Brielle Mordant is a brand strategist at Placemeant, a brand consultancy that connects the dots for emerging and established brands through meaningful partnerships, content development, brand positioning, and experiential projects. She originally moved to New York to pursue photography, which is how she met her photojournalist husband, Angus Mordant, originally from Australia. They, along with their Shiba Inu named Yuki, split their time between their SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, Italy, and Australia. Yuki has her own passport.
Did you grow up with dogs?
I did. When I was born, my mom had an Akita, and it was very much her dog—Akitas, in general, are very low, cat-like animals in a sense. They just have one person and that’s it. When I was added into the dynamic of their pack, at first, it was a little iffy with the dog, but then she quickly became my first friend. Some of my earliest memories involve rolling on the floor with this massive dog. She passed away when I was very young, and then I didn’t get another dog until I was eight or nine, a Chow Chow-Lab mix who stayed with us until I was halfway through college. Being an only child, dogs were very important to me, because they were my playmates.
How did you get Yuki?
I’m very much of a dog person, but my husband, Angus, grew up in Sydney, Australia, with cats, so he was on the fence about getting a dog. We were newlyweds and had just gotten back from Japan. He’s a photojournalist, so the moment we got back, he had to take off for a job.
I was walking around Chelsea and I saw our dog, Yuki, sleeping in the window at a pet store, and I impulsively went in. I asked to hold her and immediately she was just really focused on me. She wasn’t distracted or looking at anyone else in the shop—and there was a lot going on! There were a lot of kids running around, other people trying to play with dogs. But she was very focused on me. And that’s when I knew. I was like, “This is my dog. I need her.” But I couldn’t get hold of my husband because he was on an airplane, and I wasn’t bold enough to just buy a dog while he was traveling. When I finally spoke to my husband on the phone, he pretty much knew that there was no changing my mind—we were getting this dog. So that’s how we got Yuki.
Why did you name her Yuki?
I wanted her to have a short-syllable name because, oftentimes with dogs, they end up getting a lot of nicknames, and the names get shortened and shortened and shortened.
I liked the name Ukulele, and I wanted to call her Uke for short, but I didn’t really like the spelling of U-K-E, and so I just started looking at other spellings of Uke and was doing all this Googling, and I came to find that the Japanese meaning of Yuki means “to travel “in a very poetic way. And it also means happiness as well, which is the more common term. But the term to travel really stuck with me and my husband because he travels a lot for work, we travel a lot together as a couple, and we wanted to travel with our dog as well.
“Being an only child, dogs were very important to me, because they were my playmates.”
Tell us about your new home in the Hudson Valley.
Having a home in Hudson is very new for us. We still are based in the city full-time. We have an apartment in SoHo, but we wanted a residence out of the city for us to start spending more time in, especially because I grew up in Pennsylvania, and that’s where my mom is, and my husband’s family is in Australia, and so we wanted a family home out of the city that we could all spend time in, collectively, and not feel super cramped in an apartment. And my husband and I had been coming up to Hudson a few times for day trips or long weekends, and we were just really drawn to the community here. Hudson has always been an artistic and creative community. Even back to the 1800s, it was the home of America’s first landscape painters, and that energy and creativity is still very much alive today.
There’s also just a huge emphasis on eating local, and all the businesses in town are small family-owned businesses. I think the only large corporation in town is the CVS. And so it’s really just a different way of life up here. It sounds a little crazy but it’s kind of like the slow food movement in Italy. I feel like that’s something similar that Hudson is having. It’s knowing where your produce is coming from, and supporting small businesses, and having this beautiful sense of community—this is something that we’ve just really wanted to be a part of.
Walk us through a really good day in the Hudson with Yuki.
Our weekends in Hudson are the days I look forward to the most. The morning is very special to me, mainly because I can make my way downstairs half-dressed, put some coffee on the stovetop, and just open the backdoor to let Yuki run around. The mad morning rush that we have in the city doesn’t exist for us in Hudson, and that slight change in the morning routine completely sets the tone for our weekend. I am totally relaxed.
My husband Angus often works incredibly sporadic hours. So because of that, his sleep schedule is all over the place. He generally sleeps in until 10 AM but if he isn’t awake by 10:30 AM, I send Yuki upstairs to wake him up. She always goes for licking his ears!
It’s Saturday morning, so by 11 AM, we are all on our way to the Hudson Farmers Market to buy our groceries for the weekend. We walk up Warren Street, which is the main street in Hudson, and make a pit stop at Moto for my second coffee of the day. The owner and chef, Kate, always slips Yuki a slice of prosciutto from behind the bar. If I had to speak for Yuki, I’d say that’s her favorite part of the day.
We are so lucky to have our pick of some of the best produce from farms in the Hudson Valley, just a few miles away. Once we have our food for the weekend, I’ll stop by the florist. She only carries single-stem flowers and I enjoy the creativity of making my own arrangement for the house.
At this point, Yuki is starting to crap out on me. All of those videos on the internet of Shiba Inus laying down in the middle of the street refusing to walk are 100 percent accurate. Everything is a negotiation with this breed. So, I bribe her all the way back down Warren Street with some blueberries from the market.
I’ll spend the early afternoon, during the heat of the day, reading a book—currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Hirari—with Yuki curled up at my feet. Angus is often on the other end of the sofa editing photos from his latest photo assignment. His job is incredibly demanding, requiring him to be traveling for the majority of the month. When we do have a weekend with all of us together, we make it count. After our early afternoon break, we will put Yuki in the car and head out to Art Omi, a dog-friendly sculpture and architecture park, for a long walk.
