Wild Ones: Kathryn Budig, Kate Fagan, Ashi & Keonah · The Wildest

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Wild Ones: Kathryn Budig, Ashi & Keonah

The yogi wants you to give senior dogs a chance. Doga, on the other hand…

by Rebecca Willa Davis
July 27, 2021
Kathryn Budig sitting on the ground with a dog
Cebulka Photography

The Kathryn Budig universe is a broad one — the unfailingly upbeat yogi wrote a book, hosts a book club and a podcast with her wife Kate Fagan , and is about to launch an online wellness destination dubbed The Haus of Phoenix . But of all the content she creates, the cutest has to be the Instagram profile devoted to her 15-year-old Puggle, Ashi. From her home in Charleston, SC, Budig captures with her trademark humor the highs (think: celery birthday cakes) and lows (early-morning accidents) that come with taking care of two senior dogs. (In addition to Ashi, there’s also Keonah, her much more camera-shy 13-year-old Husky.) She chatted with us about the magic of older pups, making their food from scratch, and why you’ll never, ever catch her practicing doga.

It looks like you’ve nailed the work-life balance. How does your dog help with that? 

Considering that Ashi had me up at about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m…. [laughs] But Ashi and Keonah are the loves of my life! They have so much personality and provide constant entertainment and laughs when I feel like I can’t find enjoyment from anything else. And mental health-wise, I think any dog owner would agree that when you sign up to bring a dog into your life, it’s an enormous amount of work, but I would go to the ends of the earth to take care of them.

left: kathryn budig's small dog stretches. right: kathryn budig sits with her dog, who wears sunglasses

How do Ashi and Keonah get along?

They tolerate each other. I inherited Keonah from my ex-husband, and anyone who has had a husky can relate: They’re beautiful dogs, but they’re not terribly domesticated. People always stop us and tell us how beautiful Keonah is — she’s stunning, she has glacial blue eyes — but she’s not a companion dog. She likes to keep to herself, she doesn’t follow us around. So they have very different personalities. I would love it to be a fairytale relationship, where they curl up in the same bed, but it’s not that sort of sibling relationship. But I also love that about them: They’re the odd couple. It’s this big, statuesque, stunning husky, and then this weird alien-puppy mix.

These days my Instagram feed is overrun with puppies, so I love that you’re spotlighting life with senior dogs.

Everyone loves puppies, but I do think there’s something magical about senior dogs. Being with them through thick and thin, and adapting to their needs… I’m honored to be doing that. We’re not a respectful society when it comes to our elders, and I believe we do the same thing with dogs; we want something young, flashy, and fun. Think about all the knowledge and experience that comes with age and life — same thing with dogs. We owe them that respect. 

left: Kathryn Budig and her wife walking their dog. right: Kathryn Budig's wife, Kate, holds their dog.

What’s been the biggest learning for you as your dogs have gotten older?

Ashi has dementia, and I think rule #1 is not allowing yourself to get frustrated. It’s easy to think they’re being defiant and not listening, but you have to remember that you don’t know what’s going on in their head. So be patient, be kind. Rule #2, create a limited environment. The night is when her dementia gets the worst, so we close the doors so she just has her immediate living room area to pace in. And her spatial awareness isn’t what it was, so like baby-proofing, we dementia doggy-proofed.

Do you feed her any special foods or supplements?

Ashi has her own miniature apothecary in the house! About a month ago we started her on CBD oil from ElleVet, the only scientifically tested and approved CBD oil for dogs. She’s on a ton of different homeopathic powders; she’s been on Standard Process’ Whole Body powder for years, and I swear that’s why she looks as good as she does. We have both of our dogs on the crock pot diet — it was created by a veterinary acupuncturist, so all the different ingredients are about the warming and cooling aspect and what each ingredient does for the animal. It has things like coconut oil and turmeric for anti-inflammatory and garlic for anti-bacterial. We have three crockpots, and we have a day we make all their food and freeze it. It’s a labor of love, without a doubt — but we’re particular about what we put in our bodies, and it should be the same with our dogs.

left: Kathryn Budig with her dog. right: Kathryn Budig's dog on a yellow chair

Do you make their treats as well?

The most creativity definitely goes into the crock pot. Outside of that, we give them Bocce treats, which are so clean. And every birthday it’s a celery cake — I cut off the butt of the stalk and lather it up with peanut butter and put bananas on it. Ashi loves anything with crunch, so she’ll legit eat the entire thing. 

How do you keep Ashi and Keonah active?

There’s a beautiful park in Charleston called Hampton Park, which has massive oak trees and lots of shade and different paths. We walk them through the park all year long, but especially in summer. We take them on two walks a day, allowing them to stop and sniff; we jokingly call it “checking their email” — they like to check the messages left for them. It’s easy to get into your head that physical exercise is movement, but also remember how important the sense of smell is to dogs, and give them their moment to do their own thing.

Kate with two dogs
Courtesy of Kate Fagan

So no “doga?”

Absolutely not! NO! I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to yoga, and I think things like goat yoga and dog yoga are kitschy sales points. When I’m doing yoga, especially if it’s close to chow time, Ashi will circle me like a shark. It’s not unusual to be upside-down and she’ll stick her nose in my armpit. So most animals aren’t going to tolerate doing poses with you. I’ve tried to meditate with Ashi, simply because I like being close to her, but it normally ends up with me being punched in the face. But that’s life, right? [Laughs]

rebecca willa davis

Rebecca Willa Davis

Rebecca Willa Davis is a writer, editor, and brand strategist. She previously worked for Elle, NYLON, and Well+Good, and has written for The New York Times, Vogue, Glamour, Details, and New York magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Pepita.