Before I lived in New York, I tried to imagine how everyday life would be different from other places. As a tourist for many years, I never noticed grocery stores, movie theaters, children playing or dogs walking on the streets. I usually stayed in the Times Square area (as most out-of-towners do) — where hustle and bustle got its name — but less of an actual New York life is happening.
It wasn’t until I ventured out of the Theatre District, and stayed in the Murray Hill/Gramercy area that I witnessed real city life. At first I was mesmerized, but eventually it became somewhat normal and mundane like that in any other city, but with the buzzing sounds and colorful cityscape of Manhattan. I knew that I’d settle in and adjust without much effort, but what about my dog?
Once I moved here, I realized the abundance of dogs — everywhere. Manhattan has all kinds — from miniature to giant — long-haired, short-haired, puppy and geriatric. I was amazed at the huge Great Danes, usually being escorted in pairs (where do these pony-like creatures live?), and the tiny Yorkies and Chihuahuas crossing busy intersections in Midtown. Observing the oldest canines that I’ve seen anywhere walk the streets in NYC, I’ve been told that dogs often live longer and healthier lives in New York. How is this possible? Can our furry companions be city dwellers too?
With approximately 1.5 million pooches in the five boroughs, I quickly learned that New York is indeed a ‘Dog Town’, and that New Yorkers treat their four-legged friends better than some treat their children. Dog-walkers, daycare centers and spas, dog-friendly cafes and stores, and pet specialty shops are located in many New York neighborhoods. I’d never taken my dog shopping to retailers like Banana Republic until I moved to Manhattan. The trip comes complete with “Oohs and Aahs,” admirable comments like "He's so cute," pets on the head — and sometimes the ultimate — a belly rub. Local liquor stores allow dogs, too. I pay for my weekly selection of vino, and meanwhile, Bogey is rewarded with crunchy biscuits at checkout.
For dogs requiring lots of exercise or ball fiends like my Labrador Retriever, much of Central Park has off-leash hours before 9am and after 9pm. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park comes complete with a dog beach for swimmers. Dog runs are plentiful throughout the city for play and socialization. And prancing down Broadway can be as stimulating for a canine as it can be for a fashionista. The sights, smells and sounds of this town keep our fur babies alert, inquisitive, and often craving pizza too. My dog prefers to carb load the night before a morning jog in Central Park.
Like most four-legged companions, training was required when he first arrived in Manhattan. Each time we walked by any food establishment, his keen sense of smell pulled toward each entrance. Once we returned home and Bogey received his stainless steel bowl of dog food, he quickly learned that dining out is reserved for masters only. He does enjoy his trips as a sidewalk guest on occasion, and thus far, he’s only broken one chair. Not bad for a Labrador.
Time for a swim?
Smaller breeds are definitely easier to house in less space and transport around town — pets are not permitted on public transit, unless in a secure carrier. Some apartment buildings have pet policies and weight limits, but plenty allow larger dogs too. My 75-pounder lives in 825 square feet. Somehow my furnishings have remained intact, and we’ve managed to stay off the hated neighbor list in our
I’ve realized that dog-owners in NYC love and cherish their pooches probably a little more than average. Many aspects of the lifestyle in New York are convenient, but owning a dog isn’t one of them. Opening the door to the backyard isn’t possible in apartment living. Just getting Fido out can be a pilgrimage, especially in a walk-up apartment. Regardless of temperature or weather conditions, it’s business as usual, and when five flights down are too far to halt Mother Nature, well — puppy pads are a safe alternative.
Somehow as New Yorkers, like most anything, we’re up to the challenge. And as for man’s best friend? Not every dog can bark that he lives in Manhattan.
For more about life in New York, follow me on Twitter, or on Tracy’s New York Life.