Luna Tolentino: The Next Big Dog

Luna Tolentino: The Next Big Dog

America is so far gone, we have to go to Luna to find the girl next door. Specifically, I have gone to the Clinton Hill apartment that Luna, a 90-pound dog, shares with her owners, Jia Tolentino and Andrew Daley.

When I meet her, Luna is looking effortlessly big and wearing nothing but a collar. Like every other time I have ever visited her, she immediately starts to gnaw on my hand and then her mouth begins to seize. I feel okay about it because as Tolentino (Jia) told me, “Whenever Luna gets excited to see people, she really loves, she will seize.” Same, I think to myself as I politely ignore the river of drool that begins to pour out of Luna’s mouth.

Tolentino, who has just released her first book, Trick Mirror, has been extensively profiled. Yet I am here, not for Tolentino (who is not even home because she has scammed me into dog-sitting for free), but for Luna, the epileptic dog. (Full disclosure: Jia is a former beloved Jezebel staffer, currently a staff writer at The New Yorker. I have been friends with her for two years.) Through Tolentino, Luna has become somewhat of an internet celebrity herself, often featured on her owner’s Twitter:

In 2018, Luna was the subject of a New Yorker Radio Hour in which Tolentino called her “an objectively bad dog.” But while we’ve heard much about Tolentino, Luna remains a mystery. I wanted to find out: How does Luna get it all done?

Photo:Courtesy of Jia Tolentino

Luna is large like a mountain, but shapely like a pear. Her left ear sticks up straight, while the other flops down as if it has given up on life and cartilage. She has a Zorro mask on her face, but none of the fleet-footed energy of Antonio Banderas. Tolentino and Daley adopted her in the summer of 2011 from a Great Pyrenees rescue group in Houston, Texas, after she had been found abandoned and wandering down the side of I-10. Both of them told me that they picked Luna, who is likely a mix of Great Pyrenees and border collie, out from the other dogs immediately. “We saw tiny Luna trotting across the field barking at other dogs, and we were like THAT one,” Tolentino said.

Since then, Luna has been a constant in Tolentino and Daley’s lives, moving across the country with them and eventually settling down in Brooklyn, New York. She spends most of her days sleeping while Tolentino writes from home, rousing only for her two walks which are the “highlights” of her day. In 24 hours with me, Luna spends much of it sleeping like a chicken with her front legs folded underneath her. When I let her out in the backyard, she gently nibbles at some leaves before resuming her task of laying down.

IN THE PAST, whenever she vacuumed, Luna would go hide in a corner, face the wall, and throw up.
Photo:Courtesy of Jia Tolentino

While she may seem as brave as she is large, Luna has fears just like anyone else: namely skateboards and vacuum cleaners. According to Tolentino, in the past, whenever she vacuumed, Luna would go hide in a corner, face the wall, and throw up. (She no longer does this but remains scared of the noise.)

Despite unexpected terrors, Luna finds joy every day. One of her favorite things to do is to eat chicken bones on the street outside of the Crown Fried on Myrtle Avenue.

Luna has been essential in helping Tolentino write her book. “When I’m stressed, I just lie down and spoon her for 15 minutes and squeeze her paw like a stress ball,” Tolentino tells me. Daley says that while Luna respects him more, her and Tolentino are “literally best pals.” (Over the course of our 15-minute conversation, Daley confuses Tolentino and Luna’s names twice.)

When you meet Luna, one of the first things you’ll notice is her wildly expressive eyes. It’s true what they say about most dogs—that they don’t “know what the fuck is going on at any moment of any day”—but the difference with Luna is that she seems to have the presence of mind to at least know that she doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. The result is a sense of cheerfully existential dread emanating from her that seems to match Tolentino’s own. As Luna’s dog walker once succinctly described it in a note: “Luna’s thirsty eyes for sharing sweet good energies.”

Photo:Courtesy of Jia Tolentino

Everyone I speak to agrees that Luna is a bad, bad dog. A short sample of some things she has done: Gotten Tolentino and Daley sued for knocking over a woman with her butt outside of Connecticut Muffin; eaten a battery; eaten Tolentino’s books; lunged for a squirrel while Daley was walking her, causing him to slip on ice and break his leg; held giant sticks in her mouth and clotheslined people; bolted at a dog at a bar, almost causing Daley to get into a fistfight with another guy who started kicking at her—and those are aside from the “badness, general badness” of her barking and jumping on people. Few dogs can brag about such achievements even over an entire lifetime.

This unashamed individuality is what has led Luna to be labeled (by me, right now) a key voice of her generation (of dogs). I ask Tolentino if she thinks this is true. “Honestly, if Luna was a writer, she’d be a horrible writer. She can’t hold two things in her mind at once,” Tolentino tells me. “But presence-wise absolutely. She’s a star.”

Those who know her tend to agree. As Emmy-award nominated writer Joanna Rothkopf told me, “For me, Luna redefines what a dog can be—a big, bad girl who is unapologetic and comfortable in her skin. Roll over? Not this bitch.” Jezebel editor Clover Hope texted me an anecdote that exemplifies the kind of impression that being in Luna’s presence—even for a few seconds—can leave on a person: “The first time I met Luna, she jumped on me and ripped out my hoop earring (no blood).”

It is now morning and the bright day begins to shine through the window. Luna is resting near the couch, stirring occasionally only to lick the floor. As I prepare to leave, I crouch down on the floor with her and ask her whether she thinks she’s the key voice of her generation (of dogs). At the sound of my voice, Luna opens her eyes wide in what can only be described as extreme anguish. After staring at me like that for a while, she returns to sleep.

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