiences with Habitat here in San Diego, when she worked with the group – and with Jimmy Carter – in building one hundred homes in east Tijuana.

One of the first do-it-yourself dog washes in the country nears its half million dog washes.

Two things happened in New Orleans that didn’t bode well for our OB dogwash lass. First, she caught a parasitic infection which lasted for several years.  And then, while installing fiberglass in one the homes she was building, some fiberglass cut her throat, and she lost her voice for a couple of years. It took that long to get it back to something like normal. “My voice will never return to normal,” she added.

And 25 years ago, Mindy and Jane moved out of La Jolla and bought a duplex on Brighton Avenue, near the beach.

“We had to get a dog,” Mindy said, “so we got two.” As good dog owners, they washed their dogs – “we washed them for hours, … they hated it. We hated it.” There had to be a better way.

She and Jane would watch all the other dog owners at Dog Beach, and finally Jane actually did a survey of people at the beach with their canines. “Would they go to a nearby dog wash and wash their own dog?” she polled, and the numbers were encouraging.

Mindy though “I’d opened many clinics, I’ve opened exam rooms. So, how hard could it be to open a dog wash?”

And they did it. In February 2015 it will be 22 years as Dog Beach Dog Wash. “We were one of the firsts do-it-yourself dog washes in the country.”

“At first, people didn’t understand it. They thought we were nuts. Now, we know we’re the busiest dog wash in the world – we do about 400 a week.”


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marc Snelling Marc Snelling November 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Mindy has the air of someone with interesting stories, nice to learn a bit about them. Great story.


Seth Connolly November 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Great article. Mindy is pretty awesome.


Mindy Pellissier November 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Thanks, Frank, for your kind article. There are a couple of points I’d like to clarify. First, Dog Beach Dog Wash was not the first dog wash, but one of the first. Our location and loyal customers have been instrumental in keeping us going for nearly 22 years.

The other point was the implication that I was the only one working on the OB Community Plan for 12 years. While I had staying power, there were hundreds of people from the OB Planning Board, the OB Town Council, the OB Mainstreet Assn., the OB Community Development Corp., the OB Rag, the OB Historical Society, the Friends of the Library, and many other interested OB residents, as well as City of San Diego Planning Dept. staff, who helped craft the document that was unanimously adopted by the City Council on July 29th. All of their participation was essential and appreciated in coming to a final consensus.


Siobhan "jenkins" Elston September 6, 2016 at 10:09 am

Hello Mindy,
So wonderful to hear of your many accomplishments. Leave it to you to come up with such an amazing idea. Just a simple word of gratitude. Because of you my life has forever changed. When i worked with her over 30 years ago at HCMG she gave me an opportunity that sparked a powerful change!!!. … her favorite recptionist. . (Lol)
Siobhan Jenkins…216 659 9957
Please pass msg on to her!!


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