COVID forces switch from hairdresser to dog groomer

April 8, 2021 - 1:17 PM
Jeje Jouly Touk, a hairdresser who was forced to switch to a dog groomer due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions on beauty salons, brushes a dog at her shop in the Israeli northern city of Acre, March 31, 2021. Picture taken March 31, 2021 (Reuters/ Ali Sawafta)

ACRE, Israel — Her tool of work has not changed – a pair of scissors – but hairdresser Jeje Jouly Touk has switched customers from humans to dogs.

COVID-19 restrictions on beauty salons left her jobless, so she became a professional dog groomer, a relatively rare occupation for a woman from Israel’s Arab community.

Dogs are considered unclean by some in the Arab world, but attitudes are changing and many now own them as pets.

Turning adversity into opportunity, Touk, 36, opened the B-rex dog spa in Acre a few months after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, offering grooming, claw clipping and other services.

“Dogs are my passion,” she said in the brightly colored salon in the historic coastal city, which is known as Akka in Arabic and Akko in Hebrew.

Israel’s Arab minority – Palestinian by heritage, Israeli by citizenship – are mostly descended from the Palestinians who lived under Ottoman and then British colonial rule.

Because their families stayed within the borders of what became the modern state of Israel in 1948, most speak Hebrew as well as Arabic. The salon is visited by both Jewish and Arab customers and she is helped by her son, who wants to become a veterinarian.

“Before she gives the dog the needed treatment, she works on forming a connection first, this is what makes me always come back,” said Hamada Kleib, owner of Pablo, a Doberman pinscher. —Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Ismael Khader in Acre, Nuha Sharaf; Editing by Alison Williams