We spoke to Shelby Eastman, a creative strategist and marketing consultant based in LA.
She invited us into her beautiful home to talk about her relationship with her family dog, Daisy, who she had grown up with but had only recently reconnected with at the beginning of the pandemic, when she went home to Texas for five months. Daisy made the big move to LA with Shelby at the age of 12, and we spoke to Shelby about loss, death, work/life balance and LA.
We had already planned to publish their profile this week. Devastatingly, we found out that Daisy passed this week, and to be able to share this portrait of their love is a bittersweet honor. We're reminded of a quote by Roger Caras, a photographer and writer, who said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” We hope you enjoy this conversation and that it prompts you to squeeze the ones you love a little tighter.
Shelby Eastman: My family got Daisy in 2008, she was my family's dog. I skipped the day in middle school to go pick her up, and we've had her since she was a puppy. Growing up with her, I never really appreciated her as much as I do now. I was just in middle school and high school, in my own world, where everything else felt so important.
When I moved to New York for college, I really missed animal energy and would really appreciate that whenever I went home.
When COVID began, I went home to Texas on a pre-planned trip in March. I ended up staying with my parents through the shutdown for five months. My parents never got furloughed - my mom works in health care and my dad owns a very small transportation business, so they were both going in to work every day. I was just working from home alone with Daisy, and she started to cling to me since she wasn’t used to having company at home since both my parents go to work, and my brothers are both at college.
We have another dog. She's a black lab, but she goes into the office with my dad every day, so I think she just really enjoyed having a human in the space.
I became attached to her too, and we just became buddies. It was such a nice relief to be able to take her for a walk outside when I was stressed or busy with work. She became such a positive source in my life, and it just got to the point over those five months where she started sleeping with me, following me around everywhere.
She wouldn't really listen to anyone else in the house. When it came time for me to go back to LA, my family said, “Okay, she's 12, she's going to be so sad when you leave. Would you want to just take her?”
I felt so bad, I didn’t want to steal their dog, but my mum believed she just would not be as happy when I left.
Heed Foods: It really sounds like you and Daisy had this slow, epic, unfolding love story. Tell us about how it felt to have her as a teenager and for it to come full circle to have her with you now in LA as an adult?
SE: It's been amazing because I realized how dogs and their energy can shape your mental health in such a positive way. Again, it's a huge responsibility, because I moved to New York and was there for eight years, and didn't need to take care of anything else but myself. It's definitely been a learning curve to go from having my parents essentially take care of her, and for me to just enjoy her in high school and college, to her being fully my baby. Having something to take care of has just taught me a lot.
"She helps me realize that what was happening at my computer twenty minutes ago is actually not important."
Heed Foods: What has it taught you?
SE: It’s made me so much more selfless. I worry about her wellbeing, I'll wake up earlier than I usually would and won't sleep in as late, because I know that she will be hungry, or needs to go to the restroom. I won't stay out for long periods of time, because I know that she needs me. It's like having a child, in a much more toned down way. But, I feel like a mom - I'm always worrying about her. When I went on vacation, she had a house sitter and I was checking in on her every day.
Heed Foods: How have you changed due to your move from New York to LA?
SE: I feel happier. Mentally I think the energy in LA just feels calmer. I don't know if that's because of COVID and everyone's been forced to be at home and take things day by day, but overall I definitely feel happier.
Even though I'm slammed with work, I still have peace of mind because the weather is so nice and I can just walk outside with Daisy in the middle of a very stressful day. I’ll take her on her afternoon walk and come back down to earth.
She helps me realize that what was happening at my computer twenty minutes ago is actually not important. She breaks up my day, and being able to have sunshine essentially 99% of the time here has just been such a game changer.
Heed Foods: Have you found that your leisure/work breakdown has shifted?
SE: Roughly the same, but that's on me! I just need to find a better work/life balance. I’ve picked up a few more work things that have interfered with that, but at the beginning it was so much more balanced than being in New York.
There are so many opportunities to do things that are good for your mental health and keeps you away from your phone, such as surfing, hiking, going to the beach or just simply taking Daisy out for a walk. I would never do that in New York because there's always more work to be done and I would stay inside all day working.
Heed Foods: A lot of dog owners are so aware of their dog’s life span in order to be more present. Daisy is a little older - have you thought about her mortality?
SE: Literally every day. I constantly think about what am I going to do when she passes, and how sad I’ll be. I think about it every day because she is 13 and I just love her so much. It’s tough because I became so attached to her when she is so old and wished it happened sooner but that just isn’t the way life unfolded for me and her, so it’s tough. I have regrets about wanting to appreciate her earlier but something just came over me in COVID that made me fall in love with her like I never have before.
Heed Foods: It sounds like you’ve really sat with the idea of Daisy’s impermanence. Has your outlook on the impermanence of life changed your outlook on life?
SE: It's definitely on my mind a lot. I have experienced a lot of death in my life lately. My dad's dad passed away about a year ago and then I lost my grandma last month. She was in love with her, and I actually ended up bringing Daisy home for the funeral because they had a special bond.
This life is not long, it’s really short. I just want to cherish every moment with her. and I don't want to be away from her if I don't have to because I know that life is so short and precious.
Of course, there will always be regrets. When my grandma passed away, I had regrets. I wondered why I didn’t call her more or visit her more. Same with my grandpa and my other grandma. You wish you did more.
Heed Foods: Death can also be such an incredible opportunity to reflect on life and impermanence and gratitude.
SE: I totally agree. When my grandma passed, my other grandpa called me to check in on me. He said, “I just want to tell you to have fun, and just live. Because it’s short. Bye.”
Heed Foods: That’s beautiful. Two questions to wrap up. What would you write for Daisy’s dating app profile?
SE: Loves food, must be a good chef. Daisy is sassy. She only likes who she likes and she needs a strong independent man or woman, I don't know what her preference is, to take care of her. She’s opinionated, kind of does what she wants, and is very hard headed. I would write, “Strong man or woman to take care of me. Serious inquiries only.” And then I would write, “Loves a good belly rub.”
Heed Foods: You have 30 seconds to tell Daisy whatever you want and she’ll understand. What do you say?
SE: I love you. I love you. I love you so much. I'm so sorry that I didn't love you enough and care for you enough up until now, but we’re together now, and stop begging for food all the time!