Jessica Tran is a senior partnerships manager at Intrepid Travel, freelance publicist, and founder of vintage clothing shop Ghost Vintage. She lives in the Greenpoint, Brooklyn loft of your dreams with her boyfriend and their adopted Australian Shepherd mix, Ghost. Jessica is originally from Sydney, Australia, and now works in a WeWork office around Madison Square Park in Manhattan—accompanied by Ghost every day.
Did you grow up with any pets in Australia?
I was not allowed to have dogs because my parents were hyper Asian, and didn’t want anything that could potentially poop. So, we had the strangest pets, honestly. We had 10 tankfuls of fish at one point, and we had a rabbit that my mom acquired from a co-worker, but the rabbit was secretly pregnant. Then we got nine new rabbits from that.
“I feel like we’re in a toxic relationship.”
Did you want a dog as a kid?
Fuck yeah, I’ve always wanted a dog. I feel like as soon as I became an adult, I was like “Okay, first order of business is getting a dog.”
Same here, actually. My parents didn’t let me have a dog, so I got one as soon as I grew up.
Really? How old were you?
When I turned 25, three years ago, I was finally moving into my own apartment and I thought it was time to get a dog. So, how did you end up in New York?
I grew up in Sydney in a suburb called Yagoona, which is about an hour by train outside of the city. I grew up in a very suburban environment. I didn’t really have a lot of travel experience. It was a very sheltered and a very quiet, nice childhood.
But I always grew up wanting to leave Sydney, I think primarily because I am a very intense person, and I’ve been working since it was legal for me, which is 14-and-nine months. Throughout college, I had three internships and two retail jobs, and I edited the school newspaper. I feel like I just wanted more and being in Sydney wasn’t very inspiring to me. I think you fail to see the beauty of home when you are there.
When I was 19, I met my current boyfriend, James. We had a really intense courtship period, and then he left for New York two months after we met. We did long distance for four months, and then I moved over because I was like, “I’m young. I want to go to New York. I now have someone there even though I barely know him and he’s eight years older than me.” And it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made.
That’s so adventurous. So you didn’t even have a job?
No. It was not a great, thought-out decision at the time.
You’re still with that boyfriend?
Yes. And I have a job now.
So at what point in your life did you and your boyfriend decide it was time to get a dog?
Three-to-four years ago, we started fostering dogs because we didn’t want to commit to the idea of owning a dog, since we’re Australian and we don’t know where we’ll end up. Our first dog was perfect. She was a not-very-old 100-pound mastiff who was in a puppy farm, and she was just way too big, kind of ugly, and no one wanted her. And of course, when we went to the adoption event, looking for a dog under 50 pounds to foster, we walked out with a 110-pound dog because there was no way we were leaving that dog there. We had to do television and radio interviews to promote her because no one would adopt her. We had her for 3-to-4 months, which is pretty long to have a foster dog.
After she was adopted I started thinking about having a dog long-term because it just felt not great to put all this energy and time and care into a dog and for them to leave.
How did you know Ghost was The One?
She catfished me real hard. I made the mistake of choosing a dog based on how she looked—and she looks beautiful. I think it was a combination of how she looked and the fact that she was so hard to get. When I called [the rescue organization] about her, I found out there were 17 people in line for her. And they told me not to even try, but I put my name down anyway.
They ended up giving her to me because we are able to give her a good life—she’s a lunatic and they didn’t quite divulge that she’s a lunatic. She was very striking in person and she was in a temporary shelter environment. I don’t think her personality was what her personality actually is. She allowed me to touch her butt, she was licking my face—and she had only met me for five minutes. I was like, “Wow, this dog is really friendly and fucking beautiful.”
But then four months into when she was living with us, that’s when she started exhibiting her actual personality. She really tricked me so that I would bring her home.
Tell us about her real personality.
Well, yesterday, we were at the dog park and someone else’s dog jumped in my lap five minutes after meeting me and I knew he adored me. I wish Ghost was like this. But Ghost is complicated. She is more of a human being to me than an actual dog because she’s so neurotic.
She’s extremely intelligent. She knows 25 different tricks. But at her core, she’s an extremely anxious dog. She loves me and my circle of friends, but it’s really hard to warm up to her. She’s not a dog that you can approach, and she’s extremely territorial. She can be a little aggressive with strangers, and she doesn’t really play with other dogs either. But she’s so gentle with us, and that’s a big part of why I love her, because we see how hard it is for her to go up to people, and yet she does love us and listens to us and wants to be a good dog. She’s a crazy old woman who just happens to hate everyone and was transformed into this beautiful mixed Australian Shepherd hottie.
How are you training Ghost?
Owning a dog is a lot of responsibility. It’s ironic because when we got her, my boyfriend was concerned that I wouldn’t put the time into training.
Clicker training has the been the easiest and most efficient way to train her. She is also very food motivated. We taught her basic obedience training, and then we used guiding and clicker training and shaping to do more complicated tricks. If we point at her, she would fall on the ground and [play dead]. She can stand up and spin in a circle on her hind legs now. She can bow. She can give specific paws, like left paw, right paw. She can turn in circles. She needs the mental stimulation.
