grace hui, Sophie and Leonard
Meet this solicitor and her two gorgeous rescue dogs...
Words and pictures: Simon Glazin
As London becomes more and more dog-friendly, you only have to look down to see an oh-so-cute pooch being taken for its lunchtime walk. This means for us, the streets of the capital have become a mecca for new and interesting people to photograph and interview for this site.
Walking through Old Street station one day, I spot Sophie and Leonard. It's hard not to see them. Leonard and his arresting monochrome coat, and Sophie with her gorgeous face. I couldn't help myself. I approached the person at the other end of the lead, told her about Lifestyle Tails, shoved a business card in her hand, said how much I loved the dogs and walked away.
The next morning Grace emailed me. We worked out a date to go and photograph her and her two beautiful rescue dogs, and here is the result!
Grace and her husband live above the hustle and bustle of Old Street. Look out opposite their flat, and you'll see yet another high-rise taking shape. Look down, and you'll spot suited and booted professionals and skinny jean-clad cool types whizzing up and down the streets. It's a cool place to live. And with these two dogs too! It's immediately clear that there is so much unconditional love between hounds and owners in this house. They lay at the feet of Grace's husband, and follow her round for strokes and kisses.
Grace tells me that they bought this flat from a high-profile movie star (she shall remain nameless) that actually converted the whole top floor into two apartments. It has all the East London charm you can imagine... all brick walls, mezzanine level and cool artwork everywhere. Both 'humans' are solicitors, working a stones throw from their house.
Scroll down to hear from Grace, about what life is like with Sophie and Leonard by her side and more...
On life with Sophie and Leonard: To me, Sophie and Leonard are family. I have grown up with animals in the house and a life without animals is unfathomable to me. Having a dog is like having a cherished family member. The time with them all the more precious because they have so much less time than us.
On rescuing them both: Let me start with Leonard as I got him first. I rescued him on 31st Oct 2015 from Rain Rescue in Sheffield. He was found as a stray and was due to be put down just because he was a male akita and many people misunderstand and mishandle the breed. I am so grateful to Rain Rescue that they saw the beautiful soul beneath that fluff and fought to give him a chance. I am also grateful that they thought we were suitable to home such a magnificent creature. Leonard has fitted seamlessly into our lives. He is independent, yet loving, noble, protective, loyal and yet also playful. We love him to the ends of the earth and back.
There are so many beautiful dogs who just need a home and after Leonard settled with us, we thought it was high time he had a companion. We thought it would do him good. So, the search began in earnest! We found darling Sophie in the care of Friends of Akitas. She was mistreated and misused but despite everything, her outlook to life inspires me. Always a smile, always a wag, always positive. She would put most humans to shame. The first meeting was pretty successful and Leonard seemed receptive to her. When we were told to pick her up on 31 October 2016 (the same date as we got Leonard the year before), we knew it was a sign that she is the one for us! Leonard and her are now uber close, complementing each other's personalities. As different as night and day but yet the best of friends. We couldn't imagine a time where Sophie and Leonard are not there.
On work: My husband and I are both solicitors, and if I could be entirely honest, I mightn't be a solicitor if I could choose all over again!
It is mentally stimulating and very solution driven, that said, the worst bit would have to be the erratic hours and that you cannot really "switch off". So, if you are the sort who enjoys problem solving (or as some might say, creating problems just to solve them another way), the mental gymnastics are challenging in a good sort of way.
On career plan B: There are plans B, C, D, E...
There is a part of me that is very earthy. I want to live surrounded by nature in a very rural location (OK, as long as there is high speed internet as well). But I want to be able to wake up and hear birdsong or a babbling brook (very unlike Shoreditch I know) . I want to actually produce something rather than paper pushing. My paradise would be to run some kind of retreat where people can come and recharge and be around nature and animals. Have some kind of free roaming donkey, dog, cat, Alpaca sanctuary.
On career advice: DON'T DO IT! Is that helpful? No? OK, on a serious note though, the first few years as a lawyer in the city will be back breaking in terms of hours. It does get better but you have to be prepared to slog it out. It is pretty competitive these days so I would suggest lots of internships as that is what will make you stand out. Mere good grades are not enough. You will need to display a well rounded life and lots of "real experience".
On down time: I love taking the dogs out to the countryside for long walks. The dogs are also loyal customers of coffee shops and pubs in Shoreditch. We favour the Bricklayers, The Griffin, The Merchants Tavern and Renzo's coffee, all of which are dog friendly and keep treat tins just for the pooches!
On her daily routine: Sophie usually bursts into the room with her squeaky lemon toy and her thumping vigorous tail. Leonard then walks over to my side of the bed majestically asking for a scratch. This will be circa 8am when I know it is time to jump into the shower and then take them out. After their walks (which includes a treat stop for them and a coffee stop for me at Renzo's on Leonard Street), I will brush them, clean their paws and then feed them before heading to work.
Jose, the dog whisperer of Hackney, then comes pick the dogs up around noon and they join a pack of their furry friends for a frolic around Haggerston Park. They are usually back by 4pm where they sleep off their adventures until my husband and I come home. They then get dinner and a before-bed walk!
On her love of art: I am definitely not an art expert. However, a quick look round my flat would lead one to think I favour art that features animals and vibrant colours. I suppose I like a piece that has a story behind it. For instance, my favourite piece is a screen print of my childhood dog in a tailored man's suit. It was created two years before he died and was extremely meaningful because I knew that he was reaching the end. Looking at it brings back nostalgia, happy memories and bittersweet emotions of love and lost.
Another piece I like is "Dotty Leonard" created by artist, Katy (www.dottydogart.co.uk). It is an abstract interpretation of Leonard that is fun, quirky but also true to his likeness. Let me talk about "George" too - a screen print of the Staffie belonging to an artist that was once homeless. George the dog gave him a sense of responsibility and he turned his life around. I bought "George" at an exhibition in the Hayward Gallery and I love the back story.
On her favourite dog 'tail': I fell and sprained my ankle last week. Sweet old Sophie sat next to me and licked my ankle for hours. That's just the essence of her. Full of love.
I took Leonard to a Dog Art Exhibition (yes there are such things) and he loved it so much he started singing. You have to hear it to know it. I can't explain it but it is so full of joy and feeling that it brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy he is happy.
One thing people should know about her: I LOVE ANIMALS AND I HATE ANIMAL ABUSERS. IF THEY MEET ME IN A DARK ALLEY, BEWARE. I BOX.