This is Walter, and he’s happy when he’s clean. He’s a distinguished gentle pup who counts himself among the cuddly clientele at Le Beastro, one of the many salons in Rye, though you may have never heard of this one unless your brood includes fur.
Like any beauty boutique, Le Beastro features a line of styling stations in front of oversize mirrors and a lobby packed with high-quality retail product and glamour portraits. But these glamour portraits are furry (and cheeky), and when customers walk into reception, they get swooped off their paws for a snuggle-filled delivery to their rightful station, like black-and-white pooch Pepper.
“He gets transformed in here,” says Pepper’s delivery human, who bids his doggie adieu through the glass salon door.
“I wanted it to be just like a salon but for dogs,” says owner Lisa Cibelli. “We have our glass door so people can always go in and see how we groom. I want it to be accessible to everybody and for them to feel comfortable when they come in.”
As “Queen Beast” since opening Le Beastro’s doors 17 years ago, Lisa knows how it’s done. She’s dyed blue Mohawks on Poodles and pink streaks on a Maltese. Want braids for your Bearded Collie? She’s done that, too, plus cats (kitty cuts) and even ventured into grooming livestock.
“I had to do a sheep once,” she says, laughing. “It was Christmas, and a priest approached me saying he needed the sheep clean for the Christmas pageant.”
Starting the salon for four-legged family members was a natural progression from her days rescuing strays, as a vet tech, groomer and even camel caretaker at the Bronx Zoo. But with Le Beastro, she’s not just helping the animals anymore. She’s lending a hand to the owners who would be stuck with the dirty – and oftentimes distressing – job of keeping their doggies clean.
“First of all, you have to wash them in your tub or your sink, and then they go shaking the water all over the place,” she says. “You’re either going to clean your dog at home or bring him here. We are equipped for it and we get them cleaner.”
In the washroom, pooches hop in the tub for a hydrosurge treatment where water and soap are massaged through the coat to wash away dirt, grime, dead skin and fur. They get a special leash so they don’t squirm out, but from the looks of one content-looking, full-grown Golden Retriever, she’s digging the suds like we would a spa treatment. Makes sense, because she – like all clients – is in the midst of a soothing oatmeal bath. If the mood strikes, she could even request a wash with chamomile, shea butter and aloe.
A hand dry follows, which looks like a typical blow out where stylists scoot around clients 360-degrees to dry every hair in place. Once washed and fluffed, Fluffy gets a rest in his or her roomy kennel before heading to a mirror-facing finishing station where the pets are gently leashed on a waist-high platform by a groomer. For safety, there’s no jumping on or off the platforms, which lower for elderly dogs and bear-sized breeds like St. Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds.
Ready for final touches, pups get some work from head to tail, specifically an ear clean, puppy cut and some maintenance in the – ahem – business end. (No fun for even the most adoring animal owner.) Also included is a “shedicure” with gentle detangle and “pawdicure” (obviously), including a nail and paw pad trim. For more paw primping, ask for painted nails off the à la carte treatment menu. One ladylike Beagle is partial to pink.
Then comes the Foo-Foo. Really, it’s the name of the doggie cologne kept at each salon station where human stylists would typically keep balm or hairspray. And if that’s not shmancy enough, just wait till you get a glimpse of your Lady in a bow or Tramp in a studly bandana. (If their humans are in to that sort of thing.)
The primping and pruning process takes about four hours, Lisa says, though dogs can get an express treatment. Canines can even stay for the day if they – or their humans – prefer, especially suitable for regular clients like Walter who are pretty keen on their Le Beastro excursion.
“I have some dogs that cannot wait to get here. They come bumbling in, smashing through the door,” Lisa says. When others arrive, she adds, “it’s a bit like going to the dentist.”
To soothe nervous pups, Lisa keeps “cookies” within arms reach and a vault of generous affection for her clients to lessen any anxiety with each visit. And to acclimate pooches before their first appointment, she suggests they come in first for a meet and greet (and treat) and return when they’ve been familiarized. Booking a week in advance is suggested, but when it comes to the hairy holiday season, some book a year in advance just to be safe.
For a packed house of 13 to 30 pups per day, barking is at a tame minimum at Le Beastro, especially compared to all the hot-air babble at people salons. But even when the fur is a-flying, Lisa can always anticipate happy owners retrieving their prized pups and happy clients taking their treats and waving – rather, wagging – out the door. Well, before their next roll in the dirt, that is.