New Orleans, La. - With her magical touch, New Orleans hair-stylist Caye Mitchell knows how to transform her clients. But at her salon you'll also see her customers cuddling with Louisiana SPCA dogs in need of a permanent home.
The stylist, who is a huge animal lover, says she came up with the concept several weeks ago.
Mitchell says she noticed a rescue dog she had in her salon for a few days ended up getting adopted quickly after several customers came in contact with it. So now, in between their hair-styling, customers at her salon also get to spend time with which ever SPCA dog she happens to be fostering that week.
The hope is that the hands-on exposure at the salon will lead to the dogs getting adopted. So far her customers appear to be enjoying the experience.
"I was rubbing him under the chin and he started to fall asleep and lean to one side and he's a darling," said customer Mara Siegel.
Mitchell takes in the smaller dogs which the SPCA says needs more work to make them more sociable and adoptable. Without that extra care, SPCA workers say chances are they won't get adopted and that usually means they'll end up getting put to sleep.
Right now she has a rescue dog named "Streak."
"We're rehabilitating him. We're teaching him people are okay and that people aren't going to hurt you. He's learning how to be a dog instead of a fearful creature in a cage," said Mitchell.
At her beauty salon, little Streak interacts with all customers getting a lot of personal attention that he would not be getting while he awaits adoption inside of a kennel at the SPCA. Also at Mitchell's home he learns how to interact with other animals like her own dogs and he also gets potty trained.
So far you could say her K-9 conditioning to make SPCA foster dogs more sociable has been a success. All six of the SPCA dogs which spent time in her salon were adopted even though she just started doing this a couple of months ago.
One of her most recent success stories is a Maltese mix once named Alfie and now goes by the new adopted name Jazz.
"When we saw it we immediately thought oh he's so cute he has those big eyes and we just fell in love with him," said Jazz's new owner Holly Acosta. Holly and Charles Acosta adopted little Jazz in February after meeting him at Mitchell's hair salon.
She knew he would be a perfect match for them. Initially it was a picture of Jazz on the SPCA's website that captured the Mandeville's couple attention.
Looking back now it seemed like fate given Jazz's close resemblance to their late dog Daisy that passed away recently due to a bad heart.
"When Holly showed me the picture of Jazz I said whoa that looks Daisy and it brought a tear to my eye," said Jazz co-owner Charles Acosta.
Now there is much more joy at the Acosta's house and they credit Mitchell for bringing out the best in a dog through the use of her hair salon.
"It creates an environment that is comfy for someone looking for a dog to go and interact with the dog in a calm environment,'' said Charles Acosta.
Not far from that Northshore home another success story from the hair salon. That one is Brando who loves to stand on his hind legs to get the attention of his owners.
Slidell mother Kijuana Yarls adopted the Chihuahua for her and her two young children. She says she instantly adopted him in March after witnessing how well he behaved at the salon.
"I was just shocked that a dog was just sitting there and not running up and down the salon tearing everything up, " said owner Kijuana Yarls.
She too credits Mitchell for the perfect pairing with a dog they now consider a member of their family.
Such success stories makes a huge difference for the Louisiana SPCA because New Orleans has a high homeless pet population problem. The SPCA says those not adopted unfortunately have to be euthanized because there is not enough room to keep all of the incoming unwanted pets at the SPCA location on the Westbank.
The SPCA says in just one week it can receive more than 100 un-wanted dogs. The workers say sometimes the smaller dogs can be hard to get adopted because in their cages they appear to be either unsociable, scared or aggressive.
Its why the SPCA is hoping other qualified businesses will follow in the steps of Caye Mitchell and open their workplaces as a spot to also foster dogs in need of a home.
"Other businesses like hair salons, book stores pet friendly businesses or pet friendly bars," said SPCA foster care program manager Allie Mayer.
Pet owner Alaina Wischmeyer knows first hand the importance of pets getting exposure at a business. She adopted her rescue dog, Moose, but only after a relative of hers spotted him at Mitchell's salon. Moose was not an SPCA dog but a rescue that Mitchell first brought to her salon with the hopes of finding him a home. Now Wischmeyer says she can't imagine life without Moose.
"He is my new child. I just love him so much, " said Alaina Wischmeyer.
It's another pairing that makes Mitchell proud. Her hope now is that other qualified local businesses too will open their doors and provide a little extra foster care to help place more pets in permanent homes. While she says she too gets overwhelmed with New Orleans high homeless pet population she believes everyone can make a difference by saving one dog at a time.