For Donovan Ho of Hothouse Jungle, Pet Care Is Self-Care

By: Ciara LaVelleUpdated:

national dog day
@hothouse.jungle/Chewy Studios

For Donovan Ho of Hothouse Jungle, Pet Care Is Self-Care

We all want to give our pets the best lives possible, especially on National Dog Day, celebrated annually on August 26. But did you know that caring for your pet has major benefits for you, too? Just ask Donovan Ho, the San Francisco-based pet parent and home designer behind the idyllic photos of houseplants-filled homes that have earned his Instagram account, @hothouse.jungle, tens of thousands of followers.

“Pet care is self care,” he says. “I think that what an animal brings to your life is tremendous in value of care, mentally, physically and emotionally.”

Dozens of recent studies have shown that caring for both plants and pets can improve humans’ well-being. Ho, a devoted caretaker of over 60 houseplants as well as his 2-year-old Alaskan Klee Kai named Christmas, is living proof. A self-described “relaxed” person, he gets inspiration for the cozy, green sanctuaries on his Instagram feed from his relationship with both his dog and his plants. In celebration of National Dog Day, Chewy teamed up with The Sill for a chat with Ho about self-care ideas for pets and people, how plants make him a better dog dad, and how he’ll be celebrating National Dog Day.

Tell us about Christmas! He’s too cute and we’re obsessed.

He’s very calm and one of the most curious dogs. When we go on walks, he loves checking out squirrels and rabbits and stuff. He does this thing where he stares at them but he doesn’t stop walking. So I have to be careful that he doesn’t walk into poles or trees because he’s not watching where he’s going! He gets distracted very easily. But he’s a very loving dog.

For his name, I wanted something winter-ish, because Alaskan Klee Kais are basically Nordic/snow dogs. And Christmas was the perfect fit! It’s the right amount of cute and playfulness, as well as having a mischievous edge.

Which came first: your love of pets or your love of plants?

A love of pets has always been instilled in me, from growing up with family dogs. My love for plants didn’t really develop until I moved out on my own and got my own place, which was a couple years ago before Christmas came along. But my love of animals has always been there.

Was it hard to integrate a dog into your plant-filled life?

When I first brought Christmas home, I was nervous because of how many plants I had. But he never really touched anything besides his toys. Plus, I put up barriers and didn’t give him access to any floor plants. He never really showed interest in them, though. He’s very good about leaving them alone.

Editor’s Note: Not all animals are as plant-friendly as Christmas. Before you add a new plant to your pet’s home, learn about poisonous plants for dogs and poisonous plants for cats.

How do you and Christmas practice self-care together?

We have a lot of different routines. When we wake up, we like taking it slow, basking in the sunlight, sipping on tea. (Just me, not Christmas of course!) We go on several walks throughout the day. That’s been a big one, especially during shelter-in-place orders. It’s good to remember to go outside and get some exercise and fresh air. And we take our daily naps together in the afternoons. We’re kind of on the same nap schedule.

Donovan's Pet Product Picks:

Advantus Soft Chew Flea Treatment
Yak9 Chews Turmeric Yak Chew Dog Treats
Comfortis Chewable Tablets for Dogs
Best Friends by Sheri Calming Shag Vegan Fur Donut Cuddler Dog Bed

Has caring for plants made you a better pet parent?

Oh, definitely. With plants, there are so many different types and each one has its own needs and different personality. And it’s the same way with animals. You have to get to know them and what they want and what they need. They don’t just come out of a package with the same instructions.

How do you plan to celebrate National Dog Day this year?

National Dog Day is very close to Christmas’s birthday, so we plan to do a mashup! I’m going to get him some In-N-Out patties—they have a dog version on their menu. And then I’m going to bake him a birthday cake!

Ready to indulge in some self-care with your pet? We’ve got your inspo right here:

Whether it's National Dog Day or just an ordinary day, there's always an opportunity to show your pup just how much joy they bring to your life. So have fun, go all out, and share your celebrations with us @chewy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!


By: Ciara LaVelleUpdated: