Welcome back to our series on morning routines where we highlight women around the city and talk to them about what their morning routines look like with their dog. No two mornings are alike and they shouldn’t be! A lot of people hope that dogs will help to bring routine and structure into our lives, to bring joy into mornings, to get up early, to lounge a little longer - whatever it is, it’s your sacred ritual. It’s designed to fit your life and your dogs’s. We’re just here to show how many different faces it can take on.
This week, we chatted with Ashley, a designer and producer at Refinery29 and mom to two rescues Winston and Waffles. She’s a highly organized creative, raw feeder and not your average mom (she’s a cool mom)
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How long have you been in New York?:
I have lived in New York City for a little over 6 years. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York.
What do you do for work and what do you love most about what you do?
I am the Senior Designer and Producer at Refinery29. I love the daily challenge and problem solving, on top of learning new things every day I also get the opportunity to be highly creative.
Growing up, your dad was all about rescuing dogs. You told us that there was always a rotating cast of foster dogs. Tell us more about that.
My dad has an unofficial rescue, he took in many dogs when the economy collapsed in Detroit and just kinda kept doing it. It definitely fueled my passion for dogs, and my dream of one day having my own rescue!
Alright, time to get to Winston and Waffles. When did you decide to finally get dogs of your own?
While I was in college, rather than studying I prepared for dog ownership and rescuing! I did copious amounts of research on diet/training/behavior and the pet food industry as a whole. Once I graduated I adopted Winston a few weeks later! Then I adopted Waffles about a year later, I had fostered dogs on and off and found that Winston really flourished with a friend.
And how did you decide on their names? They go so well together!
Winston was formerly known as Pepe, I didn’t think that really fit his personality. He seemed much more regal, I googled popular baby names and somehow came across Winston. Waffles was posted on Social Tees Instagram ~ her name was Elvie which I was thinking about keeping but then found out that is the name of a pelvic floor strengthening company. So I decided to stick with the W’s and named her Waffles since her spots looked like syrup!
How would you describe their individual personalities? How do they get along with one another?
Winston has old man energy, with about 15min intervals of actually being a dog. He prefers to sleep, eat and be carried around in a sling. He is very confident and is probably the most chill dog I have come across, he’ll sit for photos, sleep on planes and overall get comfortable in almost any situation. When he meets a stranger, he will patiently sit beside them or under their legs until his sister is done soaking up all the attention. He prefers affection over anything else, if you give him a kiss he’s yours forever. Waffles has slightly nervous puppy energy, she is a ton more active and LOVES food. She goes up to every person she meets when she gets her cue “go say hi” and showers them with love. Generally she is curious and interested, and loves exercising. She’s always exploring and hiking with me. They absolutely love each other, they always nap next to one another. Winston licks Waffles face daily, and they share their bones. They have never had a fight and play together very well.
How do you find a balance across your professional, social and mom life?
Oh man, I’m still figuring it out. If you have any tips, let me know! I work a lot, especially during the busy months, I mainly prioritize my dogs’ health and sanity over mine. Which I am working on getting better about… but it’s hard when you know your dog(s) aren't able to make their own decisions and you are their sole caregiver.
What’s been the hardest part of having Winston and Waffles in New York City?
I feel like it’s really isolating having a dog in NYC; the majority of my friends aren’t dog owners. They never understand why I can’t go to happy hour after work or stay out at a bar all night. The other hard part is the other dogs of NYC ~ so many dog owners let their dog off leash or think all dogs should greet each other when on a walk. I find myself avoiding people who are also walking dogs quite often furthering the isolation of dog ownership.
What are some of your favorite activities to do with the two of them on weekends or when you have a little bit more time?
When the weather permits I love going to Fort Tryon or Central Park. If the weather is not great, we go to Cafe Bark which is a dog friendly cafe. Or we’ll cuddle up on the couch and netflix and chill, which is Winston’s all time favorite.
You’re already a raw feeder and you’re super disciplined about it. How did you first get into and how did you start educating yourself on it?
