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As Etsy’s trend expert (ahem, a dream job), Dayna Isom Johnson is responsible for cool-hunting for treasures across the indie platform. But that is merely one of her many jobs. You may also recognize Johnson as a judge alongside Simon Doonan, on the former NBC series Making It (hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman). Additionally, she’s co-hosted YouTube’s wildly popular series Instant Influencer. And these days, she can also add doling out next-level canine style tips to her list of accomplishments.
It’s Johnson’s business to spot the next big thing no matter what the gig, and she often does so with her loyal companion Mojo, a Jindo / Jack Russell, at her side. We recently spoke with the lifestyle guru about the coolest pet trends right now — and how, if they want to live life to the fullest, everyone needs a dog.
What does your job as Etsy Trend Expert entail?
It’s deeply rooted in real-time search data. So while some of it is predictions, the majority of it really relies on what shoppers are engaging with in real time. I mean, I love my job. And I get to do a lot of fun things. But it is a lot of work.
What do you see trend-wise in pet products?
In general, when you think about pet products over the last two to three years, there’s been such a shift in people searching for items that really identify with their personal style, especially within their home. Gone are the days of just buying the pet bed that you see at some random pet store. You want your pets’ items to be as elevated as the things that you purchase for yourself. Like with Mojo, he’s so cool and sporty, so we always keep a bandana on him. I had a dog before, and he was a bowtie guy, because he was a very distinguished gentleman.
I also get these social ads for the most intricate, chic cat trees.
Oh, yes! We have so many of those that are very, very cool. I’ve also seen a lot of very interesting crates that are built into side tables, so it’s a functional piece of furniture for your home as well as something that your pet may need. I also really love the interesting new bowls that have come around. Like, I think about the one that Mojo has that I found just by searching. I’ve read that it’s good for your pet to have these elevated bowls so that they’re not straining their necks. But this particular maker, and many other makers, have very intricate woodworking carvings or very mid-century modern styles. And Mojo’s bed is this really great brand that does Southwestern designs — and it’s all handmade. Where the personality really comes out is within the actual design. It’s not boring, and I love that, because pet things have been boring for a very long time.
There’s a lot of awareness now with the environment and the surge of cancer among humans and pets. Which materials should people look out for?
A lot of sellers will use natural fibers. That’s the first step, because of course, your pets are not ingesting something that’s harmful to them. They’ll also use run-off fabric. These are fabric scraps that otherwise would be discarded because they’re too small to make clothes. They can turn that into a toy. And then there’s materials that can be recycled. Shoppers right now are more conscious of what they’re purchasing. Like, I’m a crazy dog owner. I love getting Mojo custom-made cookies and treats. I recently made him a bark-cuterie board.
I put it on my TikTok! I basically got him a personalized little dog bone tray with his name in it. Then I worked with some Etsy sellers to get personalized treats with his name on them and some cookies. Then I put in some blueberries and carrots. I invited one of Mojo’s very good puppy friends. They enjoyed the bark-cuterie board together.
How long did it last before they gobbled it all up?
Oh, gosh! You know what? I actually had to slow them down, because I didn’t want them to get little puppy tummy aches.
What kind of clothes and accessories do you buy for him?
We’re very adventurous. He goes on vacations with us as long as we’re in the States, so I have a winter coat for him that comes with a hood. We also bike with Mojo, so he has a backpack that he goes into when we bike. We took Mojo with us when we went glamping in the Grand Canyon. So we had to make sure his little paws had boots on, because it got so hot. Then at night he has a little fleece sweater, because it gets chilly. I also want to get him sunglasses, but my husband says that I’m being too ridiculous.
Tell me about Paco, your dog who preceded Mojo.
I got him when he was eight weeks old, and he died at 17. He grew up with me. He was there when I was accepted to college. He was there when I got married — like, all the life-changing moments. And to make the very hard decision…it chokes me up even to this day. You don’t want them in pain. And you’re actually being more selfish by keeping them around because you don’t want them to leave. You have to release that selfishness to let them cross that rainbow bridge. That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
At what point did you decide to adopt Mojo?
We made the decision to send Paco across the rainbow bridge in December of 2019. And we adopted Mojo in March of 2020. It’s interesting because when Paco passed away, I said to my husband, “I’m never getting another dog ever again. I can never go through this pain again. No other dog can fill this void.” As time passed, I realized I have too much love inside of me to not give to another animal. So in February, I started volunteering at animal shelters in New York City.
What did you do as a volunteer?
I focused the first couple of days on senior pets, because it made me think of Paco. And I know how senior pets don’t get as much love as younger dogs. So I would sit and pet them. I had donated all of Paco’s things, and when I started volunteering, one of the dogs had on his coat. It was like a good omen. Then as I got better, I would take the larger dogs for walks and to the park and give them treats and just give them love. After about a month or so, I decided [I was] ready. We found this shelter that just spoke to me. It’s called Korean K9 Rescue. They save dogs from the meat trade. We did this without being judgmental, because that’s someone else’s culture, right? But for me, I wondered, “How can I step in and make a difference?”
What was Mojo like when you first met him?
This was right in the middle of the pandemic, so you couldn’t even go into shelters to see if your energies matched. We were like, “Oh, man, he looks like he’s so fun and so spunky.” And so they approved our application. We got him on March 29, a rainy day. They came dressed in hazmat suits because this was the height of COVID. They showed up in a truck, with Mojo in their hands and said, “Here you go.” In the first picture we ever took of the three of us, Mojo’s face is kind of like, “What is happening?”
Mojo is such a great name. Why did you name him that?
Because — oh, I’m gonna cry — because he gave me my mojo back. [Turns to face Mojo, teary-eyed] Yeah, sweetheart. He brought such a light of sun to both me and my husband. We thought the world was about to end. He brought so much joy and adventure. He loves being outside.
Is he social?
We have to be careful because six months into us adopting Mojo, he was diagnosed with encephalitis, which was very scary. It all started one day; we were just playing in the living room, and his face started to go down. It almost looked like when a person has a stroke, and their body kind of goes limp. He was pacing back and forth, so we took him to the vet. The vet said that it was an ear infection, and I was like, “This is not an ear infection.”
So, then we took him to a neurologist who said, “Oh, no. This is encephalitis. He has swelling of the brain.” Because of that, he had three rounds of chemo. Because of his condition, he can no longer be vaccinated, because vaccinations can trigger the swelling. We have to really limit how many dogs he’s around and only have very trusted dogs around him, because we don’t want to risk him catching any type of disease.
I’m so glad he’s OK. You really light up talking about him. Is there a connection between how much Mojo means to you and how he inspires your work?
Well, I think the number-one thing is his overwhelming imprint of fun in my life. If I don’t surround myself with fun, I am not inspired. So, sitting in nature, having a great time, and feeling free — when I live the best version of me — inspires me. I have a friend who’s considering getting a dog right now. And I said to her, “Listen, having a dog is work. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna sit around and cuddle.’ But it is the best decision anyone could ever make.”
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Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.