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Posh puppy boutique adapts pet adoptions for concierge class
BY Will Clifton | Interested in adopting a rescue pet, but intimidated by the prospect of a heart-rending trip to the pound?
Then let Shelter Chic find you a bespoke best friend that meets your exact specifications.
“We want to make it as pleasant an experience as possible,” said co-founder Brittney Feldman.
Finding the right rescue pet on your own can be a harrowing experience, says Feldman, often involving multiple visits to dank shelters full of beseeching eyes and plaintive whimpers that almost — but not quite — drown out the Sarah McLachlan soundtrack playing in your head.
Shelter Chic aims to put needy pets into loving homes with people who might otherwise purchase from puppy mills rather than going the rescue route, said Feldman, by taking on that burden for them. Potential rescuers can quite literally place an order with Shelter Chic, specifying the type of dog or cat they’re interested in — old or young, big or small — and Feldman will scour shelters for a match.
“I will personally find that animal for them,” said Feldman, who recently journeyed to Newark to find a rescue for a local adopter. “It’s like matchmaking for pet adoption.”
Shelter Chic has facilitated such 13 adoptions so far, she said — including two pitbulls.
Feldman is particularly proud of those adoptions, since rescued pitbulls are notoriously difficult to place in permanent homes, due to an unfair reputation for orneriness. Shelter Chic is trying to reverse that image — in part with its logo, which features a pitbull in a tutu alongside a hipster cat sporting glasses and a scarf.
The main limiting factor on Shelter Chic’s rescue efforts is a shortage of temporary foster homes — with most of their charges so far having shacked up with Feldman and co-founder Amanda Folk.
Folk used her background in investment banking to launch Shelter Chic as a non-profit, and manages the pair’s pop-up pet boutique that they opened on Oct. 3 in a donated storefront at 79 Chambers Street between Broadway and Church St. in the Civic Center, selling high-end pet accessories on consignment to support their adoption efforts.
“This is certainly more rewarding,” she said.
The shop threw a doggie-dress-up Halloween party over the weekend. Folk’s own dog Lenny came as Batman, and she gamely dressed as Robin.
The Shelter Chic boutique sells such posh items as dog- and cat-themed pillows hand-crafted in Ireland, and pet-proportioned haberdashery from Little Bear — “a fashion brand aimed at dogs” which eschews the cheesy dog-bone motifs so common in low-end canine couture.
“It’s like, ‘we know it’s a dog,’” said Little Bear designer Annie Masarie at the Shelter Chic Halloween party, noting that her label prides itself in crafting fashionable “people-style” clothes for the four-legged set.
“It’s clothes that you would wear,” said fellow Little Bear designer Lukas Storaci, “but for dogs.”
True to her mission, Feldman also brought her current foster pets to the party, to introduce them to folks dropping by the store in the hopes of finding them loving homes. Adele, a polydactyl cat with only one eye but a few bonus toes, clearly felt she didn’t need a costume, and spent most of the day dozing in the back of the shop. But Carmelo, a mystery-mut mix Feldman rescued from a shelter in Puerto Rico, sported a fan-pleasing Mets jersey and a kerchief articulating what he couldn’t: “Adopt me!”
Feldman hopes the boutique will help raise enough money to eventually open a dedicated shelter for animals awaiting placement, but in the meantime, Shelter Chic’s adoption efforts depend on volunteers stepping up to help foster the animals in their own homes.
“We are in desperate need for fosters,” Feldman said.
The time commitment involved in fostering differs according to the type of animal, Feldman said, with small dogs taking about two weeks to place in a permanent home, large dogs taking about a month, and cats as long as two months. Shelter Chic covers all expenses.
Anyone interested in fostering, adopting or donating can contact Shelter Chic through its website: www.shelterchic.org.