Meet Kassandra Haro ’18, Handsome Dan’s newest handler
Once the designated “pet sitter” of her friends and family, Yale Visitor Center employee Kassandra Haro ’18 is embracing her role training and taking care of 11-week-old Kingman as Handsome Dan’s new handler.
As Kassandra “Kassie” Haro ’18 sits at her desk for a Zoom interview with the News, she first excuses the crunching behind the camera — Kingman, Handsome Dan XIX, is having lunch. During the interview, the 11-week-old puppy ran around the room and hopped on camera with a bully stick and a happy belly.
Haro, a recent Yale alumna and Visitor’s Center employee, recalled her years at Yale and what she hopes to bring to the community as Kingman’s handler.
“Now that Handsome Dan is the helm of my ship, I think he will introduce me to a lot more clubs on campus,” Haro told the News. “I’m really excited about that — sort of vicariously reliving my undergrad years through Handsome Dan’s eyes. I’m very excited about being introduced to new people [and] new organizations.”
While she was at Yale as an undergraduate majoring in political science, Haro was heavily involved in ROTC when not in class or with friends. Some unexpected health issues got in the way of her lifelong dream of joining the Navy, and she found herself wondering what to pursue next. After years working as a Yale tour guide, she found a position working in the Visitor’s Center. Haro noted that, while she did not anticipate working at Yale after graduation, she “absolutely loves” the work environment and her job.
When she is not at work or training Handsome Dan, which she noted consumes most of her time nowadays, Haro can be found watching movies. She considers herself a “movie fiend.” Before the pandemic, she went to a premiere every Thursday, “even if it was a movie [she] didn’t want to see.” Her favorite film is “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and her favorite genre is science fiction.
Haro fondly remembers her time at Yale, especially “Freshman Screw” and her Commencement, when over 20 of her family members flew out to New Haven for the first time to visit and see her get her diploma.
At this point in the interview, Kingman asked to be picked up, and he “said” hello via Zoom. Haro noted that this is not uncommon.
“He loves people,” she said.
The pup is not the first animal under Haro’s care. She grew up in Arizona with her mother, and until the age of 14 she had she had three chihuahuas, shar-pei, a mixed Jack Russel terrier and a Havanese. She also had four cats at one point. Haro said that she was the designated “pet sitter” of her friends and family — taking care of everything from rabbits to greyhounds to goats.
Now, she has undertaken the responsibility of training and taking care of Handsome Dan XIX. At 11 weeks old, the Olde English Bulldogge has already begun training with a one-on-one trainer. Yale covers the costs of Handsome Dan’s trainers and related needs. Tom Porier, from Camelot Dog Training, is working with Haro to prepare Kingman for his responsibilities.
“I really want him to be exposed to a lot more avenues and a lot more students and faculty,” she said. “That’s very much something I enjoy.”
Haro clarified that she named Kingman after former University President Kingman Brewster. While transcribing interviews for 50WomenAtYale150, she found herself impressed by his impact on the University and decided to name Handsome Dan XIX after him.
Brewster was president of the University from 1963-1977. Under his leadership, Yale enrolled more Black students and began admitting women. Brewster also played a role in Yale’s handling of the Black Panther and Vietnam War protests happening at the time, which were notably more peaceful at Yale than at fellow institutions.
Haro was also able to interact with all nine dogs in his litter to choose who the next Handsome Dan would be. She added that Kingman’s temperament was immediately befitting of a college mascot.
“I am thrilled that Kassie is taking on this role,” said Yale Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson in the original press announcement regarding Handsome Dan XIX. “Kassie knows and loves dogs — and Yale. She will make Dan a very present, very loved part of the community.”
Now that she has begun training and working with the pup, Haro hopes Kingman the Bulldogge will have a more varied impact on the college.
“When people think of the word mascot, they immediately associate that with athletics,” Haro said. “But I think Handsome Dan has an opportunity to expand the role of a mascot. … It’s very much a community dog. … However, he will definitely be a prominent supporter of athletics.”
Haro was a member of Berkeley College during her time as an undergraduate student at Yale.
Ángela Pérez | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Mar. 27: A previous version of this article said that Haro had a terrier, a Jack Russel and had no mention of a Havanese. In fact, she grew up with three chihuahuas, shar-pei, a mixed Jack Russel terrier and a Havanese.