Shanyan Koder is an art advisor, curator, philanthropist, and entrepreneur based in Chelsea, London. The Hong Kong-born mother of three (two daughters, one dog) comes from a family of private art collectors, studied English and Law at the University of Cambridge, and previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Sotheby’s before launching her own ventures. She is the founder of HUA, a digital platform for Chinese contemporary art and a co-founder of Global Showcases, an invitation-only platform for ultra-luxury goods. She was on the July 2019 cover of Tatler Hong Kong and has been featured in Vogue China and Architectural Digest China with Scooby, her Tasmanian Labradoodle.
Did you grow up with dogs?
I didn’t—I didn’t get a dog until I lived on my own in my early twenties. My parents are not dog people, but I always knew in my heart that I loved dogs. I came to the UK for university after having grown up in Hong Kong, and I took a job in Hong Kong for a few years straight out of uni, and then transferred to London. When I bought my first flat in my early twenties, I got myself two cats. It was only after I got married that my husband and I got a dog together about eight years ago.
That was an older Scooby that we adopted. He was eight at the time and he didn’t live for very long. And then I had Scooby Jr., who got sick and didn’t live long. And then this is Scooby III—he’s about five years old. They all looked exactly the same. I also had two Golden Retrievers when I lived in Hong Kong. They were super gentle with my children. I had a nanny who moved to Texas and wanted to adopt the Golden Retrievers from me, so now they live on a farm in Texas!
How did Scooby III come into your life?
He’s from Tasmania. He came from this particular breeder—you can choose between a wool fur and a fleece coat—and he has the fleece coat. So when he’s walking along, his coat literally bounces in waves. It’s so beautiful.
We lived in Sydney, Australia for a year because my husband is Australian, and then we went back to Hong Kong for a bit. I’ve been in and out of London for the last 20 years. This most recent move back was about two-and-a-half years ago—but we’ve had this house for about 10 years, so it’s grown with us. It was a very different house when we bought it. We’ve renovated it multiple times—you know, as the family grows, the house grows with it.
And Scooby traveled with us the entire time! He has such a good disposition for travel—he travels really well.
Have you noticed a difference between raising your dog in London versus raising your dog in Hong Kong?
London is so much more dog-friendly as a city. Hong Kong, unfortunately, has quite a lot of diseases given the humidity and geography. You’ve got horrible things like tick fever, which is like malaria for dogs. That’s how my second Scooby died, actually. There aren’t many dog-friendly restaurants [in Hong Kong]. There’s more concrete than park. And the living spaces are so small. You don’t have that hot, humid climate as well, which is so much better when you’re a big furry animal.
Tell us about a day in the life with you and Scooby.
I get up at 6 A.M. because the girls get up early. Scooby will be up by the time we come down and have breakfast—he sleeps in the laundry on his own. It’s a nice enclosed space and I think he feels safe there. My daughter will go get him, usually. He eats Butcher’s Simply Gentle Dog Food.
He comes on the school runs with us—everyone at the school knows him. After the school runs, we take a little walk around the park by the school. There are a lot of dogs—and smells—in the park. Yesterday, I went to a festive breakfast at one of the dog-friendly private member’s clubs in Mayfair to support a charity for which one of my friends is on the board. The owners who’ve built these clubs, like 5 Hertford Street or Annabel’s, are dog people, so it’s really nice to have these fancy places where dogs are allowed, too. So, he also comes to Annabel’s with me. There’s another club called George, of which I’m a member, and every year they do a big event for the Dogs Trust. All the dogs go and they do activities with the dogs, like portraits. And we’ll just have drinks with the dogs all around.
The other day, I had a meeting at the Bluebird with the Serpentine Gallery, for which I’m also an ambassador to help build their Asian presence. I was a council member, but I moved to an ambassador role because I felt like I could give more to the gallery that way.
If I need to get my nails done, he’ll just sit very quietly.
In the mid-afternoon, we’ll pick the kids up and we’ll spend the afternoon with the kids.
When I go on holiday—we recently went to Turks and Caicos—he goes to the Canine Country Club, which is in Cornwall. The owner, Rachel, pick him up and he has an amazing fancy seat in the back of the van. His best friend there is named Dexter, and he sleeps in the house because he’s just part of the family over there. It’s almost like his holiday home. They go on sunset walks along the beach. It’s almost like a human holiday!
You have such great taste—where do you like to shop for Scooby, and what are you getting him for Christmas?
There’s a store just down King’s Road called Love My Human. Every year, my girls and I go to The Pet Spa or Pet Pavilion or Love My Human to pick up some toys and some treats. I get him a fancy costume, too. In fact all the toys underneath the table are his.
I thought those were your daughters’!
No, that’s just his collection. He’s accumulated his own pile of toys. He loves his penguin. He decided this month that he loves his moose—it’s funny; it’s like he knows it’s Christmas. He also loves his bunnies. You see him bring his toys upstairs and leave them in front of the girls’ rooms. I brought down four of his bunnies the other day. He doesn’t clean up.
How does Scooby play?
Oh, he cuddles. He tucks his toys under his chin. He’s not a destroyer.
What do you mean when you say you get him a fancy costume?
I dressed him up for Halloween and I’ll dress him up for Christmas, too. We recently took everyone to see Frozen 2 for my eldest’s sixth birthday. It’s amazing—it’s even better than the first one. My daughters were dressed like Elsa [from the first and second movies], and Scooby is the same size as my youngest, so he dressed up with them—as Snow White, in a child’s costume.
My girls also have a lot of bows, which I borrow as well, but on occasion I’ll give Scooby a bow, like a bow tie. I love nice big red bows on dogs—he got one on his birthday.
Do your girls see him as a brother?
Absolutely—Scooby is part of the family. He has his own Christmas stocking. He thinks he’s on the same hierarchy as my little one because she’ll just eat chips and he’ll just come up to her and grab one from her.
What do you think is your biggest indulgence for Scooby?
I really appreciate “Mummy and Scooby time.” I have a husband and two girls, and mornings can be quite chaotic because everybody has to get ready for school and my husband goes to the gym before work. After everyone leaves, it’s just him and me. He’s my shadow.