Pets & Their People features ‘how we met’ vignettes of dogs and their humans, uncovering the particulars of this unique relationship, from touching adoption tales to outlandish quirks.
Meet Alyssa and her pet glass of milk...we mean dog. Alyssa Vingan Klein, Editorial Director at NYLON, treated Wild One to a chat with her and her cream-colored Havanese, Leche. On a windy day in Lower Manhattan, we went for a stroll along the waterfront and watched Leche’s fur whirl in the breeze, providing entertainment for Alyssa, our team and tourists awaiting ferries to Ellis Island. The experience was a pleasant reminder that all dogs are therapy dogs in their own way.
Wild One: How did you know you were ready to get a dog?
Alyssa Vingan Klein: I had been working at Fashionista for six years. The job was very intense and the media industry in itself is so competitive and unwavering. I was traveling internationally every other month, attending fashion weeks and working really late hours. I needed to slow down, but I didn’t want to switch careers, and decided that getting a dog would ground me. It would be harder to jet to Stockholm or Copenhagen at the drop of a dime if I had a little one at home.
This approach really worked. You know how people say that dogs relieve stress? Well, I literally felt my blood pressure drop when I got her. I went from being “on” all the time to finding a breath of quiet in Leche. While getting a puppy isn’t a break necessarily, it pumped joy into each day in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Now when I get home from a grueling day, Leche crawls into my lap and just lets me pet her. It’s the best!
WO: Has your approach to your work changed post Leche?
AVK: How I stretch myself has changed. My husband, Jon, and I do our own thing. He’s not interested in going to fashion parties and I’m happy to go alone, but I previously had no excuse to come home early. I would stay out until 2:00 AM, experiencing a heavy dose of FOMO if I didn’t stay until the end of the night. I was worried that I’d miss a story if something newsworthy happened at an event. Now my default is “I have to go relieve my dog,” forcing me to have more balance. Instead of constant events, I come home, change out of my work clothes and take Leche for a long walk along the water. I leave my phone at home, no emails or calls, and it feels like designated “me time.”
WO: How did Leche eventually come into the picture?
AVK: I’d wanted a dog for years, but my husband was more hesitant. Jon and I are both really busy and he was worried about leaving a dog home alone a lot. He also grew up with dogs and a lot of space, and felt that the city wasn’t an ideal space for a puppy.
Around last Hanukkah, when work was feeling really intense, I declared that I wanted a puppy and was probably just going to come home with one whether he participated or not. That got us moving, so we set out to find a dog that was hypoallergenic and small enough to be comfy in our apartment. We got her when she was just eight weeks old. Once Jon met her, he completely came around.
WO: Did you grow up with dogs?
AVK: I did! When I was 12 or 13 we got a Coton de Tulear named Zoe. Zoe passed away and I was diagnosed with cancer around the same time. It was a difficult time for our family, and we decided we needed another dog to brighten things. That’s where Lily came into the picture. She was the most amazing presence while I was going through chemo. Therapy dogs are a real thing! Now Lily is 10 and as wonderful as ever.
WO: What’s the family dynamic?
AVG: Jon and Leche are best friends - they’re truly thick as thieves and spend tons of time together. Jon shares his food with her, waits for her to wake him up in the morning and cuddles her constantly.
I originally set out to be the disciplinarian, but I’ve softened so much. I’m the one who’s out more frequently because Jon can work from home. It feels like I’m the working parent, so I put in my Leche time on the weekends. We take Leche out to eat as much as we can - Westville and Malibu Farm both allow dogs. We basically find excuses to take her wherever we go because she’s such a joy to have around. When we’re out for a walk, I’ll catch her smiling up at us, and she looks so pleased with our little family of three.
WO: If Leche weren’t a dog, how would she spend her time?
AVK: She’s a very cat-like dog. She has a lot of mannerisms similar to that of a cat - for example, she meows when she yawns. She’s also kind of schemy and manipulative. She’ll push things off the couch if we’re not paying attention to her, which feels cat-like. Leche’s very graceful to a point where I think she could be a ballerina. She’s light on her feet and loves being the center of attention.