Pets & Their People features ‘how we met’ vignettes of dogs and their humans, uncovering the particularities of this unique relationship, from touching adoption tales to outlandish quirks.
Sandy is the founder and designer of Sandy Liang, her New York-based fashion brand, launched in 2014. Sandy’s dog son, Timtam, is a mini Australian Shepherd from South Dakota, turning seven in November. The duo, who’ve been inseparable since Sandy was a Parsons student, sat down with Wild One to share tales of growing up together.
Editor’s note: We began with a deep dive into TV shows as we set up Wild One’s camera gear. Sandy is a big fan of Game of Thrones, Succession, Euphoria and Big Little Lies as of late… just incase you were curious.
Wild One: How did you and Tim meet?
Sandy Liang: We met on Match.com. Just kidding! I used to work at the American Apparel on Orchard Street. II fell in love with the Aussie breed when a customer came in to shop with their mini Australian Shepherd. I actually thought it was a guinea pig at first because it was so tiny and had blue merle coloring.
Tim became mine seven years ago when he was only five months old. I found a website for Australian Shepherd lovers, which connected me to a woman in South Dakota. She lived with her husband and five kids, and they ran a huge farm with lots of animals. They adored Australian Shepherds and were putting two up for adoption. I was debating between Tim, then named Kade, and his brother, Kane.
I picked Tim because he has one brown eye and one blue eye. His brother has two blue eyes and looked super shocked all the time because of it, which I didn’t think I could handle. He arrived on Valentine’s Day! I was in the middle of doing my senior thesis at Parsons. As soon as I held him he peed me.
WO: Though you didn’t actually meet on Match.com, what do you think Tim’s dating profile would be like?
SL: Tim would be one of those people who thinks they’re too good for a dating profile. He’d insist on meeting someone in real life, likely in the park.
But, if he had to have a dating profile, I think he would come across as the sensitive type. He’s consistently had the same sweet personality. He’s timid, but also very emotional and empathetic. His interests would include tennis balls and playing fetch, a lot, like a lot.
WO: What made you want to get a dog as a college student?
SL: I had just moved into my apartment the year before, and prior to that, I was living with my parents in Queens. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of ‘am I responsible enough to handle this?’ I just wanted my Aussie so much and vowed that I would make him my priority no matter what.
WO: How did you choose the name Tim?
SL: When I got Tim, I had been watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. I kept background TV on while I was sewing, mostly watching that or Downton Abbey. There’s an episode where Kim dates her Australian bodyguard. He brings her a bunch of TimTam bars from Australia and she freaks out. I thought the name would be fun since Tim is also an Aussie. Someone once told me that it’s easier to train dogs because they can better recognize two syllable names. Not sure if that’s true, but I went with it.
WO: What do you and Tim like to do together? Any favorite neighborhood spots?
SL: Tim is fetch and tennis ball obsessed. Recently, a friend came over after playing tennis and there were some tennis balls in her bag. Tim tasked himself with digging the balls out. When he finally got one, he kept nudging them at us so we would play. He also entertains himself by wedging tennis balls into small spaces and then retrieving them. My boyfriend, Dorian, and I bring him to Maine a lot. We’ll throw tennis balls on the beach for hours and he never gets tired. I’m telling you, Tim loves tennis balls.
We live in the Lower East Side and Tim loves to pee on the trees in front of the Tenement Museum. He despises skateboarders, which is unfortunate because they’re all over the place. It’s the loud noise that gets him. For example, if I’m eating dinner and set down a class too hard, his ears will curl in.
WO: How do you and Dorian split dog parent duties?
SL: I’ve been dating Dorian for about three years, and we take turns playing good cop-bad cop. I always try to be the good cop, but I’ve known Tim longer than Dorian, so of course I had to be bad cop as well in the early days.
Tim sleeps in between our heads and we treat him like he’s a human. We also speak to him like he’s a human, which I actually just read a really good New York Times piece about that. I feel like most dog owners do that.
WO: We heard you and Dorian unknowingly got each other paintings of Tim. Can you tell us that story?
SL: Yes! Dorian showed me this painter, Cindy Sullivan, because he thought I’d like her work. She’s a great self-taught artist. Our birthdays are very close together: June 4th and 10th. Being the birthday lover that I am, I think about presents far in advance and had the idea to commission a painting based off a photo of me, him and Tim.
I thought I was such a genius, but then my birthday arrived first. That evening, I got out of the shower and walked into our bedroom to find a Cindy Sullivan portrait he had commissioned for my birthday. I started laughing hysterically, to the point where I was almost crying. It was the comedy of it that got me. I thought I had gotten him the best present, but his portrait was bigger and more detailed than mine.
Six days later I gave him his present in the same way. He came out of the shower and my painting was hanging up in our bedroom. I ended up DM-ing Cindy to see if she thought we were crazy, but she just said ‘I thought it was so sweet and I didn’t want to ruin it for you guys!
WO: How has Tim changed your family?
SL: He’s definitely a true family member. We do dinner with my parents in Queens every Sunday and Tim is expected to attend. My brother just got a tiny Chihuahua the size of my hand. Now that the dog portion of my family is growing, I would love to eventually get Tim a sister.
My life has generally gotten so much better since getting Tim. If I’m having a stressful day I’ll snuggle him, squeeze his belly and smell his paws, and everything suddenly feels so much calmer. I also think it’s nice to take care of something or someone, and know that you matter to them.
WO: When did your bond with Tim escalate to life partner level?
SL: He’s the first pet I got for myself, and I think that’s really important. When I brought him home, I remember thinking ‘he’s not my son, he’s just my chill best friend.’ That quickly morphed into ‘he’s my baby and if anything happens to him I’ll kill you!’
My dad yells at me because I’m 28 and he’s convinced that my eggs are going bad, which he’ll say in front of everyone. In retaliation, I’ll say ‘I don’t need a baby, I have Tim.’ He’ll usually respond with ‘Omg! You need to give me a grandchild, Tim is not a person!’ - except all in Chinese.
WO: How do you balance being a dog parent with your career (especially when work is super busy, like during New York Fashion Week)?
SL: Honestly, Tim is super low maintenance. I think I just got lucky! We go for long walks on the weekends, but during the week he doesn’t like to. He’ll refuse to walk and defiantly hide behind the toilet. He’s very human in that way.
A few Fridays ago there was a lovely sunset, and Dorian and I wanted to go for a walk. Tim hid behind the toilet, refusing to come out. We carried him two blocks away from our apartment to get some distance, but as soon as we put him on the sidewalk he tried to run home.
WO: Are there any Sandy Liang designs inspired by Tim? Is there, or will there be a Tim sweater or jacket?
SL: There is a Tim-inspired sweater called the Timtam. I’m also making a shearling jacket inspired by him. He influences everything I make in some way.
Watch our interview with Sandy and Timtam here.