Leslie Hitchcock-Stone is the former director of international events at TechCrunch—while she loves a good pair of Manolos (and her Chanel flats), she has spent the past few years running around in Stan Smiths, making sure executives from European unicorns like Klarna and Deliveroo are heading to the right stage at the right time. The American-born media executive is based in North London with her husband the writer and entrepreneur Tobias Stone, 17-month-old son Jude, and Mycroft the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel—aka, the first baby of the family.
Did you grow up with dogs?
I did. I grew up with Golden Retrievers. When I was four, I started drawing pictures of my family, including a dog named Jenny—there was no dog named Jenny. So, when I turned five, my parents decided it was time to get a dog. We settled on a Golden Retriever, so we went to the breeder to pick her out. My dad was in the middle of picking up all the puppies and examining them when he heard a small voice from behind: “Come on, Jenny, let’s go home.” I had scooped up one of the puppies and was already walking to the car. So, we took that one.
“He’s very much a lapdog, but he’s also very playful. He’s equal parts play and rest.”
She lived until I was 20, and then my parents got a second Golden Retriever. Sadly, she only lived to be seven. And now they’re on their third. We’re definitely a dog family.
Tell us about how Mycroft came into the family.
Before I moved to London, I lived for 10 years in San Francisco. I had always wanted a dog, but I traveled a lot for business. Also, San Francisco isn’t super dog-friendly in terms of apartments. If you don’t own your own place, you’re probably not going to be allowed to have a dog. Cats are fine, but dogs—not so much. It just never worked out for the decade I was living there. My husband did not grow up with animals, so he wasn’t really interested in having a dog. I thought I would get my dog when my kids grew up and left the house. But I started campaigning with my husband to get a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Mycroft. Finally, he agreed, but my husband suggested a Jack Russell Terrier or an English Springer Spaniel.
But those dogs require a lot of exercise, and I knew I would be the one doing it. So, I told him that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would be good with children—if we ever decided to have one of those someday, too.
We went with a very reputable breeder who breeds show dogs, and she trusted us with one of the puppies.
How did you know Mycroft was The One?
Usually, every time I’d helped pick out my parents’ Golden Retrievers, I went and saw them first, but that wasn’t an option here because of my travel schedule, so the breeder sent me pictures. There were two little boys left, and we described their temperament, and knowing that my husband wasn’t as familiar with dogs, I went with the dog that had a more relaxed temperament.
Mycroft is absolutely well suited for our family. He’s very much a lapdog, but he’s also very playful. He’s equal parts play and rest.
And how did you settle on the name Mycroft?
Not everyone loved the character of Mycroft Holmes in the most recent Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. But I just loved the character.
As an American in London, what do you love about raising a dog here?
There’s so much. London has so many public parks—the amount of green space per person is enormous. Near us, we have an old rail line that’s now been turned into a trail. It’s two miles long, and it starts and ends with a big park. We love that everyone has a dog when we’re out, and they’re very into off-lead here. We can’t [go off-lead] because Mycroft fancies himself a hunter. If he catches the scent of rats and mice and squirrels, he’s off. We can’t really trust him to come back. But when we’re out in the Lake District and the Peak District [of England], he goes off-lead and runs to his heart’s content.
Other than in central London, he’s welcome almost everywhere—tubes, taxis, buses, trains, restaurants, stores. When we got him, we wanted to make sure we would be responsible dog owners, so we went to puppy training class and we socialized him.
Because of his hunter instincts, he’ll go into a restaurant periodically and get really excited about the floorboards. The owners are always like, “Oh wow, he’s so cute! What is he doing?” And we say that we’re not really sure, but really we know that there’s mice in the floorboards. That’s the best thing about London: You don’t have to leave your dog at home.
Because you were an executive at TechCrunch, you’ve been exposed to a lot of pet care startups. What are some of your favorite dog startups and brands?
Our favorite brand is Butternut Box—we rely on them intensely. It’s fresh, handmade food. Some of it looks and smells like pâté that you could get from a restaurant! My husband and I are periodically like, we could eat this, because it’s actually tested on humans. It’s very nutritious. Mycroft eats the beef and lamb and turkey—he loves them.
We’re suckers for the Barbour dog jackets. He’s so low to the ground that when he goes outside when it rains—and it’s always raining in London—he just gets soaking wet. He picks up leaves and trash and gunk, which is why we keep him in a shorter cut. He has this jacket, and then he has a Muddy Paws jacket that keeps him warm during the winter.
The other thing I absolutely love is the Henry Wag Microfibre Cleaning Towel. It’s a super-high absorbent towel. We have one for his baths and one that we keep by the door. He’s got hair rather than fur like my parents’ Golden Retriever. The water really soaks into him. So, when he comes home, we use this towel—it’s amazing. It’s better than any random towel.
That’s a really great tip for any dogs living in or visiting London. We wouldn’t have thought about that as a necessity because it doesn’t rain as much in New York City. How did Mycroft react when your son, Jude, joined the family?
We got Mycroft to help us make Jude. We were having a really hard time getting pregnant. We ended up doing IVF, but we’d always read that having a pet around was really helpful for couples suffering from infertility. So, that was one of the reasons why we got him, as emotional support to bring down the stress. We tried a lot of suggestions, and one of the more extreme ideas was to get a dog.
That’s a wonderful excuse to get a dog.
I always say, Mycroft is my first baby. He’s still the center of the family. It was really hard when Jude was born because babies are so intense with the moms for the first three months. I had to hold Jude all the time. I chose to breastfeed and Mycroft was very confused as to why he couldn’t get in my lap!
Also, I ended up in an emergency C-section. Everything was fine, but it was not a planned one. For the first six-to-eight weeks, I couldn’t even hold Mycroft at all because you’re not allowed to hold anything heavier than the baby. I couldn’t hold his lead. I didn’t realize how many of your abdominal muscles you use to hold the lead. Mycroft did actually feel very pushed out at first. Luckily, Toby [my husband] was there to support him. I kept telling Mycroft, “When this baby starts eating solid foods, you’re going to be very, very excited because he’s going to drop it on the ground.”
How are Mycroft and the family handling the pandemic in London?
We are enormously grateful during this pandemic. Our family is sheltering in place in our home, which has a garden. Parks are not closed in London so we can still go out daily for exercise. Mycroft has really cemented his position as the family glue, as our 17-month-old toddler is more and more aware of Mycroft’s role in our lives.
Our son, Jude, absolutely adores Mycroft, but Mycroft took more time to warm to Jude, which is quite normal. It has been the biggest gift to watch the two of them develop a relationship of their own, playing during the day and cuddling in quiet times. However, six weeks into lockdown, I witnessed Mycroft jump up onto the sofa where Jude was sitting with a book, to snuggle up next to him. My heart nearly burst—it made me so happy.
It can be hectic with all of us at home all the time, but in the mornings—when my husband is having breakfast with Jude—when Jude is down for his midday nap, and once Jude has gone to bed, Mycroft regains his rightful place in my lap and at the center of my attention. If he wasn’t around during this time, our lives would be considerably emptier. We have so much to be grateful for.