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Chef, author, and Ayurveda advocate Jasmine Hemsley has been at the forefront of holistic wellbeing in the UK since she and her sister Melissa started Hemsley + Hemsley in 2010. Their food philosophy took off and such was the demand for spiralizers (to create their pasta-like “courgetti”) that they even launched their own. Since then, Hemsley’s passion for balancing the mind, body, and spirit with plant-based food led to the publication of East by West, which champions the ancient Ayurvedic philosophy of eating to nourish, sustain and repair. Believing in a “360-degree approach to health” for a simpler, more mindful way of life, her projects extend to immersive sound baths, as well as consulting on food and wellness for brands including Goop and Chopra. We caught up with Hemsley at home in Kent, where she lives with her partner Nick, their nine-month-old daughter, Mahi, and their three adorable rescue dogs, Julie, Arji, and Mr. Bims.
Tell us about your three adorable pups.
Julie is my Border Terrier-Jack Russell [mix] born in 2015. At the time, I was procrastinating from writing my second cookbook and managed to convince Nick — my cat-loving partner in life and business — to be a dog lover, too. After a day left with a snoozing, round-tummied puppy on his lap while he watched tennis, he was hooked. Brothers Arji and Mr. Bims are Indian natives we found on a trip to India in 2016 when they were around six-months-old. We brought them back to the UK three months later.
Julie is all or nothing, super smart, fast and furious and ball obsessed. She is amazing with children and all the neighborhood kids love her and she seems to think she is one of them. Arji looks a bit like a mini redhead [German Shepherd] with fluffy big ears and fancies himself as the boss of the house. He loves training activities and things he is good at, and is always huffing and puffing about something, especially squirrels. Mr. Bims is very laidback unless the foxes are in the garden. He looks like your typical street/Desi dog with a white and golden coat. He loves routine and likes nothing better than spending a day lying in the sun with a full belly, beckoning you in for a cuddle as you pass him by. When I teach Ayurveda, I often use the dogs as prime examples of the three doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha — Julie is Vata, Arji is Pitta, and Mr. Bims is Kapha. It’s a relatable way to understand the terms and always gets a few laughs.
Where did their names come from?
My best friend’s son Jaden came up with Juliette. I was thinking of Samantha but when I heard Juliette I thought she’s definitely a Julie. Her name has since evolved to Julie Baby, Julie Poolie, Julie Punks, Punky Monkey — you get the picture.
Arj and Bims were in a terrible state when we found them as puppies. Half-starved, covered in wounds, fleas, and oil from sleeping under cars, Arj had most of his tail missing (we don’t know what happened but he won’t let us touch it) and Bims had lost part of his left ear and had a limp after a dog attack. We wanted to give them big names — names of strength to help them recover. At the time I was reading the epic Mahabharata about the Pandava brothers. Bheema is renowned for his strength and appetite, and when we first found our Bheema on the street as a half-starved puppy he was protecting the food we gave them so that Arjuna and their mother could eat away from the larger male street dogs in the area so we felt the name Bheema was apt.
At the same time, we also saw that, although at death’s door, Arjuna was very smart and had a warrior spirit much like the mythical Arjuna so that name stuck. Since the Pandava brothers are demigods in Hindu mythology, I have moved away from calling the dogs their first given names. This was bound to happen anyway as all my pet’s names are evolving. Currently we’re at: Arji Barji and Bimmy Man or Mr. Bims, The Bimster, Sir Bim of Bimdon, Bruce Bimsteem, and Bimcheeni...
Have they been protective companions during your pregnancy and did they sense a change was coming?
I had quite a bit of morning sickness so I spent quite a lot of time upstairs in my bedroom and neither of the boys like stairs, so Julie kept me company and used to come with me to the bathroom whenever I was having a nauseous bout. She was also glued to my side during labour and even had a cross growl when Nick tried to move her aside. Mr. Bims was the one that showed the most recognition of my growing belly. He liked to lie with me on the sofa and rest his head on my belly whenever he could — or maybe he just enjoyed me taking it easy and sofa surfing with him more than anything!
Did you prepare them in any way for the new arrival?
The boys went to our brilliant trainer and dog-sitter, Carley at Canine Instincts, who is now a very good friend of ours. They need to be walked properly, unlike Julie who just needs a ball thrown a few times for exercise and has a wee in one go! We also thought with midwives coming and going from the house that they would be more comfortable at Carley’s, as they are still quite nervous of strangers. Carley asked us to send some items of Mahi’s clothing so that the boys could get used to her scent.
How are they getting along with Mahi so far?
Julie is the funniest. Even though she’s the oldest in the family, she’s also the smallest and claims baby status when she’s not being a mad Terrier. She likes to sleep with Mahi and has discovered that a ball strategically placed near Mahi's feet might get a kick or two. Mr. Bims came home and ran around the house with glee at being away for so long and then suddenly picked up a strange smell in the air and went straight up to the [stroller] Mahi was in and sniffed for a bit. After that initial interest he’s not particularly bothered, though he is the one that will howl and go to her side if we don’t answer her cries soon enough for his liking.
And what does Mahi think?
She thinks that they are fascinating and even has her own sounds just for them to try and get their attention.
Have you always had pets growing up or is this a new experience for you?
