Chances are that if you *don’t* have a dog (and you know, aren’t allergic), you’ve asked yourself at least once, “Should 2020 be the year I…finally adopt a puppy?”
ICYMI, Riverdale star (and—hi!—former Cosmo cover guy) Charles Melton is way ahead of ya. When the world called for people to #SocialDistance, Charles took that verrrrry literally: He and his presh husky, Neya, road-tripped all along the West Coast for three months all by their damn selves. (And they have the adorable Instagram pics to prove it.) (Meanwhile, I’ve literally been lying on my couch binge-watching Outer Banks. Kk.)
And yeah, it turns out that Charles and Neya have become ~basically inseparable~ since he adopted her at the beginning of quarantine. She was a rescue doggo, which is why Charles is now a major advocate for adoption. He’s even partnered with Purina One to help sheltered dogs and cats find their “forever homes” and donate tons of pet food to shelters across the country in the process. (Aw!) The brand has facilitated adoptions for more than 750,000 pets since 2015. 750,000!
Alright, now that you’re basically tearing up at the idea of Charles and a lil husky pup traveling through mountains together, let’s hear a little bit about life as a new dog parent from Charles himself. Keep reading for an #exclusive Cosmopolitan interview with Keto Meal Delivery Charles about all things adoption, Neya, road-tripping, and how to get through these times. You’re welcome! (WARNING: This interview will make you want to adopt a doggy ASAP. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.)
So where are you posted up right now?
I’m quarantining in Los Angeles, but I’ve been on and off the road for the past three months. I’ve been isolating in my car in different camp spots with Neya all along the West Coast. We went to this little town in Oregon called Government Camp Road Keto Meal Delivered where we hiked along a few mountain trails. It was very nice, very freeing. Kind of Into the Wild vibes. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie.
Yes, I’ve seen it, lol. So you’re back in L.A. now. Are you and Neya still all by your lonesome?
I’m living with Drew Ray Tanner [editor’s note: Yes, as in Riverdale castmate and one half of music duo These Boys These Girls Drew Ray Tanner]. He’s Neya’s “Uncle Drew.” We have these fanny packs we wear around the house with all kinds of dog treats inside them that we give to Neya.
That is adorable. Do you guys get along well enough to quarantine together? I know you’re buddies on-set, but quarantine is different.
I guess you could say we’re two peas in a pod. I’ve been on the road pretty often, but it’s been great every time I am here.
Neya was in school on a farm for about a month with a woman named Jill the Dog Whisperer, just kind of learning a few things and enjoying life on a farm. Jill the Dog Whisperer told Drew and me something super nice after a five-hour intensive philosophy of dogs session about how to give Neya the best life possible.
She paid us a very nice compliment. She told my roommate and I that she’s worked with many married couples who aren’t as synchronized or who aren’t as great at communication, as the two of us are. So that was pretty funny.
You guys are pretty much bestie goals then. So tell me, what inspired you to adopt? How did it feel meeting Neya for the first time?
Oh my god. I’d been thinking about adopting a dog for a while—but more seriously this past year. I’ve never adopted a dog before. I did have a family dog growing up, a Jack Russell terrier. But this was probably a week before quarantine, I partnered up with Purina One, I was then connected to Hollywood Huskies where Neya was fostered. I met Neya, and honestly, this sounds so cliché, but honestly, it felt like a match made in heaven. We’ve been inseparable since.
The really great thing about Purina One is they have this Champion Shelter Program they’ve done for the past 15 years. They’ve donated about 6.5 million pounds of dog and cat food to shelters across the country. There are so many pets out there that don’t have a forever home, for someone like yourself and myself to just love on them. Teaming up with Purina and what they believe in is something that I was very excited to be a part of.
Now I have my best friend. My child. I talk to her like a human, by the way. I’m like, “Hey, babe.”
My roommate Drew will be like, “What?” And I’ll be like, “I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to Neya.”
Do you and Neya have similar personalities?
