English novelist George Eliot put it best: “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” As any animal lover knows, it can sometimes be difficult to articulate the dynamic bond between a pet and his or her “owner,” but one aspect of that bond is the comfort that a pet’s mere presence can bring. So, if you had the chance to bring a pet to work, would you? For those who would and can, the pet has become a central element of the New Orleans workplace. (Note: this barely scratches the surface… you never know what domesticated creature you might find snoozing in a quirky NOLA storefront.)
Over the course of a few days, I ventured out to a number of establishments to meet some of this city’s shop pets from Foster, a 22-pound cat who sleeps beneath a loom in the French Quarter, to Hilda, a shaggy dog who “works” six days a week at a beautiful store Uptown. Meet them all:
Alice at Loomed
Meet Alice, the shop dog at Loomed. Loomed co-founder Molly Babineaux’s “best guess is that Alice is eight years old.” Alice comes from the SPCA, and Babineaux says she “had her before I started the shop, but I [already] had a vision of the shop and how it would look.” Alice was at the forefront of this vision; Babineaux imagined Alice sitting on a cushion next to the desk.
Shop life has been good for Alice: “Her personality has changed since she’s become a shop dog,” says Babineaux. “She’s much calmer, less crazy.” Babineaux is not exactly sure of her pet’s breed, but knows that she’s part Chihuahua “and since we’ve had her people have speculated about what she exactly is.”
Drop by to see Alice in her palace select days and times on Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Juniper at Beckham’s Bookshop
Arthur Carmouche of Beckham’s Bookshop in the French Quarter tells me one simple thing to know about Juniper: “He’s just a very good shop cat.” But Juniper’s skills extend beyond his friendliness with customers and the fact that he knows to avoid the street. “He’s demonstrated himself to be a very good mouser,” Carmouche says. “We haven’t seen many since we’ve had him here.”
Juniper belonged to a former employee who couldn’t afford to take him, but he appears to be very happy with his now-permanent home at Beckham’s Books. Visit him seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Hilda at Scriptura
Margaret Jones, owner of Scriptura, loves her pets. In the course of our conversation, we spent as much time talking about her cat, Fernando (who is in-store on Tuesdays), as we do about the hard-working subject of this part of the story: Hilda, a shaggy, five-year-old dog. Like a number of NOLA’s shop pet stalwarts, Hilda is full-time; you will find her six days a week manning her post at Scriptura.
Adored by her fellow employees — one tells me, “we just call her lovely” —Hilda is another worthy reason to explore Magazine Street. Stop by Scriptura Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Isabelle at Crescent City Books
Isabelle, who is 12 years old, was rescued from Plaquemines Parish after the oil spill. “We’ve had her for three or four years,” Tim, an employee at Crescent City Books, says. “She’s very sweet. She loves to be in the sun [that comes through the window at the front of the store], and she’s both super quiet and a little aloof.”
“People come in [specifically] to see her,” Tim says. Want to see her, too? Go to Crescent City Books Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.; or Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Whitey (Bulger) at Tracey’s
At almost 13 months old, Whitey’s energy and excitement about being out in the world — specifically, Tracey’s on Magazine Street — is palpable. With head bouncing and tongue wagging, Whitey almost appears to be smiling at the customers who sidle up next to him to pat him on the head and order a drink.
Named after the infamous Boston gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger, NOLA’s Whitey is a much more gentle character. And according to his owners, Reggie and Ashli Morris, he “was the smartest dog in the litter.” A friend offered the couple the pick of the litter, and Whitey was their first choice.
Stop by Tracey’s for a happy hour beer with Whitey. He doesn’t hold “hours” per se, but you can usually find him posted up at the bar.
The Cats at Louisiana Loom Works
To state the obvious: There are a lot of cats at Louisiana Loom Works in the French Quarter.
Miss Bentley, a cute white cat, was pulled from the storm water during Hurricane Katrina; Flambeaux came out of an apartment fire on Decatur Street after saving four of her own kittens; Sandra Dee, who spends a lot of time under the sink in the staff lunchroom, came to live at Louisiana Loom Works after her owner passed away.
Next time you’re in the French Quarter, swing by Louisiana Loom Works from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday to meet the host of characters who occupy the space.
Zulu at Fleurty Girl
Lauren Thom – also known as Fleurty Girl – is the CEO of her namesake company, but she’s not the hospitality director. That role goes to Zulu the dog, who also serves as shop’s official mascot. Formerly a rescue (found in a busy intersection in Mid-City), Zulu these days is prone to donning pint-sized dresses, glamorous collars, and other trappings indicative of a beloved pet. Find her on Magazine Street on select days and times from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. She also has a sister named Coco, who might be in tow.
(Almost) all photos by Christopher Garland.