The Vv Magazine founder and her well-traveled Boston Terrier
By Si Si Penaloza
Nicki Laborie’s footprint and influence in Toronto’s food and hospitality scene evolved out of a lifelong love for the industry. Born in Montreal to a worldly family, the Vv Magazine Founder’s childhood was spent summering in France, dining on foie gras and steak tartare. Her mother’s impeccable cooking and her father’s affinity for wine only further developed her love for fine dining from an early age.
Starting her food education at Montreal’s LaSalle College, Nicki studied in the Restaurant Management Culinary School program. Her dance and fashion acumen led her to New York City where she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Marketing at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology.
Soon after, Nicki began a powerhouse career in fashion, luxury, and hospitality public relations, fusing her love of food and clothing. She had the privilege and responsibility of working with top brands like Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, and Mont Blanc; personalities like Chef Charlie Palmer and J Mendel; and events like the Oscars and 7th on 6th Fashion Week.
With a 360-degree background in the public relations/marketing/media/hospitality industries, Vv was the natural progression of her combined experiences. Vv Magazine gives readers unique perspectives on style, people, events, restaurants, fashion and gossip.
When you find out one of your food and travel inspirations has a dog, you must meet said dog. I was recently invited to Nicki’s home for the birthday celebration of Halla Rafati, Director of Public Relations for the Four Seasons Toronto. I met Arthur, who is clearly Nicki’s pride and joy.
When I found out how much jet-setting Arthur had under his collar, burning questions ensued. What can I say? I always have Get Leashed on the brain!
What is Arthur’s origin story?
Arthur is likely one of the most well-traveled and well-fed Boston Terriers around. Born in St. Etienne, just outside of Montreal, his parents were both show dogs. I met the breeder when I was at the Montreal International Dog Show at Place Bonaventure around the time I was traveling back and forth between NYC and Montreal working freelance in PR. I had just finished an intense six years working in food and fashion and part of me needed grounding and a good dose of responsibility. A puppy seemed like the answer.
I met Arthur’s mom when visiting the breeder’s booth at the show. In reality, I was headed for the French Bulldog booth because really, a French girl should have a French bulldog. But alas I never made it to that booth because Arthur’s mom ran up to my feet and begged me to pick her up. She ended up napping in my arms for ½ hour while I tried to convince the breeder to sell her to me. A very nice couple, they told me she was pregnant and that they would give me first pick of the litter when she gave birth.
Fast-forward five months and off I went to St. Etienne to meet my future puppy. And it was love at first sight — quite literally. As we entered the room where the eight 4-week old Boston pups were being taken care of, one came sprinting over to me and started jumping up and down like a bouncing tennis ball. He had a frightening amount of energy! I didn’t decide right away as I wanted to get to know the others too… but this little guy wouldn’t leave me alone and 10 minutes later Arthur and I agreed that we would be pals for the next decade (and counting).
How long have you and Arthur been together?
Once I had decided on Arthur, I went back to get him at the tender age of 8 weeks. On April 25th, 2015, Arthur turned 13 years old and last I heard from the vet, he’s in the best shape of his life!
What were the hurdles to bringing Arthur abroad with you?
It really wasn’t that bad because wherever I went there was no quarantine law. If there had been, I would not have gone. But in my travels, as long as his rabies shots were up to date we never had any issues going in and out of the US or the Caribbean. Once we actually moved to St. Maarten, it was a little trickier to travel but not because of paperwork… more so because Arthur likes to eat (just like his mama) so I often had to put him on a diet a few days before traveling so he met the 20lbs carry-on dog weight. I could never bring myself to check him in as luggage. He’s far too sensitive and would likely have a panic attack!
What was surprisingly easy about the transition?
I think because he started moving and traveling with me as soon as he was in my care, he’s adapted to just about anything I’ve thrown his way. From the dirty streets of NYC to hiking in the mountains of Vermont to hanging (and entertaining) tourists at a tiki bar in St. Maarten, he’s literally lived an amazingly adventurous yet lavish dog life. I think the only time I saw him fall into a depression is when my ex-boyfriend and I split up, which in turn split our dogs up too. He had a beautiful black lab/German shepherd mix who was 5 years old when Arthur was only 6 months. The two of them met in Montreal (like us), and then we all moved to St. Maarten where for three years Arthur and Saidye were inseparable. It was the cutest thing ever. But as they say, all good things come to an end and when we split, my ex took Saidye back to Montreal. Arthur was in a depression for months. Then he realized he lived on a beach so he got over it.
What tips do you have on how to raise a well-adjusted, secure, jet-setting dog from puppyhood?
Take your puppy everywhere. Like kids, they learn quickly at a young age. Nothing comes as a shock to Arthur. He rolls with whatever is put in front of him… there were days I worked for well over 15hrs at the restaurant and while he wasn’t happy about it, he didn’t destroy my house.
Was it a ton of killer paperwork to bring Arthur back to Canada?
Nope. As long as a country doesn’t require quarantining then all you need is to ensure the dog has all his updated shots and a recent health record.
What kinds of things did you enjoy doing most with Arthur in the Caribbean?
Just like us, dogs love the beach. To see Arthur whip up and down the beach and then come running to me with his tongue hanging out smiling ear to ear just makes the beach that much better. He also loved to lie in the sun, stare at the ocean and smell the air. He still does it here in Toronto but it’s not quite the same… there’s just something about beach life that Arthur and I love.
Is it fun to have Arthur at the Vv Magazine office?
We love it, but these days he prefers sneaking into our bed when we leave for the office. My boyfriend and I split an office space between View the Vibe and his company, Baffi Collection. So while you would think Arthur would love to come to the office to be with us — I may be his mom but the boyfriend is his bestie so they’re joined at the hip – he actually seems bored at the office. It’s entertaining for about a minute when everyone tells him how cute he is but then they all go back to work and Arthur is left missing the comfort of bed. While we used to call him “Arthur la terreur” because he whipped by people, jumped so high he practically kissed my lips and could rarely stay quiet for more than 5 minutes, in his old age his favourite pastime is sleeping.
Arthur strikes me as highly intuitive. Has Arthur ever picked up on or revealed a person’s true intentions or motivation to you – whether positive or negative?
Yes, it always surprises me when he reacts to certain situations… When I’m sad, he comes by my side. Or when we have a pregnant friend around he becomes very protective of her. He doesn’t bark at all so on the rare occasion (and he’s only barked a handful of times in his life) that he goes into a barking frenzy, it freaks me out. It once happened in the middle of the night when my boyfriend and I were camping. I was convinced it was a bear. But it turned out it was nothing (that we know of) so we joke that it was a ghost.
Show us your fave photo of Arthur. Why is this particular one so dear to your heart?
Sadly I no longer can find my favorite picture – it was taken when he was 8 weeks old and slurping milk out of a bowl bigger than him. Cutest puppy on earth. My second favorite is this one when he was not much older and came everywhere with me. Here we are in Montreal having lunch with my dad, and his girlfriend captured this closeup moment of me smothering him – as all new moms do. His little face has always just been so kissable.