I always wanted pets growing up but with my dad being in the forces and as a family changing houses often (even living in Germany twice), I didn’t have official pets until I twisted my dad’s arm into winning me a goldfish at the fair when I was about nine. Woodlice, snails, and baby birds that fell from their nests became my pets growing up. I used to fantasize about a dog, cat, squirrel (anything!) following me home one day, and my parents allowing me to keep it. It never happened, so at 16 my poor parents had to deal with mice that I brought home from a pet shop where they had been destined to be snake food. There was also a pet rat called Emily who I loved dearly (I told my mum she was a hamster).
How does having dogs contribute to your wellbeing and healthy lifestyle?
Our dogs give us so much joy, from cuddles on the sofa to their funny personalities getting up to all kinds of antics. In terms of community, having a super sociable pup like Julie meant Nick and I met more people in our area in the first eight months of having her than we did in the eight years before she arrived. Park life became a daily, if not a twice or thrice daily thing, and now we plan trips to new green spaces and parks for weekends. Nothing beats fresh air and nature for revitalizing us.
Do Julie, Arji, and Mr. Bims ever go to work with you?
We work from home quite often, and more so in the past 18 months, so yes, nearly every day is “take your dog to work day.” They’ve also enjoyed being included on food shoots for our cookbook, snoozing under tables until it’s time to hoover up the crumbs. The boys like to be where we are more often than not, sleeping by our feet. Julie sometimes tucks up onto our lap and we have to persuade her not to lie her head on our keyboards.
Do you cook for your dogs, and if so, what recipes do they enjoy?
The dogs are on a mostly raw food diet but we also give them suitable leftovers and food scraps. Our go-to meal in the house is dal, rice, and veggies and so they get a couple of spoons of that with their meals now and then. They also get a lot of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and they love peas (the only green veg they love).
Do they get natural treats?
We get them a bone each from the local butcher every now and then, which keeps them busy for hours. It’s especially good for Mr. Bims who’s had a bad knee from his time on the streets of India and he can’t walk far and prefers being tucked up on the sofa rather than in the garden, so it's a therapeutic way to give him a hobby that comes with fresh air. Peas are a good treat and we also buy 100% dried meat snacks from time to time. More often than not we just use a bag of grain-free kibble as a training aid or go-seek treat.
I noticed Julie has her own Instagram, Julie Loves Chicken Wings — tell us more!
Julie saw my activity on Instagram and decided she wanted one of her own. As she got older and life got more and more busy with so many balls to chase, she uses it less, but likes to check in every now and then to maintain contact with all her doggie mates.
Do they ever experience your sound baths and do they enjoy the singing bowls and/or certain sounds?
Yes, all the time! I did wonder when I got the bowls how they would react, as I know that their ears are very sensitive, but I don't have anything particularly high-pitched. They gather around when they see us setting up, the same way they do when we are about to meditate or watch a movie — they can sense a calming energy and want chill-out time with us. They have kicked off on a sound bath or two with barks, ruffs, or howls, but as I tell my audience these blips are all part and parcel of real life. Sound baths and meditation are about dropping our need to control every aspect of the exterior world and instead focus on our interior world letting everything else unfold exactly as it is supposed to be.
Are there any dog charities in the UK that you champion?
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting a dog, what would it be?
Be your dog's hero, as taught to us by our dog trainer, Carley. Not every dog loves other dogs coming up to them or people or loud noises, so be gentle in desensitizing them to this and certainly try to protect them from people forcing their way into their space when they’re not feeling it.
One of my dogs suffered quite badly from anxiety, yet from our perspective on the outside he was a lion with a big personality, when actually inside he was very scared and his fake bravado would get him into trouble. Also, it’s a line repeated so often but worth saying again, having a dog is a full-time commitment. Make sure you really have the time, energy and desire to take on that role as there will be challenging times. In my experience, any challenges are by far outweighed by all the joy our dogs bring.
Do they have any outerwear for rainy or cold days?
We have a few bits for Julie (when she was the only child we went a bit mad, as you can imagine) but the faff of it all and the fact that she never seems bothered means that we gave it all away a while back. The best purchase hands-down though are our dog dressing gowns from Dog Robe — on coming home from a wet walk they wait patiently to have their gowns put on (dark green for Mr. Bims, dark blue for Arji and red for Julie - they look like three Marvel superheroes lined up in their cloaks). Then they get their paws, head and underbelly dried. Half an hour later, gowns are off and we have warm, dry and non-smelly dogs. This method has been saving our sofa for the last five years!
Describe a perfect day with your dogs — where would you go and what would you be doing?
We love new adventures and beautiful walks. Something that we haven't done in a long time is visit our friends in Surrey — their house backs onto Hankley Common, which is just stunning. The dogs love staying there and our friends are excellent cooks so a long walk, good food and a sound sleep. Then, just five minutes down the road are our dog trainers who have been fantastic at helping us to understand the boys and communicate with them (they had some behavioral issues with certain things after their puppyhood experiences) and they have become great friends — so another long walk the next day with their pack of mostly Boxers — about 10 of them!
Also, trips to the beaches in Devon or to Dartmoor are always fun. Arji and Bim absolutely love the sand and love standing on top of the Tors in Dartmoor with the wind whipping their ears. I always wonder what they are thinking and if they remember their beginnings in that storm drain in Hyderabad where we first met.
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Andie Cusick is a writer and editor who has lived and worked in New York, London, and Berlin. She has over a decade of experience across a diverse range of lifestyle publications and brands. Cusick is currently the Editorial Director at Freunde von Freunden, was head of PR for Urban Outfitters and former Associate Editor at NYLON Magazine.