She has many good qualities. I just don’t give her the credit. From day one, she’s never had an accident, never chewed on anything. She doesn’t shed much. We don’t have to groom her. She doesn’t smell. She was able to go off-leash from day one.
“You don’t always have to quit your job to do a side project. I think it’s important to know that you can still do something on the side and it doesn’t have to be that successful.”
Amazing. So, you have a full-time job. What does your daily schedule with Ghost look like?
She’s actually with me right now at work. She’s lying down next to me and touching my foot. Every morning at 8am, we get up and go to the park. She does a bit of running and plays fetch for an hour until 9am. Then, we walk together to the [subway] station, and she gets into her little L.L.Bean tote bag. We get on the subway, and then we walk 15 minutes to work. She spends the whole day with me. If I’m on calls, she sleeps. On lunch break, we go to Madison Square Park and play fetch for half an hour. Then, we go home around 5:30pm and she doesn’t need another walk. She usually spends the entire evening chasing her tail, freaking out, because that’s when her energy peaks.
What do you feed Ghost?
We feed her dehydrated wet food. It’s Honest Kitchen—a blend that you rehydrate with water. She eats that with a lot of intensity. We researched that Purina is the best dry food, so we give her a cup of that, too. We make her do tricks for the Purina or we put it in her Kong and she’ll push it around throughout the day.
What do you do about treats?
We buy bulk bags of chicken jerky from Amazon and just rip off tiny pieces throughout the day.
Did you get Ghost because she’s a part-Australian Shepherd and you’re Australian?
It’s funny because Australian Shepherds are not very common in Australia. I actually wanted a pit bull—I love pit bulls and I always imagined myself with a pit bull. We had actually chosen a pit bull named Caroline, and at the tenth hour, when we were about to bring her home, the organization called us and said, “You can’t adopt this dog, because if you travel back to Australia, they will put it down.” Because pit bulls are banned in Australia.
We couldn’t even get a dog that looks like a pit bull but isn’t a pit bull—they sometimes won’t care and will put it down anyway. So, we really started looking for a dog that looked the least like a pit bull—so that we wouldn’t worry about her being harmed on the way home to Australia. It’s ironic that we got an Australian Shepherd.
Fashion is part of your identity, as evidenced by your Instagram and your vintage fashion shop, Ghost Vintage. What does Ghost wear?
Wild One is definitely my favorite dog brand because you have the whole system—they have the poop bags and the harness and the collar. It’s so practical and they did a good job of using materials that are easy to clean. We got a cream-collared collar for her and it’s easy to wipe down and it still looks brand new. I would love to put more clothing on Ghost but she doesn’t necessarily love it. I’m going to buy her the Talon Raincoat from Max-Bone because it looks like a human yellow raincoat for dogs.
You have such great taste in everything. Tell us more about Ghost Vintage, your vintage brand.
Ghost Vintage was basically a side project because I wasn’t being creatively engaged at work, and vintage was one of my hobbies. I’ve been doing it since I was 12, and it was this time- and money-sucking activity that I didn’t respect as my own hobby. So I thought, why not start a side project where I could use my eye for vintage for other people and document that via a profile series for women who work and have side hustles. I can shoot them to celebrate why it’s important to have a side hustle or have a hobby when you have a full time job. You don’t always have to quit your job to do a side project. I think it’s important to know that you can still do something on the side and it doesn’t have to be that successful. It doesn’t have to make that much money—you don’t have to put that much pressure on it. It can be something that you do creatively. It can be your mistress, not your wife. And I think that there’s this pressure, especially in New York, that you have to be an entrepreneur, you have to go to school or put everything that you have behind it, and if you fail at it, you’re a failure. I think it makes having a hobby that much harder.
I agree. So, I loved shooting those photos in your beautiful Greenpoint loft. Tell us about how you got this unicorn apartment.
It was a find from Listings Project, which is a weekly newsletter released every Wednesday, and there was this artist who is doing a residency in Paris. She needed someone last-minute to take over her apartment. It was not the most convenient situation because my lease had not ended yet.
At the same time, I’m very cheap and I love the hunt. I used Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to get all the pieces. I ended up spending under $1,000 to get a new four-seater couch, a dining table with reclaimed wood and custom built benches, huge area rugs, a coffee table, a stool, an armchair, a mirror, and a bunch of plants. I basically furnished an entire loft for under $1,000. Oftentimes, people are willing to let go of really amazing pieces with lots of life left and it’s way more environmentally friendly. And I also love the voyeuristic aspect of being able to access someone’s home because you have to buy off Craigslist.
How did you transport it all?
You can get a U-Haul and do it yourself. I’m not a very confident driver, so I used TaskRabbit for an hourly rate.
That’s so smart.
It’s a lot of work. Luckily, I was unemployed at the time.
Do you consider yourself a dog mom? How do you define your relationship to Ghost?
I feel like we’re in a toxic relationship. I feel like she’s a sibling and there’s no way I can get out of the relationship—she’s like family to me. She feels like she was carved out of my body.
Photography by Tayler Smith