We will finish off our day by grabbing a beer at ÖR Gallery and Tavern, one of the few dog-friendly bars in town. We have made so many friends in Hudson just from bringing Yuki to the bar. She commands attention from everyone in the room, but not in an annoying way—except if it is music night at ÖR. She will just howl over whoever is on the microphone. Then it’s time to take her home.
Do you travel with Yuki?
Yeah, Yuki travels domestically and internationally with us. And Yuki has her Italian pet passport, so she comes with us, which is really funny because we spend time in a very small village in Italy, where there are very few English speakers. And so hearing her trying to listen to everyone speaking Italian around her is funny because she’s trying to figure it out—but she’s gets excited because everyone has their dog voice that’s a higher pitch.
My husband and I, we would love to take her to Australia, but unfortunately they have really strict quarantine laws, and we wouldn’t want to put her through that just for a vacation. We would only bring her to Australia if we decide to move back.
Since you and Yuki are experienced travelers, what are some of your best dog travel tips?
Be calm. Your dog can sense if you have nervous or anxious energy and, as a result, be on edge too. Yuki is definitely my protector. If she can sense that I am stressed, she will always go into protective mode. I’ve learned that I need to stay calm for her, too.
Bring the essentials but don’t bring too much. I already feel like a pack mule carrying my own bags through the airport, let alone adding a 28-pound Shiba Inu and all her things to the mix. We are huge fans of the Love Thy Beast Canvas Tote in Grey + Navy. It fits Yuki the bag and all of her things in the surrounding pockets. The long straps are a plus, especially if you need to throw it all over your shoulder and run down the terminal to catch a flight.
I also recommend these essentials: collapsible dog bowl, pee pads (for emergencies), Wild One Poop Bag Carrier, lint rollers, and Bare Bites Yam Jams (sweet potato treats for in-flight snacks without the smell!).
Airlines have been changing their pet policies and sometimes it can be hard to keep up. From my perspective, I find American Airlines to have the most reasonable policy. They allow you to pay an extra fee to bring a dog in the cabin. We also love flying JetBlue just to use the pet relief area at JFK airport.
Another great travel resource is BringFido. You can check for pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, and events in your area or wherever you may be traveling.
“I’m learning to work with who she is. We’ll be walking and she’ll just refuse to walk and that’s it. Things truly are a negotiation. But I’m learning that I can’t necessarily get everything that I want when I want it, and I need to work with her and do it in a timeframe that suits her.”
What are your favorite dog brands?
I love Love Thy Beast. We also have a set of Linda Rodin’s line of stylish collars and leashes. It’s the Johnny Guitar Set in red. And then I also love the Found My Animal brand, with the rope leashes. I’d say those are our three go-to brands when it comes to accessories for Yuki.
We also like 2 Note Hudson, a local brand. Everything is made in their shop and made to order. They also make all-natural flea and tick repellents for dogs.
Does Yuki have like a special dog bed?
You know, I bought her a Casper dog bed, but she is refusing to lie on it, and now I don’t know what to do with it. I just bought her this no-name bed at TJ Maxx and she loves it. Shibas are like denning and burrowing animals, so she often likes to dig. She’ll get on top of the Casper and just start digging. Like she’s trying to dig a hole in it—she’s been abusing it.
What would you say is your biggest extravagance for your dog?
Yuki’s biggest extravagance is her European Union Pet Passport. It has made traveling internationally such a breeze. I used to get very nervous at customs, crossing my fingers that all of my documents from the American vet were in order and exactly what customs needed.
The European Union Pet Passport is a little blue booklet that simplifies travel to and within EU member states. A European Union veterinarian must issue it; however, U.S veterinarians may update the records in the passport when vaccines are administered.
Our family has a home in Italy, where we spend time throughout the year. I guess you could say this is another one of Yuki’s extravagances. I’m American but Yuki is a dual citizen! We are both learning Italian, though. So far, she only understands vieni qui, which means “You come here”. I’m a little bit farther along in my Italian studies.
What does Yuki eat?
Yuki has, I think, tried every food on the market. She had some health issues early on and we’re still addressing them. She has crystals in her urine, which means that her urine isn’t alkaline enough. I’ve been having a hard time finding a balanced diet for her that doesn’t create crystals. So far, she’s been on the Fromm Lamb and Lentil Diet, and I haven’t noticed any crystals and her coat seems to be very healthy, and she’s happy and active. So, I’m hoping that this is the last and final food.
Sometimes, I’ll put a little bit of frozen blueberries in her breakfast. Or apples or carrots. Just to keep it interesting.
What makes Yuki unique to you?
Yuki is a very intelligent dog. I’ve never met a dog as smart as her. I’ve definitely met my match, because she’s constantly wanting to learn new things and go new places. I can be stuck in my habits, and I’ll take her for a walk and end up walking the same route, or turning the same corners, going to the same places. And she’s always trying to pull me in a different direction, because she’s sick of going that way and wants to do something new.
She’s also teaching me patience because Shibas can be very stubborn. And I’m learning to work with who she is. We’ll be walking and she’ll just refuse to walk and that’s it. Things truly are a negotiation. But I’m learning that I can’t necessarily get everything that I want when I want it, and I need to work with her and do it in a timeframe that suits her. Does that make sense?
Totally. Do you consider yourself a dog mom then?
You know, I got married very young. I was 21 and my husband was 24. And shortly after we got married, everyone was all of a sudden asking us when we were going to have kids and it was a conversation that we needed to start having with people, but we both knew we didn’t want kids, and I would just joke and say that I don’t have a motherly bone in my body, just to stop the conversation. But with Yuki, to me, it feels more like a partnership. She leans on me, and I lean on her.
Photography by Tayler Smith