As she reclines on the couch at The Voluptuous Vixen (538 Madison St., 529-3588; www.thevoluptuousvixen.com), shop dog Isabella is the picture of serenity.
"She's very chill. I always brag to the neighbors, 'I have the coolest dog on the block,'" owner Jaclyn McCabe says. "There's nothing high-maintenance about her at all."
Isabella, a spotted border collie/Australian shepherd mix, loves afternoon naps in the French Quarter plus-size women's boutique. Her relaxed demeanor lures many male admirers to what McCabe calls Isabella's "sugar daddy couch," where few resist her floppy ears and reproachful glances.
"She'll give customers this look, like, 'Please pet me. No one ever pets me,'" McCabe says.
After four years of joining McCabe at the store, Isabella knows all the ins and outs of being a shop dog. The long walk from their Bywater home bookends each workday. McCabe unleashes Isabella a block or two from the store, knowing the dog will head straight for the office. Once there, Isabella enjoys a power snooze or sunbathes on the front step while McCabe, a former photojournalist, offers attentive service to a her clientele.
"All of us as plus-size women have been frustrated shoppers our whole lives," McCabe says. "We've cried in a lot of dressing rooms, and there's no crying in my dressing room."
Isabella shares McCabe's interest in on-trend fashion. She loves to dress up for holidays and possesses an enviable wardrobe that includes furry and glittery collars, reindeer ears, a princess tiara and this year's Mardi Gras finery, a yellow cape with a feather boa.
These flamboyant ensembles reflect a relaxed side of Isabella's personality. Off the clock, she roams her yard, greeting neighbors with an unexpectedly masculine bark. She engages in psychological warfare with McCabe's two cats and artfully arranges squeaky toys in straight lines underneath the house.
"I found this koala bear (toy), and the squeaker came in wrong. It screams like a howler monkey, and that is her favorite thing in the entire world," McCabe says.
McCabe doesn't fault Isabella for these antics. Since their auspicious meeting at a shelter, the six-year relationship has been a happy one.
"One of my girlfriends wanted to get a dog, and I wanted her to go look at the pound first," McCabe says. "I had several cats at the time, and I said, 'When we go to the pound to get a dog, I'm not allowed to come home with another cat.' I walked in and picked up Isabella and carried her around with me like a baby the whole time we were there. The next thing we know, we get in the car, and I'm like, 'What just happened?' My friend said, 'Well, it's not another cat!'"
Cats don't enjoy the same kind of celebrity as shop dogs. And Isabella may have more shop to look forward to in the future. McCabe hopes to expand The Voluptuous Vixen by opening an intimate apparel store for plus-size women. For now, she stays busy with plans for a French Quarter Fest sidewalk sale and her ongoing quest for relevant and flattering plus-size fashion.
"It feels like a lot of department stores and plus-size lines want to make it bigger and boxier and drape you in a tent, and not really give you a shape," she says. "(We're) not the typical big girl maw-maw store."
My Favorite Things...
Hanging out on the front porch
Getting groomed at Pet Asylum