Halla Rafati

The PR Pro With Her Morkie, Jordan

Interview By Si Si Penaloza

From heading Public Relations for the Four Seasons in Toronto to becoming an entrepreneur with her new venture, Halo PR Group, Halla Rafati leads an exciting life. She understands luxury and as a proud pet parent herself, she knows exactly the level of service pampered pets, as well as their humans, should expect. After receiving her Morkie (Maltese Yorkshire Terrier) as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, she fell absolutely in love and gained a travel partner. Read on as we catch a glimpse of their lifestyle and find out where in the world their favorite dog-friendly city is.

You are a lifestyle and PR legend in hospitality and tourism circles. Tell us about yourself and what a typical work day is like:

There’s no real typical workday when you’re in PR. At any given time, I will be with media, at an event, forming partnerships, connecting people, setting strategy, pitching a story, pitching a client, having a creative session with my team and putting out fires.

How would you describe your personal style?

Anything I find in my closet that morning. It skews on the modern classic look and I love dresses. I tried to go casual my first days as an entrepreneur and everyone kept asking me if I was okay.

Your dog Jordan was a consummate gentleman when I met him; his style of chill made a big impression on me. What tips do you have on how to raise a well-adjusted, secure, jet-setting dog?

You need to start training your dog as soon as they enter your home. It’s easy to baby them as soon as they become a part of your family because it’s all so new. The reality is, if you let one thing slide with them, they think they can always get away with it. I was tough on Jordan in the beginning. I knew we were in it for the long haul and wanted to be sure he was loving, well behaved and respectful for years to come.

Reflect on the most endearing puppy bonding moment…

When I first brought him home I had no clue how to take care of a dog. I literally used to Google: my dog is staring at me, what do I do? I even considered giving him to someone who would be a better dog-mom than me. About 6 weeks into our lives together I got very sick and couldn’t even get out of bed. Jordan somehow knew. He stayed with me the entire time and didn’t even beg to go out for a walk. The little guy stayed tucked into my nook and tried to offer the best consolation his little paw powers could. I fell madly in love with him as my son at that moment.

As a luxury hotel publicist, what kinds of plans have you made to welcome high profile pets? We’re curious about the time Choupette famously came to stay at the Four Seasons Toronto with Karl Lagerfeld, to attend the launch of his creative collaboration with Art Shoppe Lofts.

At Four Seasons, we recognize that many guests view their pets as children so we make sure to provide the right amenities for them. Just as we would create personalized amenities for human guests, we try to do that with our furry friends. In the case of celebrity pets, they too come with a rider, which is essentially a list of requests and demands. It gets very interesting at times!

Share your recent highlights from starting your own company.

I could go on forever but what I love about Halo PR, I will give you top 3:

Highlight #1: My business partner Catriona Smart. Most people know her as @cocoandcowe, but to me she is the yin to my yang. Forming a business partnership is no small feat and choosing the right person can make or break your business. Catriona is an amazing individual whose strengths are my weaknesses. We have opposite personalities but we share the same vision and goals. Our partnership was founded on mutual respect and admiration and I feel blessed we chose each other.

Highlight #2: Building the brand. I love what Halo represents, both literal and what the ‘halo effect’ has in the world of communications. We aim to only work with the brands and people we believe in and we choose our clients based on whether we can truly make a positive impact on their business objectives. Halo PR is an agency based on integrity, which I am so proud of.

Highlight #3: Creating. In a corporate culture, the vision is laid out for you to execute. When you’re an entrepreneur, you set the course and tone of your business ethos. It’s scary, empowering and exhilarating all at the same time.

As a busy business leader and dog owner, what tips do you have on work-life balance?

Try not to separate them. I believe in life-life balance. What you consistently do in your day-to-day IS your life so embrace it. Make it work for you and find the right compromise between all your priorities and commitments. It’s a lifestyle.

Is it fun to have Jordan hold court at the new HALO HQ?

Absolutely! Being able to take him to work whenever I want is a game changer.

Fill us in on your Morkie’s personality and temperament. Is there a story behind his name or your attraction to this particular breed?

My sister gave me Jordan as a “Welcome to Canada” gift. She knew I would be lonely and wanted me to have a companion. I’m from Texas but moved to Toronto from Amman, Jordan, hence his name.  So both Jordan and I were born in Texas and moved to Canada.

Jordan is a Maltese-Yorkshire mix. His personality is very particular and he comes off as a snob, but it’s only because he’s so shy and timid. He is gentle, kind, loving, respectful, loyal and ridiculously quiet. He knows not to mess with humans’ things and he will never take something you haven’t given him. He’s just unbelievable.

Jordan strikes me as highly intuitive. Has he ever picked up on or revealed a person’s true intentions or motivation to you – whether positive or negative?

Oh I wish. I really hate to admit this, but he’s not intuitive at all – what he lacks in brains he makes up for in looks and heart! There are moments when he indicates when he likes someone or not, but it’s fleeting and unreliable. I know, it’s a terrible thing to say but it’s the truth!

This is truly a most surreal and sublime era to be a pet lover, with so many start-up brands now catering to dogs and doting dog lovers. What are some of your favorites?

World of Angus and Hound Collection are both awesome companies based right here in Toronto.

Get Leashed recently published a thought piece pondering whether, in this progressive day in age, we should consider ourselves as pet owners or pet parents. What are your thoughts?

Pet parent. Jordan is my son and I am his mom. There’s no doubt about that.

Who are your favorite Instagram famous pets?

@jordanthemorkie’s favorite accounts are @poochofnyc, @mygingerdoodle and @pompomchewy.

Share with us your most cherished photo of Jordan. Why is this particular one so special?

5Fi5teen held a photoshoot at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and we used Jordan as one of the models. Jordan hates pictures. He’s terrible in front of the camera and is giving everyone that look like: get me out of here!

Halla’s own photo

What restaurants in Toronto have you fantasized about bringing your pet to, if local restaurants became pet-friendly?

Café Boulud – he would devour Chef Sylvain’s rotisserie chicken!

Tell us the best anecdote from traveling with Jordan:

I travel with him all the time and I have to be careful when I put him down on leash vs when I carry him. As soon I put him on the floor people come up to me with their kids asking to pet him. One time I almost missed my flight but the best is when he got his wings from a Delta Airlines pilot. The entire flight crew had seen him in the terminal before boarding and they were all waiting for him to get on the plane. As soon as I boarded they gave him his wings and continued to spoil him throughout the entire flight. They even welcomed him aboard on the intercom.

As a well-traveled travel industry insider, share your tips on the best pet-friendly cities, hotels or venues that you’ve enjoyed over the years:

Everywhere I go people really embrace Jordan. Paris is the best dog-friendly city I’ve experienced. Beijing also. He goes to the states a lot and they have pretty basic pet laws there. Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and Hotel ZaZa in Dallas have awesome pet amenities.

Don’t take your pet to the Bahamas or Jamaica. The paperwork alone is a nightmare.

Can you elaborate on how you would spend the perfect day, just you and your dog?

We sleep in together followed by a long morning walk around Yorkville then off to the Beach. He loves the park, sand, water and grass and spends hours chasing himself back and forth. You can literally see a smile on his face…it’s just so damn adorable.

Keep up with Halla and Jordan on social:

@halla | @jordanthemorkie | @haloprgroup | @fstoronto | @cafebouludto