I began researching proper diet fairly early, and landed on raw almost immediately. As a young girl feeding my mom’s dog or dad’s dog’s never felt right. I hated seeing them eat brown dry pieces and smelly canned food. I read a lot, a few books and many internet resources. My favorites are forums, Dog Food Adviser has a great raw forum. The hardest part was really gauging how much my tiny dogs should eat, most people who feed raw have dogs 10lbs or more. W&W are both in the 5lb range. I started WInston on commercial raw (Stella and Chewys) but his allergies really didn’t subside. Their diet is still trial and error. It’s improving and evolving everyday.
What actually goes into feeding raw and how much time and effort does it actually entail?
It’s actually not as complicated and time consuming as many think. It takes about 5 minutes in the morning to make their meals with supplements ~ I usually brew my coffee while I prepare their breakfasts. And dinner takes about the same amount of time. The easiest part is once you measure everything out a few times you’ll remember what everything should look like moving forward. For fruits/veggies they get mostly whatever I eat or have on hand (blueberries, spinach, pumpkin, apples, sweet peppers etc.). I always steam their veggies and blend their fruits, this way they absorb the nutrients the same way they would if they ate an animal (already broken down).
How do you overcome the gross-factor that a lot of people complain about?
This is something I have just recently overcome. I used to strictly feed ground when I first started because the bones/feet/heads/organs grossed me out! Then I started experimenting and reading more about the benefits of raw meaty bones, and teeth cleaning benefits. Being that I have 2x chihuahua's they are known for teeth and knee issues I figured I really needed to start incorporating raw meaty bones into their diet. Needless to say, I just got over it ~ I know my dogs need it and I will always give them what they need!
What time do the three of you wake up every morning?
Weekdays, usually 5:30-6am. Weekends usually 7:30am.
Are you guys early birds or night owls?
We are early birds-ish, we all struggle to stay away past 10:30.
Do they sleep in your bed?
Yes they do, and while I know this is a heavily debated topic. And based on some trainers it could be detrimental to our relationship but I CAN'T HELP IT. I have spent my whole life with a dog in my bed, and I can’t stop now. I work really hard on their training daily, and use a mixture of different training methods in hopes that makes up for something!
What's the first thing you do every day?
I turn my coffee maker on usually and start making their breakfast. They usually use their grass patch and wait patiently for breakfast.
And what's the first thing you three do together every day?
We get back into bed after breakfast. I usually watch a bit of netflix / youtube and drink my coffee. Then they stay in bed while I exercise.
What's for breakfast?
For them, ground raw whole carcass, hemp oil, salmon oil, CBD oil, pre/probiotics, quail egg with shell, canned organic pumpkin.
I am an awful human being and do not eat until I get to the office, usually oatmeal.
Walk before or after breakfast?
Weekdays, walk after breakfast (usually about an hour and a half after they’ve eaten). Weekends, walk before breakfast. I like them to work for their food but during the week, it's a bit difficult.
What do you listen to while getting ready for the day?
I usually catch up on Youtube, or I’ll watch something on netflix for background noise.
Healthiest morning habit:
Exercising and drinking as much water as I do coffee.
Worst morning habit:
Getting back into bed… in high school I used to get ready in bed. It’s an awful habit I cannot break. And not walking my dogs first thing on weekdays, but honestly they sleep the entire morning and are super lazy until about 9-10am.
One word to describe your mornings:
Short! Time always goes by so quickly in the morning, amiright?
I never leave home without…
Burts bee’s chapstick, I’m an addict. For my dogs, baby wipes. Ya never know when you might need a baby wipe.
If you had one extra hour in the morning, how would you use it?
Oh man, on nice weather days I’d take my dogs to the park for an hour. On bad weather days, cuddle with them in bed.
The best part of mornings with my dogs is:
EVERYTHING. Dogs in the morning are the best, they’re slightly groggy, and so floppy and loving. Plus they are so happy to see you even though they’ve spent the entire night sleeping on your bladder.
Our morning routine series is designed to showcase the diversity of experiences that come with having a dog in the city in all the ups and all the downs.
If you and your dog would like to be featured, text ‘ritual’ to 29071