Wild Ones: Jess King, Sophia Urista & Chicken
The kinetic Peloton-instructor-and-musician power couple are as passionate about their pets as they are their bustling careers.
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If you, like Ciara and Lizzo and thousands of other millennials, jumped on the Peloton bandwagon during the pandemic, then Jess King needs no introduction. The fierce, fiery-haired instructor has amassed a cult following for “The Jess King Experience,” a wild ride that’s more dance party than spin class. But King’s got moves out of the saddle, too. She co-hosts an Instagram cooking show “Ooo, Mami!” with her fiancé, musician Sophia Urista, where they serve up mouth-watering meals with a side of sass. Delicious table scraps are just one thing that their scruffy Terrier mix, Chicken — who they rescued in pretty rough shape — counts herself lucky for. King and Urista are doting dog moms who go the extra mile for their pets. We caught up with them to talk about how dogs can teach you how to chill, inspire a sense of adventure, and love you when it’s hard to love yourself.
How did the adorable Chicken come into your lives, and how did she get her name?
Last summer, we noticed this cute little dog roaming around the park by our house. We soon realized she didn’t belong to anyone and had been severely neglected, so we brought her inside to give her a bath and some food. The next day we took her to the vet and learned that she had been chipped. When the previous owners were contacted they explained that she had run away during the fireworks, and it would be best if we kept her. So, we did. We believe she was in a sweater most of her life because her hair was very short and discolored in her mid-section. The rest of her fur was long, blonde, curly, and fluffy in the back, which made her look like a chicken when she walked. That’s how she got her name.
It’s amazing that you nursed Chicken back to health. What was the process like, and did any special remedies help with her health issues?
Chicken doesn’t produce tears and is “thirst-less,” so we constantly apply artificial tears and dilute her meals with water so she will drink it. We also put her on The Farmer’s Dog, which is human-grade dog food. We’ve seen a tremendous improvement in her coat and general well-being. She is a very snuggly dog, and after a short amount of time, she started to trust us and her personality began to emerge.
I love your cooking show…and I’m sure Chicken does too. Does she get table scraps?
Chicken definitely gets extra food on “Ooo, Mami!” kitchen-shoot days! We give her leftover unseasoned goodies, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve that encourage us to keep giving her treats.
How do you include Chicken in your active lifestyle?
Chicken accompanies us on vacations and to the grocery store, and we take her with us anywhere we can. She’s not one for play or fetch, and can succumb to napping all day if we let her. So we make sure to take her on longer walks when we can, and we’re currently working on getting her to do “fun-runs” with us in the hallway.
What are some ways in which pet parents can stay active for the well-being of themselves and their dogs?
I think getting out in nature, going to parks, and spending time exploring your neighborhood can be a great way for pets and their owners to nurture their sense of adventure and get some great low-impact exercise.
Jess, in a past interview you mentioned how a healthy lifestyle change helped you heal. Do you think that also inspired how you care for animals?
I’ve always been an animal person, and before Chicken, I had a Shiba Inu, Zeus, for almost 15 years. I learned SO MUCH from being his Mommy. He had severe allergies and was a very particular dog, so while the education around canine health came with experience, my general and abundant love for animals has always been who I am.
I’m so sorry to hear about Zeus. Senior dogs are really special. What are some of your favorite memories of Zeus in his golden years?
Zeus was my everything. When he got older he became arthritic and would drag his back feet a little, so I used to put bright red shoes on him and I thought it was so cute. I also did everything I could to keep him moving and healthy, like taking him to water therapy. He would walk on an aquatic treadmill and swim in the pool with his trainer. It always brought a smile to both of our faces.
When my last dog passed, I felt like there weren’t any resources for grieving pet parents. If it’s not too upsetting to remember, what advice would you give people in this situation — how do they know when it’s time and how can they process the grief?
Woof, this is a hard one to answer. Losing Zeus was the first time I had ever really experienced loss. First, I had to accept that letting him go was an act of love, even though it felt counterintuitive. Then, I guess I just let myself move through the process of grieving him with the understanding that the darkness would pass eventually. I really leaned into my friends and family, and I still talk to him — out loud and often. They say that their spirit is always with you, and I fully believe that. It also brings me comfort that he is no longer struggling or in pain. I miss my guy every day, but having Chicken also helped.
How does Chicken (and did Zeus before) enrich your life? And what has being dog moms taught you about life?
Zeus was there for me through every formative chapter of my life — through every break up, alongside me every time I moved, and every day when I would come home. He loved me when I found it hard to love myself. He taught me responsibility and unconditional love. He was my security blanket, and he was my pride and joy.
Chicken, on the other hand, has her own personality and serves her own purpose in our lives. She was there for me when we lost Zeus, and she teaches me how to chill because she is so chill. Being a dog mom taught me how to be selfless, oftentimes putting my own needs aside, like sleep and to care for a sick puppy in the middle of the night. It also expanded my heart and capacity to love something profound. I don’t feel complete without an animal in my life, and although they aren’t with us for nearly long enough, I think it’s worth it to experience the love they provide and create memories that stay with you forever.
Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s Editor-in-Chief. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescued Pit Bull Midnight.