Noël Duan ’13 remembers sitting in her freshman Literature Humanities class, analyzing The Odyssey, when a particular topic of discussion really sank in.
“Odysseus comes home after 20 years, and no one recognizes him in his home city, not even his wife,” Duan recalls. “His appearance has changed that much. His dog Argos, who was a puppy when he left, is the only one that recognizes him.
“We studied The Odyssey because it was supposed to teach us about human civilization, but what I remember was realizing, oh, that’s really representative of the human-dog relationship.”
That light-bulb moment stuck with Duan through the rest of her degree in sociocultural anthropology, a master’s in women’s studies at Oxford and her first full-time journalism job. After being laid off from said job, her first decision was to adopt a dog. Artemis, her now-4-year-old pup, opened her eyes to a new New York — and her next career move. “Suddenly I started meeting my neighbors. I would take Artemis to the park and talk to other dog owners. I realized that having a dog is a great way to get to know people.”
Inspired by her new way of seeing the world, this past spring Duan launched Argos & Artemis, an online community for dog people. The site features conversations between Duan and prominent dog-owning New Yorkers, including makeup mavens Bobbi Brown and Linda Rodin, Columbia classics professor Marcus Folch, indie magazine founder Verena von Pfetten ’05 and gallerist Lauren Wittels ’89, GSAS’92. “Dogs are a great entry point to intimacy,” says Duan, who notes that in talking about their furry friends, people often reveal a lot of themselves.
Duan also pens humorous essays for the site (e.g., “All the Men Who Pretend to Have Dogs on Dating Apps”), offers practical tips and generates a newsletter, The Dog Park.
Plans for the site include events for dog owners, and, down the line, an e-commerce rollout for pet (and human) products. “I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had access to a lot of cool dog people, and I’ve seen what they’re buying,” she says. “I do think there’s a big need for a curated hub.”
This isn’t Duan’s first project launch — she started Columbia’s first fashion magazine, Hoot, her freshman year. “It taught me a lot about plunging forth and being entrepreneurial, and doing things before you get permission,” she says. (Duan and her fellow editors once draped Alma Mater in balloons for a photoshoot. They were chased down by campus security, but got the shot.)
And nothing prepares you for the shock of entrepreneurship like adopting your first puppy. “There’s no handbook for getting a dog,” Duan says with a laugh — though writing one might lie somewhere on her list of what’s to come.
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.