It’s interesting, because I start to ask myself, am I becoming more like her or is she becoming more like me? We’re two mirrors looking at each other. Who’s who? She’s very sweet. She’s shy. She’s timid. She’s very cautious but very confident. She’s very pure. She always puts her hand on me at the right time. Maybe I’ll be feeling a little sad or whatever, and she’s always there to give me a kiss on the face and cheer me up.
She wakes me up every day too. During quarantine, I’ve been waking up at 6 a.m. We have a thing we do, a schedule. We wake up, she kisses me, and depending on if she has to use the bathroom or not, we’ll hang out in bed for 15 or 20 minutes. Then I’ll take her out.
With her, she grounds me in so many different ways. I don’t want to raise my voice with her. I use a lot of positive reinforcement. I’m working on my breathing with her. She’s 8 months right now, kind of like a teenager, so she’s challenging me. But she’s so sweet.
She naps a lot too. Earlier, she fell asleep with a dog toy in her mouth, but she’s also passed out with, like, my socks in her mouth and I’m just like, “You’re so cute! You can keep the sock.”
She’s very smart. She’s a daredevil. We were in Zion on our road trip and we went to a swimming hole. She was jumping rock to rock. Just fearless. You can see if she’s a little scared but she’ll still do it because she wants to try. She’s just very excited.
Neya, for me, she’s a spiritual being. It’s more than just having her by me. I really tend to her and let her live in her own world too. She’s very independent. Not stubborn. People mix independence with stubbornness, but like, there’s a difference. If she doesn’t have time for it, she doesn’t have time for it.
What does a typical day look like for both of you right now?
Just staying present throughout the day. Going on walks. She loves to play games in terms of sitting, staying, waiting. We play this game called Find It, where she’ll look for little things. She can whisper. She can speak. I put treats on her paws and have her stay. She’ll look at both of her paws and I just have her wait. It stimulates her mind too. It’s a fun game for her. She loves to learn.
We nap. I write. She just always comes with me. I walk into my room if I need some space and she’ll claw the door and just hop in bed with me. We do everything together.
Okay, that’s just the cutest thing ever. Since you guys have bonded so well, do you have any advice for people thinking about adopting?
The best advice I can give is there’s nothing like it. You’re sharing your forever home with your forever companion. It’s a great responsibility, but learning so much about her has helped me understand myself better during this time.
She teaches me to say that everything’s okay. Even when things aren’t okay, it’s okay. It’s life-changing. It’s a big responsibility but it’s worth it in the end. She’s my soul mate.
You are a true Dog Person. In fact, I heard you used to be a dog walker?
Yeah, I was 26 at the time. For some reason, I couldn’t get a job as a waiter, ha, I don’t know why. I was working as a take-out guy for a Chinese restaurant in Brentwood. I was walking dogs in the meantime too. That was my way of income. I walked over 300 dogs, 30 minutes or an hour at a time. And I would write super-detailed reviews about these dogs as if they were human beings. I loved getting to know their personalities. Walking dogs, in a way, saved me back then.
Three hundred dogs?
I could be exaggerating, but it was pretty close. I would map out my days all over Los Angeles walking dogs. I probably walked 8 to 10 dogs per day from 6 in the morning to 8 at night, nonstop.
Wow. Okay so, quarantine. It’s obviously a privilege to be bored right now. But what advice would you have for people who don’t know what to do with themselves during indoors all day?
I’d just say to be kinder to yourself. Tell yourself that it’s all going to be okay. For me, there’s now a lot of time to do a lot of things that I always said I didn’t have time for. Reading books, listening to albums, cooking. I just became a little more intentional with everything I did. And that just takes time. You’ve got to be a little bit more tender and kind to yourself. Reach out to the people that cross your mind. We have all the time in the world. We have phones. We have computers. Sit still more often. Look at the sun. Breathe. No one is really ever alone in how they feel. We all feel the same things in different variations, which brings us together, in a way.
Think about adopting. It’s not the answer for everyone, but for me and Neya, it just worked out.
What are you looking forward to most in a post-COVID-19 world? Where are you gonna bring Neya?
I’m going to bring her to the movie theaters. We’re gonna go see a movie.
Like, at a dog-friendly movie theater? Sign me up. Thanks for chatting, Charles (and Neya!).
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