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 Julia, a content strategist at a startup here in New York, co-pilot to 85 lb Moyo and an all-around incredible writer and storyteller. I’ll let Julia tell her story in her own words because it’s magic.
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How long have you been in New York?
My relationship with New York is funky. I moved here to attend NYU in 2010, but left in a pretty great haste after a year and a half. When I moved back in March of 2019, it felt completely different. Like home. Exactly opposite how I felt when living here at ages 18 and 19.
So I’ve been here for about a year. But in many ways, it feels much longer than that.
You currently work at a healthcare meets fintech startup doing content strategy. What does a role like that look like and what do you love about what you do?
I’ve been our content strategist for coming up on a year now. In general, my role is to create and disseminate content and curate our editorial calendar day to day, month to month. I love my job for lots of reasons, but one of them (and this isn’t a cop-out) is the people I work with. They’re all so passionate about changing the paradigm around health savings accounts (or HSAs as most people know them), and working towards the same thing in a big way.
I actually first chatted with you on ILoveCreatives, so you’re also a freelancer. How do you make time in your schedule? What kind of projects and collaborations do you usually look for?
Sadly, I don’t really have time to freelance anymore since my job is pretty demanding. But on nights and weekends, I love to take on other gigs when I can! If I come across a project I’m super interested in, I’ll apply to be involved. Or if someone presents something to me that I’m really into, I see taking on that work as a no brainer.
I also have some friends who are full time freelance designers, so it’s not uncommon for them to need writers. I’ve spent many Sundays hunched over my computer without getting up for a break, but I like it that way.
It’s really challenging to create resonant and meaningful content. I think people actually underestimate that. Where do you turn to for inspiration?
I read… a lot. It’s part of my job to read a great deal of the day and be extremely “up” on the ins and outs of health savings, retirement, and investment news. Plus, I choose to read when I’m home, when I’m at the gym, on the train… need I go on? I read all sorts of things, from beauty blogs (I don’t wear makeup so that one’s interesting), to The New Yorker, to whatever fiction and non-fiction a friend happens to mention in passing. I’m inspired by other people’s creativity and fascination I otherwise wouldn’t bat an eye at.
What do you love most about what you do?
Lots of what I do centers around leveraging content and storytelling to advance brand objectives, sure, but there’s a greater implication there in that we’re offering HSAs to the historically underserved. I’m an inherently curious person and love to affect creative change, so working in a reality that’s largely new to me (the world of health savings was, uh, not something I was familiar with), so this job has been super fun and rewarding.
You actually had a tragic story with your first dog - can you tell us a bit about that?
My first dog, Kovu, came into my life in 2015. I’d graduated college the year before, and only been at my first full-time job for about 6 months. I got Kovu because my sister got his sister. So we had littermates. I didn’t know anyone my age who lived in Connecticut, where I was at the time, with a dog. And a (huge) husky/shepherd no less.
I remember calling my mom at 2 in the morning sometime after the first week of having Kovu. He’d thrown up--and much worse--all over his crate for something like the third time that night, and I was just a mess. I wept into the phone while Kovu just watched me, confused. I told her I wasn’t sure I could do it. My mom laughed, told me to clean it up, kiss him goodnight, and go to bed. I remember that moment so vividly because, for the next four years, Kovu was the only constant in my life.
He was, silly as it may seem, truly everything to me, and we were never apart. In 2016, we moved across the country to Salt Lake City, UT. In 2018, after two awesome years in Salt Lake, Kov was hit by a car on our street during our morning walk. We always walked off-leash during those quiet hours, as he was very well trained. But he saw something across the road that morning, and by the afternoon, he’d passed away.
That was and still remains the most painful thing I’ve endured. During our time together, my early 20s, I grew into what I affectionately refer to as “a real human being”, a part of the adult world. Those years can be so rough, but he never wavered. He was, without a doubt, my best friend.
A week later, I moved to Los Angeles. I wanted to be around family, and it was the closest I could get a part from moving back east.
My job was amazing and let me work remotely. Kov used to come to the office with me, so everyone, even my coworkers, were affected, weird as that sounds. They knew what this meant for me. It was awful, but quite a showing as far as the human condition goes.
That is probably every dog owner’s nightmare. Complete nightmare. How did you bounce back? What made you move back to New York?
Oy, I didn’t bounce back! Not really. Kovu was with me through it all. Leaving my first job, my first real break up, the first time I moved away from my family 3,000 miles away. But if I had to say something: time, I guess. And of course, Moyo.
Speaking of Moyo…! When did you decide you were ready to get another dog?
Funny enough, I didn’t really decide to get Moyo! My sister and her boyfriend did. They’re the doggy-parents of Kovu’s litter-mate, Nila. They both know me so well and knew that Kovu was such an integral part of my life. They were as devastated as I was, and knew there was no way I’d be happy without a dog for very long. Or, in this case, for over a month. And honestly, they were right.
Amanda and Steve went online, found a litter of husky/shepherd pups, drove to Amish Country in Pennsylvania, and gave me a few options via FaceTime. This was practically impossible, of course, because I was so broken-hearted. But one of my stipulations was that the dog not have two different colored eyes (Kovu had one brown and one blue), and Moyo was one of the only ones with both eyes the same color… they’re a yellow-ish. I love them, they make him look almost human.
