Chelsea Leibow is a publicist residing in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with her fiancé, Mike Farrell, a musician, and their rescue from Korean K9, Stanley Banana. The former Head of PR at Thinx (a reporter at Jezebel once described her as “distinctive as a song, as effervescent as a soap bubble, as relentlessly upbeat as an Avon lady on a mountain of uppers”) specializes in empowering women-led businesses in the sexual health and wellness space—her clients include Ohnut, Lunapads, Le Wand, and Uqora. Chelsea once did PR for Smalls, the cat food startup, and has strong opinions about the pet food industry, as well.
Did you grow up with pets?
Yeah, I did. My first pet was a Golden Retriever. Her name was Shasta. We got her when I was eight years old, and I fell in love with dogs then. They’re just the most loyal, best companions. I know dog loving is not a unique trait, but I just fell in love with dogs, and growing up, we always had big dogs. It’s funny that I have such a tiny little boy now, but it’s very good that we have a small dog in the city.
“I feel like we give our dog so much love, and that he is representative of our love in a lot of ways.”
Then, when I was a junior in high school, Shasta was getting a little older. We got Marleau, and she’s a Goldendoodle, and she’s still kicking. She’s 15 now. She’s 95 pounds. My parents had to install a ramp for her in the backyard so she can get up and down the stairs nowadays. Her back legs are not as good as they used to be.
How did Stanley come into your life?
Mike and I had moved in together to this apartment. This is the first apartment that we’ve loved together as a couple. And this apartment just lends itself so much to having a dog. It was one of the things we first bonded about—dogs in general—when we started dating. We knew it was something that we wanted to do, and then we got this apartment, and we were just like, okay, let’s just try to get settled.
It was our goal for 2018 to get a dog, so we started looking in December of 2017. We did not think that it was going to happen so soon. We got Stanley right before the new year. It was our New Year’s resolution and we ended up getting him on December 29th.
So did you and Mike have particular dog types that you were drawn to? Because I’ve interviewed couples, like Lolita Cros and Charlie Klarsfeld, who have confessed that they compromised on the breed of dog they each preferred by getting a mutt.
We knew we wanted to rescue, and we were pretty open. We just went on Petfinder, and we realized that this one rescue, Korean K9 Rescue, had a lot of dogs that we were really drawn to. The thing that we definitely wanted was a small dog.
How did you know Stanley was The One?
He was actually not the dog that we had applied to get. He was the third dog that we were interested in. Korean K9 thought he would be a good fit for us, and they’re the experts.
But his picture was horrible. It was blurry and grainy, and he looked really scared, and his eye looked wonky. Because we had been pre-approved with this specific rescue, they let us go to the foster’s house. He hadn’t been at any adoption event yet because he had basically just gotten to the States. And on the way there, we gave ourselves a pep talk like, “We don’t have to get this dog if he’s not the right one for us,” still thinking that there was something maybe wrong with him. We got there and the foster mom opened the door, and he putts around the corner, and we both immediately were in love with him. He was pretty shy and wouldn’t really look at us. But we just thought he was the sweetest boy—and we were so excited to be able to give a home to a dog that maybe wasn’t so lovable and comfortable, and help him with the rehabilitation process. Because I had always grown up with purebred dogs, and they were always super happy.
I feel like with him, whenever he shows affection, he really means it.
I love that. And yeah, that’s what I love about rescues too, that you can really tell that when you show them love, how much they open up. It’s incredible.
Yeah, and seeing just how he’s grown. When we first got him, walking down the street, he would hear a noise that scared him and not be able to walk any further. Now he’s just so accustomed to city life and is able to handle things that he never could’ve handled when we first got him, and I just feel really proud of him for that.
How did you decide on Stanley for the name?
We were in bed and we were going through the list of names. It just so happened that Stanley and Banana were next to each other. And so I said, “Stanley, Banana,” and then Mike said, “Stanley Banana.” And then I was like, “Okay, yeah. That’s it.”
We initially really wanted a dog named Breakfast, but then we were like, “That’s a word we use a lot.” Also, it’s a very cutesy, hip, Brooklyn name to give a dog. Stanley is a very classic name, and then we threw in the Banana at the end for that touch of whimsy that we wanted.
Tell us about a typical day with Stanley.
Stanley will wake one of us up. This morning, it was me. He’ll jump on the bed. Usually when I’ll wake up to go to the bathroom around 5:00 AM or so, and he’ll already be in the bed. At some point in the night, he’s jumped up. We feed him around 6:00 AM, so usually a little bit before 6:00 AM he’ll put a paw on one of us until we wake up. We feed him and let him out. We just kick him out the door. He pees, and then he runs back into bed.
I work from home, so Stanley and I are very close because of that. He loves my office. It’s his little area. I think it’s because I have a really shaggy rug in there, but he also puts away all of his toys in there. There are never toys laying around the house ever, because he ends up hoarding them all in my office. He cleans up after himself. We have this magnetic screen that acts as a doggy door, so I just leave the door open when it’s nice out, and he lays in the garden. His best friend, Tater Tot the Corgi, lives upstairs.
What do you feed Stanley?
You are a fancy Brooklyn couple.
I know. Well, so I was doing some PR work for my friend, Matt, that owns a cat food company, Smalls. As part of that work, I learned a lot about the pet food industry, and I was pretty mortified by what I found. There’s a documentary on Netflix called Pet Fooled. It’s pretty eye opening. I think it’s really interesting that you think you have all of these options when you’re looking for pet foods—there are so many different brands. But it’s really, honestly, two or three of the companies. That’s why when there’s a big pet food recall, it’s all of these brands, because they’re all processed the same way.
So, we save for it appropriately. Both of us saved money separately in the six months leading up to getting Stanley. I still have a little savings account that’s just for Stanley. We have pet insurance from Healthy Paws, but just in case anything happens. I just never want to be in a position where it’s either my dog’s life and wellbeing versus me not being able to pay for it.
I put $100 a month in this little savings account. Whenever we have vet bills, it just comes right out of there and we don’t really have to think about it.
“We refer to ourselves as Mommy and Daddy, I don’t know if that’s gross or not, but we definitely do.”
What treats do you feed Stanley?
He eats these Merrick Texas Hold’ems Lamb Lungs. We buy them in bulk and they’re so easy to break up into smaller pieces. They were helpful for training.
Where did you train Stanley?
We went to Wag the Dog for clicker training. We did a group class—it was like his little continuing education class because he had aged out of the puppy bracket at that point. Every Sunday for eight weeks, we took him to this class.
Where did you get his banana bed?
It’s from Amazon. It’s like $35. His matching banana shirt is from Bushwick Bark. The brand is Dogo. And we have a great carrier for him—Mike brings him to work. It’s from LoveThyBeast. It’s a tote bag with a hole for his head. It’s so roomy and comfortable.
Do you consider yourself a dog mom?
Yeah, definitely. We refer to ourselves as Mommy and Daddy, I don’t know if that’s gross or not, but we definitely do. It’s not lost on me that dogs can be training wheels for kids. Very different experiences, I know—but that’s also part of the reason why we wanted to get a dog, to have this thing that we love and keep alive together.
Do you think Stanley then has deepened your relationship with Mike?
Yeah, absolutely. 100 percent. I feel like we give our dog so much love, and that he is representative of our love in a lot of ways.
Will Stanley play a role in your upcoming nuptials?
We’re looking in the Hudson Valley area, and most of the venues are very outdoorsy. We were just talking about having him be part of the ceremony in some way. I’m just nervous because he’s nervous. I don’t know how well he’s going to do in front of a lot of people.