The San Diego Humane Society has an overpopulation problem. For months, they’ve been over capacity, especially when it comes to dogs.
On a day in early August at the San Diego Humane Society’s El Cajon campus, dog groomer Gabe Feitosa was making his monthly visit.
When we met him in a dog grooming room, he was transforming a little three-legged dog named Minnow into a tiger
Feitosa’s passion for this work began years ago when he was a boy, growing up in challenging circumstances in the favelas of São Paulo, Brazil.
“Even before I started doing dog grooming, I thought I was going to be an artist. I love to draw, I love to paint," he said.
Feitosa also had a passion for dogs. He started helping a dog groomer in his hometown, and eventually, the grooming and the artistic spark came together.
He first went from Brazil to Sacramento. Then he made his way to San Diego in 2014 and now has his own dog grooming business in University Heights. There, he charges anywhere between $500 and $1,700 to transform dogs into walking works of art.
He appeared on an ABC show called "Pooch Perfect" in the summer of 2021 and quickly gained national attention. Then, last December, he had an idea.
“I was trying to find a way to give back. So I reached out to the Humane Society and said, 'Hey guys, what if we transform your guys’s dogs and bring attention not only for the dogs who are (not) getting to get adopted right away, but to the cause?'" Feitosa said.
The process starts with a team from the Humane Society team selecting a dog or dogs that would typically get overlooked, like our friend Minnow and a big beautiful girl named Nyla. Her family had to give her up.
Feitosa employs a dazzling array of colors. All the dye is vegan and non-toxic. It doesn’t harm the dogs in any way. But it’s a challenge. How many artists do you know have to contend with a canvas that moves?
Nyla is white, so Feitosa decided to give her rainbow colors on her ears and on her big, bushy tail!
After the dog gets their color, they get a bath. Then they are blow-dried, and finally, they get a trim. After that, the canine spa treatment is finished; the transformation is complete.
After the Feitosa treatment, the artist always takes pictures and videos of his subjects. You see, Feitosa has huge numbers of people following him on social media — more than two million on TikTok and another half million on Instagram!
In addition to donating his time, Feitosa also pays for adoption and any other fees for dogs that have gotten his special treatment. He wants to remove any barriers that would keep someone from adopting one of these furry friends. He said it’s all worth it when he finds out the dogs have been adopted.
“It fills me with joy, especially because we focus on transforming the dogs that actually need more attention. With the big dogs, they have a hard time getting adopted. Dogs that are dropped off here like when they’re nine or 10 years old, they have a much harder time than a puppy or a small dog, so we really focus on doing those guys. So, when I hear that those guys get adopted, I’m just like over the moon. I’m just grateful that I get to do it," he said with a smile.
So far, Feitosa’s batting average is — almost — a thousand. Nyla's transformation happened in early August, and unfortunately, she has yet to be adopted. But all the others are now in loving homes.
Still, there are so many more waiting for that special person or family. In fact, with more than 1,100 dogs across their campuses, the San Diego Humane Society is now at 170% of capacity.
So, if you’ve been thinking about bringing some canine love into your life, now’s the time to do it — rainbow colors or not.