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As the cohost of the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Sona Movsesian is famous for two things: frequently stealing the spotlight from her boss, while being an unrepentantly less-than-stellar assistant to him. In fact, she is so proud of the latter that she even wrote a book about it. The World’s Worst Assistant, with a forward (begrudgingly?) written by O’Brien, features illuminating on-the-clock tips such as how to watch TV at your desk and the virtue of memorizing credit-card numbers for job security.
This is to say Movsesian can be an overachiever when she puts her mind to it: like keeping O’Brien in check and raising her twin toddler sons, not to mention expertly doting on Oki, her four-year-old mostly-Poodle dog. “It almost felt as if she was our first baby,” she says, adding, “Conan loves to go after Oki because he knows how much I love her.”
Always on the hunt for new ways to spoil our pets, The Wildest checked-in with Movsesian for insight on everything from doggy hairdos to intimidating coyotes.
Is it true Conan writer-producer Mike Sweeney once mistook Oki for a rodent?
Well, actually two instances. Conan did a thing on the [former late-night] show where he called me just to see how I was doing during the pandemic. Oki’s hair got really long, and we weren’t taking her to the groomers. So Tak, my husband, got a grooming set, and he did it himself. And…it was not great. It was way too short. It was insane. She looked like a sick puppy. I felt so bad for her.
Another time, I used to sneak Oki into the Warner Bros. studio, and she would roam around. Sweeney used to be a postal worker, so he has a very tumultuous history with dogs. [laughs] He’s not a fan of dogs at all. He jokingly said, “You gotta call the exterminator; there’s a rodent problem here.” A couple of hours later, the exterminator showed up in the studio. He told me the story, and I was dying.
I’m assuming Tak is not allowed to cut her hair anymore.
Oh, my god, no! I don’t even know what we did with the grooming kit. We probably got rid of it. But he’s not allowed to. Nobody except a professional is allowed to go near her fur.
People say pet owners look like, or have personalities like, their animals. Would you say that’s true for you?
Yeah! She has dark, brown, curly hair and has highlights. I just got highlights. Her curls are beautiful. Anyone should aspire to have curls like Oki. If I hold her up next to me, you wouldn’t know where my hair ends and her hair begins. She’s a gorgeous little dog. For a couple years, my husband was like, “She’s not a girly dog.”
He would get her neutral-colored collars and neutral-colored harnesses. So I got her a girly collar and a girly harness. I’m letting her just sort of come into her femininity. And I think it’s really changed her outlook and body image. She sort of struts around differently. She’s becoming a very confident young lady.
Is she social?
She was a very social dog. Then, during the pandemic, after maybe six months of not going, she was like, “I don’t want to be around these dogs.” But she doesn’t attack. If she goes to a friend’s house and there’s a dog there, she’ll find a room to poop in. Like a silent protest. We’re always horrified because she never does that at home.
How is she around the kids?
She was tentative at first. We took one of my boys, Charlie, to an allergist, and we found out that he’s got a mild allergy to dogs, which was the worst thing we could have heard. I mean, we were devastated. We talked to the allergist about it, and designated areas for each of them. He said, “Just make sure you have Benadryl on hand.” And he also prescribed an EpiPen for us.
Our priority, obviously, is our son and his health. There were areas where Oki could go and Charlie couldn’t go, and vice versa. There were moments when the four of us would be downstairs in the den, and he would just be looking at us longingly from the stairs. It was heartbreaking. We slowly started to reintroduce Oki back into Charlie’s life so he could build a tolerance towards her. That was a few months ago. Now, Charlie and Oki are best friends. She loves to play with the boys. They’ll chase her. They’ll crawl after her. And she’ll, like, run in circles and stuff around them.
Is Oki your first dog?
My dad was a big dog lover, but we never got any dogs because I was afraid of them. When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I went to Albertsons [the grocery store] and saw a cardboard box full of puppies that were five dollars each. I don’t know what came over me. I was like, “I think I’m ready for a puppy.” So, we came back with a dog. We had Roxy for 18 years. She was a half-Lab, half-German Shepherd. She was a really sweet dog, and we wanted to get her a friend. My freshman year of college, we got Brando, an Akita. He lived for 18 years. They really helped me get over my fear and ignited this love that I have for dogs.
Why did it take you so long to adopt a dog?
My husband and I were talking about adopting after we got married. We were in Okinawa, Japan for our honeymoon, and I was checking Instagram and a friend of mine out here had fostered a dog. Without even meeting Oki, my husband and I saw her and…I really do feel like dogs will sort of enter your life when it’s time. We needed to adopt this dog. The moment we landed [home], we went straight to my friend's house. We’ve been in love with her ever since.
What is the most egregious thing you and your husband do to spoil Oki?
My husband is obsessive about her food. He never feeds her the same meal two days in a row. So if she had beef one day, then the next day it’ll be turkey. And then the next day after that, it will be chicken. He thinks that she will get bored, so he is really, really serious about switching up her food.
Do you make her food or buy the expensive stuff?
We do both. Sometimes when we’re making a meal, we’ll make extra for Oki. Other times, when she does eat, she eats expensive food, the bougie stuff. When we walk her, I usually have a bat or a golf club, just in case I see a coyote. Some of them are very brazen. If they if they see a snack, they’ll go for it. I’m like, “I dare you to come after me. I dare you.”
Cuisine and coyotes aside, what are your tips on being a good dog owner?
You can’t love them enough. There are people who shame dog owners for carrying them around in a stroller or a bag, or paying too much for their clothes or their collars. But if that’s what you’re into, then do it. I really don’t think that you could love or spoil your dog enough. That’s number one.
Number two, never yell at your dog. It breaks my heart anytime I see someone yell at a dog. You can effectively train your pup without having to yell at them. I just don’t like yelling in general. I’m already a loud person and try not to yell at anything or anybody. I know this is kind of morbid, but when I first had Oki, sometimes I would look at her and be like, “I can’t believe I’m gonna outlive you.” And I would just start crying. You need to, like, soak up all the time you have with your dogs. They’re these beautiful creatures that love you unconditionally, and loving them back unconditionally is the best gift you can give them.
Now that Oki is kind of a celebrity, do you want to start an Instagram for her?
I don’t. It’s the same reason I don’t just post pictures of my kids. Like, I know she’s really cute, and I don’t need strangers telling me that. I just think Oki likes to be private. She gives me a vibe that she wants to do her own thing and not be in the public eye.
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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.