Nick Bilton writes in Vanity Fair:
Despite the chaos, [Elizabeth Holmes] believed that Theranos could still be saved, and she had an unconventional plan for redemption. That September, according to the two former executives, Holmes asked her security detail and one of her drivers to escort her to the airport in her designated black Cadillac Escalade. She flew first class across the country and was subsequently chauffeured to a dog breeder who supplied her with a 9-week-old Siberian husky. The puppy had long white paws, and a grey and black body. Holmes had already picked out a name: Balto.
For Holmes, the dog represented the journey that lay ahead for Theranos. As she explained to colleagues at the company’s headquarters, in Palo Alto, he was named after the world-famous sled dog who, in 1925, led a team of huskies on a dangerous, 600-mile trek from Nenana, Alaska, to remote Nome, Alaska, bearing an antitoxin that was used to fight a diphtheria outbreak. … In Holmes’s telling, Balto’s perseverance mirrored her own. His voyage with the life-changing drug was not so different from her ambition.
In Silicon Valley, founders and C.E.O.s often embrace a signature idiosyncrasy as a personal branding device. … Holmes, too, had seemingly cherry-picked from her elders. She wore a black turtleneck, drank strange green juices, traveled with armed guards, and spoke in a near baritone. In an industry full of oddballs, Holmes—a blonde WASP from the D.C. area—seemed hell-bent on cultivating a reputation as an iconoclastic weirdo. Having Balto seemed to help fortify the image.
Immediately after returning to California, Holmes decided that Balto would hardly leave her side on the quest to save Theranos. Each day, Holmes would wake up with Balto at the nearly empty Los Altos mansion that she was renting about six miles from her company’s headquarters. (Theranos covered the house’s rent.) Soon after, one of her two drivers, sometimes her two security personnel, and even sometimes one of her two assistants, would pick them up, and set off for work. And for the rest of the day, Balto would stroll through the labs with his owner. Holmes brushed it off when the scientists protested that the dog hair could contaminate samples. But there was another problem with Balto, too. He wasn’t potty-trained. Accustomed to the undomesticated life, Balto frequently urinated and defecated at will throughout Theranos headquarters. While Holmes held board meetings with people like Henry Kissinger, Balto could be found in the corner of the room relieving himself while a frenzied assistant was left to clean up the mess.
Around this same time, Holmes says that she discovered that Balto—like most huskies—had a tiny trace of wolf origin. Henceforth, she decided that Balto wasn’t really a dog, but rather a wolf. In meetings, at cafés, whenever anyone stopped to pet the pup and ask his breed, Holmes soberly replied, “He’s a wolf.”
Similarly, I identify my parakeet as a Tyrannosaurus rex.