A month later, Steve showed up in the Long Beach airport toting a ball of fluff. He hopped in the car, plopped Moyo in my lap, and I felt this palpable wave of calm. I was nervous Moy wouldn’t like me, actually, since he’d been living with my family and Steve on-and-off for the past few weeks. But I was so wrong. He took to me, and me to him, so quickly it was almost startling. It’s also worth mentioning that he was truly the easiest puppy to train. He stuck with me all the time, and we were trail running (yes, off-leash, despite the trauma) in LA by the time he was 5 months. He’s so smart, so attuned to me. I’m really lucky.
He’s an 85 lb dog. In New York City. Who you sometimes bring on the subway. Can you tell us about how you manage that?
It’s definitely not easy! But Moyo is a certified Service Animal (my last dog was an ESA, so he traveled with me in some crazy circumstances--took 4 cross country flights and many distances in between, he was amazing that way!), so that makes it a bit easier in the sense that I bring him wherever I go, within reason.
But managing Moyo in New York is definitely interesting. For one, there’s his size. He’s 85 lbs. For two, his energy level, which is immense. But again, he’s weirdly so attuned to me. When I’m anxious, he feels it. If I’m chill, he’s chill. We bounce off each other. So I think it’s less about managing him a lot of the time, and more about managing myself. How I feel. How my body is reacting to the world around me. Also, duh, I walk that dude as much as my legs can handle! That helps both of us.
How would you describe Moyo’s personality?
Moyo is a goof. Ask anyone, and that’s probably what they’ll say. He’s also a gentle giant. His Wag walkers often refer to him as a “sweet boy”, which is very appropo. We were trail running off-leash so early because he’s uber-aware and super sweet and always has been. I really don’t worry (too much) about him not coming back when he strays on those runs, and he loves other dogs, people, and babies--especially babies.
A lot of people would probably give me a hard time for letting Moyo go off-leash after what happened to Kovu, but like Kov, I strongly believe that Moy deserves to live freely (within reason, of course). I’ll never stifle his sense of wildness, and even though losing Kovu was tragic, I find solace in the fact that he lived without constraints. Happily, I think.
How’d you go about naming him and why’d you land on Moyo?
Kovu’s name was in Swahili. It means ‘scar’. I wanted Moyo to carry a piece of Kovu with him (which is funny to think about now, since they are so incredibly alike in so many ways, I could’ve named him anything and the similarities would still be endless!). But anyway, Moyo is also a Swahili word. It means ‘have courage’ or ‘take heart’. Two things he’s given and taught me ten-fold.
In what ways do you think Moyo complements you and your lifestyle?
Moy keeps me grounded. I’m an extrovert who happens to enjoy a lot of time alone, and can sometimes get bogged down in the comfort of monotony. His genuine love of life reminds me that even when it’s the last thing I want to do, getting out into the world is good; fresh air is good; moving your body is necessary and good.
You have some pointed thoughts about dating in New York with a dog - care to share some of those?
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
If you have a dog, and the dog is a (if not the) priority for you, your partner has got to be into it. I cannot stress this enough. They may say they’re cool with the dog thing, but seriously… feel that out in a real way! If the dog is more just an accessory to them, a cute inconvenience… see ya.
But maybe that’s just me?! If we’re dating, our weekend mornings will include coffee chats and cuddles that include the dog in bed, and then a trip to the park. Oh, and there will always, always be lots of dog hair. And that’s just the way it is.
What are some of your favorite activities to do together on weekends or when you have a bit more time on your hands?
We love a good park romp. Living in the city is the best because we can walk literally everywhere. I was dating someone this summer who lived across the bridge in Manhattan, but I live in Williamsburg. We ran there often and then would walk home, stopping for lunch or coffee or, yes, another park visit. Our days were long and lovely. I’m excited for another summer here!
What time do the two of you wake up every morning?
Around 7. Moyo stays in bed longer than me, though. He’s a bed head.
Are you guys early birds or night owls?
We both love to sleep, so… not sure we’re either, ha. I go to bed around 11 and wake up at 7 every day. Gotta get those 8 hours.
Does he sleep in your bed?
Ugh, yes. I don’t love that, but I think it helped us bond early on. Again, I was not in a great place when I first got Moyo, as much as I loved him right off the bat. It was so soon after I’d lost Kovu. But he used to put his little body on the pillow next to mine, and in a big way, that made me feel so safe. Now, I always hope he chooses the bed over the floor or couch!
What's the first thing you do every day?
Make coffee. Or, if I’m on the run, I wash my face for like, 5 minutes. It’s a weird habit, but I dig it. Then I’m dressed and out the door, no-frills.
And what's the first thing you two do together every day?
Pets for Moyo. His ears are divine, and I sometimes find myself unknowingly petting them (read: grabbing at them aggressively? Stroking them with fervor?) without even realizing it.
What's for breakfast?
Cereal and a banana or avocado toast. And for Moy, Fromm dog food.
Walk before or after breakfast?
Before. Despite his size, Moyo is a pretty picky eater. He has to be exercised and hungry to actually want to eat.
What do you listen to while getting ready for the day?
Healthiest morning habit:
Uh, brushing my teeth? Washing my face and doing a relatively decent skincare routine? I really don’t have a great morning habit, haha. I guess walking Moyo first thing has to count for something, though! So… let’s say: getting on my feet, even if it’s just for a quick spin around the block.
Worst morning habit.
Snoozing my alarm. And canceling my exercise classes from bed.
One word to describe your mornings:
I never leave home without…
My inhaler because I’m a nerd.
If you had one extra hour in the morning, how would you use it?
I’d spend more time hanging with Moyo and drinking coffee in bed.
The best part of mornings with my dog is:
How excited Moyo gets to leave the apartment and head out into the world. It’s encouraging!
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