PAW’LANTE: Meet the pets of the Latino Reporter newsroom

When you work from home, every day is bring-your-pet-to-work-day. Latino Reporter staffers, seen here, brought their pets — and plants and other accessories — to a recent news meeting held via Zoom during the 2021 NAHJ national conference. BRANDY RUIZ/LATINO REPORTER

We’re going to level with you: There’s nothing easy about putting out the Latino Reporter during a virtual NAHJ conference.

The early-morning Zoom meetings, late-night editing sessions, mid-story crises and that whole having-to-lock-yourself-inside-a-closet-to-record-audio thing can be exhausting and emotionally draining. Without the comfort of a real, live student newsroom full of our peers and mentors, we have come to appreciate the fact that we, the 2021 staff of the Latino Reporter, did not have to go through it totally alone.

We had our pets — and plants — there with us. Every step of the way.  

Meet some of the lesser-known members of the Latino Reporter newsroom:

The diva: Chispa

Ana Ley’s dog Chispa is ready to go for a walk.

Find yourself in a tough situation and need someone to have your back? Chispa the chihuahua would not hesitate to throw hands — er, paws — for you. The one condition? You have to do everything exactly her way, or else. The secret to getting on Chispa’s good side, according Latino Reporter editor Ana Ley, is string cheese, and a lot of it. Fill your pockets with the stuff if you want this lovely lady from Virginia to cuddle up with you and watch “The Devil Wears Prada” — her request, of course.

Chispa is allegedly a senior dog, but don’t ask her for her age. That’s rude. She is a ball of energy, sass and has been frequently spotted practicing her model walk behind Ley during staff meetings.

Chispa joined the Ley household in March 2020, at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. She has been a Latino Reporter furrespondent for two years and thinks the virtual format works just fine. After all, it keeps Ley at her beck and call.

The coffeehouse cat: Beau

Beau the cat likes to lounge in the shade as Latino Reporter journalist Laura Anaya-Morga lingers nearby. LAURA ANAYA-MORGA/LATINO REPORTER

Beau is the kind of cat you’d find in a dark corner of a coffee shop, quietly listening to Spotify’s classical essentials playlist with a book and a warm sweater to keep him company.

Except for the fact that Beau is literally, well, a cat.

This 6-year-old feline is cozy and warm, said Latino Reporter journalist Laura Anaya-Morga. Unlike the other cat in the house, Diego, Beau is rarely up for an adventure and would much rather snuggle up with Anaya-Morga after a long day of meetings, interviews and writing.

Beau was rescued after he got stuck underneath an office where Anaya-Morga’s sister worked. After he was pulled out from under the building and brought to the Anaya-Morga home, he never again wanted to leave. When Beau is not angling for a cuddle from Anaya-Morga, you might catch this cat chilling underneath the new patio-table on the porch, listening to the ambient sounds of Fontana, Calif., from his spot in the shade.

The athlete: Duchess

Duchess Espinoza, Daisy Espinoza’s dog relaxing on the grass. DAISY ESPINOZA/LATINO REPORTER

She’s a runner, she’s a jumper, she’s a track-and-field superstar. She’s a German Shepherd dog with enough energy to play ball all day, every day with no breaks.

No, Duchess hasn’t been signed to any club teams yet, but that won’t stop her from showing off her skills on the field. Duchess can be found practicing her moves outdoors with Latino Reporter journalist Daisy Espinoza. When Duchess’s strength and athleticism render the ball useless, you’ll then find her playing with whatever remains. 

Like many Texans, Duchess has a deep commitment to sport that defies classification. The 5-year-old likes to run the city’s trails with Espinoza, who usually tackles them on bike.

Duchess was a graduation surprise for Espinoza, who met the pup after graduating from high school. Though she wasn’t a regular presence at the NAHJ conference, Espinoza made sure to share a picture of this very good girl with her colleagues.

The voices of reason: Kahlo and Orion

Kahlo, the big sister, tolerates Orion, the little brother, as he sits on her on a recent family vacation with Latino Reporter mentor Marissa Lang. MARISSA LANG/LATINO REPORTER

If you ever need a second opinion, words of encouragement or a swift reality check, look no further than the two-dog editing team of Kahlo and Orion. This star duo announced their presence to the Latino Reporter newsroom long before the NAHJ conference kicked off on July 12. The team was caught by surprise during a springtime meeting when Latino Reporter participant Maya Brown pitched a story and they shouted words of encouragement from editor Marissa Lang’s screen.

These two chatterboxes are bilingual, Lang says, though if you count their native tongue, they actually speak three languages. As a result, we’re often not sure what they’re saying, or in what language — English? Spanglish? Dogspañol? What we do know is whether they like or dislike the direction of a piece, they will make it known at max volume.

Kahlo, a 7-year-old yellow-and-white mutt, is named after exactly who you think she is thanks to a distinctive brown mustache under her nose. She’s an intellectual, always ready to make a counter argument and point out the holes in yours. Orion, 5, is the yin to Kahlo’s yang, with black fur and a simpler outlook on life: Everything is always out to get him. Good thing he’s so good at sounding the alarm.

Though these two peas in a pod were adopted through California rescue groups, they now enjoy life loud and proud in the nation’s capital. 

The grouch: Oreo

Oreo, the oldest of the Latino Reporter newsroom pets, rests under the desk of mentor Jeff Mercado. JEFF MERCADO/LATINO REPORTER

He’s too old for this virtual nonsense. 

This 14-year-old shih tzu-poodle mix seriously does not want to be in your lap. He does not want to pose for a photo. He does not want you to pick him up, thank you very much, so don’t try it — but if you do, you better watch your nose, because as Latino Reporter video editor Jeff Mercado can tell you, it may result in a lifelong scar.

Even though Oreo wasn’t exactly what Mercado wanted when he was a kid, after a bite on the nose and few months of recovery, the small dog was able to dig his way into Mercado’s heart.

Oreo prefers to be seen and not heard, lounging under Mercado’s desk as he renders video and offers advice to student journalists from behind his desktop computer. His one, brief, appearance at a Latino Reporter meeting left a permanent mark on the staff, who melted as the dog nestled into Mercado’s arms.

Brandy Ruiz is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, where she studies multimedia journalism, marketing and political science. Ruiz is a social media intern for El Paso Matters and the editor in chief of Minero Magazine, the university’s bilingual, student-led publication. She dreams of working for Teen Vogue and going on to become the publication’s first Latina editor. Reach her at brcndy11 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @brcndy.

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