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Toast Goes From Puppy Mill to Puppy Model

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now lives the dream in New York City, modeling for Karen Walker Eyewear and other brands.

Heather Marcoux  |  Apr 6th 2015


Fashion photo shoots, red carpet events, and designer duds — it’s a fantasy for many, but for Toast the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, it’s just everyday life.

This 10-year-old pup became the face of Karen Walker Eyewear after amassing a massive Instagram following. After only a year online, Toast’s celebrity has spread from social media to traditional media, and these days she’s just as comfortable on the sets of TV talk shows as she is posing for her mom’s iPhone snaps.

“It’s been crazy,” says Katie Sturino. The New York-based PR professional adopted Toast in 2011 with her husband, comedian Josh Ostrovsky.

“Even this morning, I was walking her and two people on like a five-minute walk were like, ‘Is that Toast?’”

Sturino started the @ToastMeetsWorld Instagram account about a year ago, after Toast got sick from a mysterious infection.

“They told us she was going to die, but she didn’t. I was like, we better share her story, because she’s so special,” explains Sturino.

Thankfully, Toast recovered from from her illness (which was likely caused by something she ate off the street), and as her health improved, her Instagram followers multiplied, thanks in large part to her famously funny father.

“Her dad has a very big social media following,” says Sturino, whose husband Ostrovsky is known online as The Fat Jewish and has over 3 1/2 million Instagram followers.

“He posted about her a few times, and that definitely helped,” says Sturino, who now has a dog that’s almost as famous as her husband. The two stars of the household, Ostrovsky and Toast, recently sat down with Yahoo’s Katie Couric for a chat about Toast’s skyrocketing fame. The photogenic rescue dog has also appeared on Good Morning America and the Rachel Ray show.

Toast’s toothless grin and lolling tongue make her instantly recognizable on New York City sidewalks, but her empty mouth is also a reminder that life wasn’t always so cushy for this dog celebrity. A few short years ago, Toast wasn’t even a pet — her teeth rotted beyond repair as she suffered for profit at a puppy mill, just one of many anonymous and neglected dogs on the property.

These days, Toast’s mom is using her PR acumen to help her little dog spread the word about where pet store puppies really come from.

“A lot of people get the general idea that you’re not supposed to buy a dog from a pet store, but they’re not quite sure why,” explains Sturino, who says she didn’t fully realize the true horror of puppy mills until she adopted her first rescue Cavalier, Muppet, in 2010. Toast joined the family one year after Muppet, who was rescued during a raid on a mill in Missouri.

“We loved her so much we knew we wanted to bring another one into the house,” says Sturino, who adds that the two dogs have very different attitudes, despite their similar backgrounds. Muppet behaves like you would expect a mill rescue dog to — she’s fearful and distrusting of most people. According to Sturino, Toast is pretty much the exact opposite.

“Her personality has always been very friendly and very open, which is not typical of a puppy mill dog,” she says.

Sturino believes the difference in the dogs’ attitudes may be influenced by the different conditions Muppet and Toast experienced at their mills. While Muppet was housed indoors in the stacked wire crates most often associated with puppy mills, Toast was kept in an outdoor pen. She was able to see the sky that so many puppy mill dogs never do, but the fresh air came at a terrible cost.

“They rescued her in January in North Carolina, and some of the other dogs had frozen to death because it was so cold.”

Sturino doesn’t want the public to forget where Toast came from, but the little dog has definitely moved on from her traumatic past.

“She’ll snuggle like a baby doll, and she eats everything even though she has no teeth.”

Despite her lack of pearly whites, Toast is currently enjoying a career as a fashion model, which began with the Karen Walker’s Summer 2015 eyewear campaign.

“That was a very successful campaign,” explains Sturino, who is now helping Toast pursue other modeling opportunities.

“We’re actually on our way to a fashion shoot right now,” she told Dogster over the phone.

Toast is a busy dog model, but she’s never too busy to lend a paw to other pets in need. On April 11, Toast will join forces with Tuna the Chiweenie and little Finn Hearst for a Pup-Up Adoption event to at New York’s High Line Hotel.

The event was organized by Friends of Finn founder Amanda Hearst, and it will benefit the Humane Society.

“It’s a good way to help with the care and rescue of puppy mill dogs,” says Sturino. That’s something we can all toast to.

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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.