May 14, 2009 08:12 PM

Downtown in his New York City salon, stylist Roberto Novo has rubbed elbows with the likes of Calvin Klein, Naomi Campbell and Milla Jovovich. But it’s two less-famous patrons who have touched his life the most – namely his French bulldogs, Machito and Matilda.

“Machito came to me,” Novo tells PEOPLE Pets of his first pup, whom he purchased 2 years ago. “Or more like I kidnapped him! But once I saw him, I knew I had to have him.” A year after welcoming his male pup to the family, Novo and his partner Quentin Harris adopted Matilda – “Machito needed a wife!” the stylist jokes – and an idea was born.

During warm summer days, Machito and Matilda would perch perfectly outside the salon’s doors, charming passerbys with their cute looks and good behavior. While Novo enjoyed the attention his dogs got, he wondered how he could turn their popularity into something worthwhile. So last summer, he began asking people to make a small donation when they took a picture with the pups. “I thought, if they were willing to stop and take a photo, they’d be willing to pitch in a few dollars, too.” The contributions added up, and by the end of last summer, Novo made almost $1,000, which he donated to the ASPCA.

The stylist hopes that this summer, his pooches can raise even more for the organization. “My dogs are lucky to be living a wonderful life,” he shares. “I just want to be able to help those dogs who don’t have it so good.”

Next up for Novo? Helping two-legged friends with his “Haircut for Life” event, happening Monday, where proceeds from all discounted haircuts given in his salon will go to Habitat for Humanity.

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