Tell us about Yoko and how she came into your life
Yoko is a six year old Italian Greyhound. We adopted her four years ago and since then she has changed our life in ways we never could have imagined.
We moved to New York City in 2015. Luis was offered a job out there so I quit my architecture job in London after craving to actually make tangible things rather than just sit behind a computer screen for an entire career.
It was only due to being able to work from our Manhattan apartment on the Upper East Side that we started entertaining the notion of adopting a dog. Neither of us had previously owned a dog so we were really nervous about everything from what to feed them to how much vet bills would be.
There was a regular dog adoption service not far from us every Saturday but the very day we decided to have a look, the service had been cancelled. Left feeling a bit frustrated we took a trip downtown to go shopping instead. By sheer coincidence we walked past the Humane Society and finally decided to go in. We were greeted by a very friendly New Yorker called Bonnie who took us upstairs to ask lots of questions about the kind of dog that we wanted. At this point we didn’t know much about dogs except Luis wanted a Boston Terrier and I wanted a Whippet. Bonnie told us about a greyhound who was looking to be rehomed so we agreed to take a look.
As we sat in the small room waiting to be introduced to this greyhound called Mari, we imaged a large melancholic dog slowly walking out. To our amazement a volunteer walked into the room with a blanket in her arm, and a tiny nose popping out. As soon as this tiny fragile dog was put on the floor she jumped in Luis lap and that was it.
Yoko (previously named Mari), had been left at the rescue centre with her sister who was adopted immediately. Yoko had been severely malnourished leading to her breaking her two front legs. She spent seven months in plaster casts unable to walk, so the volunteers were really protective over her. The day we saw her, she had just had her casts taken off and we were the lucky pair who got to see her first.
We had been in NYC for three months at this point, and never really got speaking with anyone in our day to day lives. It felt quite lonely. The first day we took Yoko to Central Park we spoke to more people than ever before. It was at this point that we understood how important it is for people to have a dog. It is fascinating that you can get talking with people who you wouldn’t ordinarily get to stop and speak to for five mins and it is even more incredible what stories can come out within such a short conversation. It makes you feel part of something, part of the local community.
After a long recovery process for Yoko and a move back to London we became increasingly conscious about how a healthy nutritious diet and lifestyle could aid the recovery process, not only for humans but for dogs too. It was at this point that we started YOKO, our own healthy dog treat business named after the very reason it all began.
How does Yoko fit into your general working day?
Luis currently has a full time job in healthcare so Yoko stays with me during the day. I have a small design studio so our daily schedule is always changing depending on what projects need to be completed.
Before going out to work Luis usually feeds Yoko and takes her out for her first walk. Usually I will work from home during the morning and we go for a long walk at lunch time which is important to get some clarity and some fresh air. Yoko is very easy as she likes to sleep most of the day, especially in the winter months.
My design studio Store & Archive is based at the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, specifically chosen as it allows dogs to be in the building. YOKO is our other business and we also have a studio at the same location so it is very convenient. Whilst I make new stock and pack some order, Yoko will usually sleep next door in my studio.
We find that food routines work best for Yoko as we need to control her weight. If she puts on the slightest amount we can see that it affects her previously broken legs. At 7pm she eats her dinner, although she is pretty much reminding us that dinner is approaching an hour before hand.
When your both not working, where do you enjoying going with Yoko?
We have started to take Sundays off from working. Working seven days was too much and we now understand that one day is essential to prepare for the week and to spend valuable time together as a family.
We are big supporters of dog friendly venues, and make a point of spending our money in these places as we see the value of dogs in a community environment. If some restaurants and shops allow dogs, then we find it hard to justify other stores reason why they do not allow dogs.
Particular favourite spots are Ace Hotel in Shoreditch or Hoxton Hotel in Southwark as they are both vibrant spaces of continually changing activity.
We like the general feeling of Arket in Covent Garden especially the café. Generally, we just like being out in the city with Yoko – she loves the attention from people. Our new venue choice is Cafe Boheme in Soho – it feels like a place which has always been there, with live jazz music and a strong sense of classic style.
What essential do you always have on you when heading out on a dog walk and what do you like to carry these in?
Without a doubt a Fetch & Follow lead and collar is essential. Even the sound of it being taken from the cupboard is enough for Yoko to get excited. The lead and collar set is the best we have ever come across on the market. It is free from superfluous stitching or unnecessary additions; being reduced to the simplest of elements – exactly how it should be. Yoko now has two colours in her collection.
As sighthounds frequently get cold, an Occam jumper is perfect – specifically tailored to a sighthounds shape and needs. We met Nadja from Occam at a Fetch & Follow market and hit it off immediately. We value her attention to detail, design skill and material choice. I would definitely wear it if it was made for humans.
Even though we designed it – we did primarily design it for Yoko’s needs, so the YOKO Essential Tin is always in our pocket ready for a walk or train ride. Yoko’s ears stand up straight away when she hears the rattle of treats inside; it is usually filled with a mixture of flavours of our dehydrated biscuits range.
All of these items feel like they fit us as dog owners. We are proud to take Yoko out anywhere with these essentials. Purchasing items with a sense of timeless style built to last because of their quality or skill of the maker is certainly the way we like to buy.
What adventures do you both have planned this year with Yoko?
We are currently working on a sensitive renovation of an old ruin in the rural Portuguese countryside. There is roughly 2 hectares of land planted with a forest of oak, eucalyptus and pine trees along with a private river. Hopefully towards the end of 2020 we will be in a position to take Yoko out there for the first time and spend some quality time on long walks on one of the local beaches or collecting fruit from the land and spending long days lazing in long grasses by the river. Luis is originally from Portugal and his relatives live nearby, so we are very much looking forward to having gatherings with family and friends.
Apart from that, this year is going to be a very busy year for the YOKO business. We have just launched some of our products in Fortnum & Mason and will be hosting a series of treat making workshops over the coming year. By the end of 2020 we will have released a few more products which we are currently working on with UK based craftsmen.