Pia Baroncini Has an Open-Door Policy For Foster Dogs
The LA entrepreneur has one thought when she sees an animal in need: “How dare we not help?”
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Anyone looking to adopt a dog would do well to follow Pia Baroncini. The Pasadena-based serial entrepreneur regularly reposts Southern California-based pups in need of fosters, medical care, and loving families between her Outfits of the Day featuring her fashion line, LPA, and her husband Davide’s label, Ghaia Cashmere (for which she serves as CMO).
She also adds meal inspiration employing her and Davide’s co-founded Baroncini Import & Co. Sicilian olive oil; insights she’s gleaned from her latest episode of her podcast, Everything Is The Best; and fan-favorite unfiltered life updates.
“It’s very easy to get a dog adopted on Instagram. I have enough followers. I would be a bad person to not!” says Baroncini on a Zoom call. When we spoke on an August morning, the new mom was days away from launching yet another piece in her expansive portfolio: a website where her captivated audience of 176,000 followers can read and shop the story behind practically everything she wears, eats, and does.
And Baroncini does a lot. On top of her business ventures and regularly fostering, she’s a mom to three dogs: Chi Chi, the Bulldog, Nina the Pit Bull, and Nutella the Mastiff — and her 14-month-old daughter, Carmela. She also refuses to brag about being busy: “We’re all stressed and sick. There isn’t another doctor I could interview for the podcast that could make it more clear.”
Here, she talks about how to maintain sanity in the midst of chaos, how to juggle (and when it’s OK to drop) so many balls, and what she wishes people knew about fostering animals.
Tell us about your new site. What can we expect?
Instagram can’t be the only place where everything lives. It’s a tool that’s changed our lives for the better, but we have no say in how it operates. It’s too much of a monopoly. Everyone needs to own their own shit. And I would like to be able to answer everyone’s questions, like “Where did you go when you were in Italy?” and “What are some key things to throw together from the grocery store?”
I’m bringing it back to the blog. It’s a beautiful hub [piabaroncini.com] where everything functions well and is shoppable. I’m sharing things, like my favorite products for Carmela and my favorite Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome workouts and recipes.
It’s wild to be launching something new while running so many young brands. LPA just turned seven years old.
It’s crazy. Two days ago was LPA’s seven-year anniversary. We just looked at the new collection, and the whole office was floored. We have a new associate designer who designs with me; it’s never looked better.
At the same time, Baroncini Import & Co. is becoming a real business. We’re in the process of a true partnership with the olive oil producers in Sicily. I’m so grateful; we have permanent life partners there now. We were supposed to launch ceramics, linens, and aprons a year ago that are made in Italy. There was a huge sense of urgency to go to market. I’ve seen eight different brands launch Italian plates and ceramics since. But at least we’re able to see what we like and don’t about them. I can’t be bitter that somebody has more money than we have or better connections. Every market is saturated.
LPA has a partnership with Revolve, but the others are all us. It’s taxing emotionally, but they’re truly an extension of who we are. Davide makes the sweaters in Umbria at a factory with people who hold our baby. And this year he is launching on every major retailer: Mr. Porter, Ssense, the dream! He’s launching shoes this month. It’s going to be so beautiful. And the podcast is so fulfilling and weird and makes me feel very vulnerable.
You have so many balls in the air. Which balls do you allow to drop?
It dropped yesterday, when my husband had a work emergency at 6:45 a.m. on his birthday. He woke up to a clusterfuck of miscommunication with a European factory and wholesale account and a shipping emergency. I came downstairs to make him breakfast, and he had to leave to go to work. I have to be downtown for work by nine, and our nanny doesn’t get here until nine. Davide’s pissed, I spilled my coffee, and I was like, I’m not going to have this day. I can’t be stressed. I want to get pregnant again. It’s not safe for me to drive like that.
I don’t want to snowball my energy. So, I got in the car and had a cathartic conversation with a friend. I was 30 minutes late to a meeting, but instead of walking in late with frazzled energy, I walked in with apologies and thank yous and “I love you guys” — letting them know that if I’m late again, it’s not because I don’t care about them, their time, or this job.
You write a lot about eating healthfully, especially while preparing your body to potentially carry another baby. What do Carmela and the dogs eat?
Carmela doesn’t eat kid food. She eats what we eat. Financially and time-wise, to buy and make extra kid food is insane. I made a big batch of overnight oats with chia seeds and coconut, and that was both of our breakfasts. We made the same lunch yesterday — cans of sardines, black beans, and chicken.
The dogs are more of a challenge. If I had three small dogs or fewer dogs, I’d do more of a raw diet. But they’re big and I need to have so much food. I’d need to have an extra freezer. I do feel bad, but I give them salmon oil and probiotic bits, and once a week we cook chicken and make bone broth to go on the dog food. We also use Maev Bone Broth Topper, especially in the summer. It’s really good.
You wrote about preparing your dogs for Carmela. How is that going?
Our animals are really focused on us; they don’t pay much attention to her. If I’m laying with the baby, Nutella will walk right over the baby and come to me. When she’s older, they’ll have a cute bond. But I think Nutella understands there’s more of a pack dynamic now, so she’s a little more protective when we go for a walk with Carmela.
They won’t bite her or anything either. I was bit in the face by a Rottweiler when I was a kid — when I tried to give it a kiss while it was eating. So, we’re always putting our hands in our dogs’ mouths to take the food away while they’re eating to acclimate them to kids. I can put my whole hand in Nutella’s mouth. It’s something I started doing when she was a puppy. Just this morning I gave her food, stopped halfway through, kissed her and put my hand in [her] mouth. There’s ample food here. It’s not like she’s fighting to the death to eat.
When did you start fostering?
At the beginning of COVID, but I’ve been bringing in stray dogs home unofficially since high school. There were so many dogs here. I’ve had so many stray animals come and sleep in our bed. When I was eight months pregnant, I brought a stray Pit Bull home. I just pick up the animal and try to find whatever rescue I can for extra support.
How do you navigate the dogs during the day?
I wake up with all of them in my bed, and then they all get fed in the morning. They each independently get walked. Chi Chi goes to work with my husband and has a full life. I take Nina for a walk when I take Carmela out, when it’s not too hot. And my mom takes Nutella to the park.
Tell me about bottle-feeding the puppies you foster.
I am 100 percent sure that fostering animals is why having a newborn was so easy for me. If you bottle-feed puppies, and make sure the bottle’s not too hot, and get up every two hours to feed them…It’s about being comfortable being uncomfortable. There are so many things that come up when having children: trauma from birth or childhood, hormonal issues, but for so many of my friends, the hardest part about having a newborn was that their sleep was disrupted. And if we’re only talking about sleep deprivation, that was easy for me, because I’ve done that before.
What do you wish people knew about fostering?
It’s just life-changing in such a positive way. People get so scared of having their life be altered by something else, that they won’t be able to do whatever they want to do all the time. But it’s such a small sacrifice to give a full-blown, living animal a better life.
I showed my husband a photo of the dog I wanted to foster — it’s missing hair and had one little paw up and was scared. My husband said “no,” and I told the foster “yes,” and then on his birthday, after dinner, I’d had enough cocktails that on the way home I told him the dog was coming. We have a home! Who are we as people if we are not willing to open our home? How dare we not help.
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Mackenzie Wagoner is a writer and editor. Her work has been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, ELLE, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, and more. She lives in New York City.