Kindred Tales | Ashley, Luis & Yoko | YOKO
Tell us about Yoko and how she came into your life?
Yoko is a seven 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.
Tell us a bit more about YOKO, your healthy dog treat business.
We are proud to lead the way in redefining dog treats; creating products that are nutritionally positive. Treats don't have to be junk!
By using honest healthy ingredients and combining both design and nutrition, YOKO is a brand for the modern dog owner. At YOKO we believe in ‘local’ and have a sustainable approach engrained in all that we do. We are intent on making a positive difference in this world.
We think it is only right to source locally, where possible, in order to find superb organic ingredients grown in the UK, to design and source packaging from the UK, packaging that is reduced to its most essential elements while also being recyclable or biodegradable, and to encourage local economies where we manufacturer in small batches in London and finally distribute locally across the UK.
How does your Yoko fit into your general day working?
This year has changed for everyone. We have both been working at home so Yoko has become used to the continuous attention. Like many dogs, she gets separation anxiety so we are trying hard to stage a gradual transition so that it becomes easier for her in the long run.
We have been lucky enough to develop our business over the past year and we are incredibly thankful for that as we are aware that this hasn’t been the case for everyone. Our new manufacturing studio in Peckham’s Bussey Building means that we are back and forth between there and home. It takes an hour to walk so Yoko sometimes comes too and is very well behaved - thanks to endless amounts of treats and the wonderful bed by Charley Chau.
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 8am she has breakfast and 7pm she eats her dinner, although she is pretty much reminding us that dinner is approaching an hour before hand.
When you’re not working where do you both like to visit 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.
Understandably times have changed in 2021 so we haven’t really been to places on a regular basis. The parks have been saviours this year, and we are in awe of how much greenery London has to offer; it is a real privilege to live here.
Blackheath and Greenwich Park are our closest parks so we have taken full advantage of these, especially when they have been quieter. They are beautiful in all seasons and all weathers.
We have recently come back from a very refreshing trip to Suffolk where we stayed at an off-grid cabin the woodland. Yoko was in her element and it made us so happy to see her running in the long grasses and simply being free.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk and what do you carry them in?
A Kintails lead and collar is the most essential item. 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, we always carry a blanket in case Yoko needs to warm up. Our favourite is the grey blanket from Arket.
We always have a treat tin 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 from the YOKO 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 and your dog have planned for the rest of the year?
This year is going to be another busy year for the YOKO brand. We have recently been able to adapt our processes meaning that our treat range has substantially been reduced in price; something we are really proud of achieving. Over the next few months we are on the search for new stockists, something that we have held off doing until we were really happy with the products.
In our spare time 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. This has been on hold since Covid, but hopefully towards the end of 2021 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.