A Dog's Guide to New York City

Friends who visit New York are always surprised to see so many dogs everywhere and not just when the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is in town. They think that because the city is full of concrete it must be inhospitable for the canine friends. Operating on the assumption that dogs need exercise, a freedom to roam beyond the end of a leash, and lots of green grass, all true, they wonder if dogs are somehow imprisoned in the urban jungle. Not really. We love our dogs and do the best we can. Dog owners try to provide fresh air and exercise by strolling with Max, Maggie, Buddy and Lucy (among the most popular dog names - a website lists them) to the nearest dog park and letting them run around free in their butt-sniffing crazy eights. Some even argue that dogs in New York are more sociable and well-adjusted than those from the countryside.

Many New Yorkers seem to enjoy outfitting their pets, a necessity for short-haired breeds in the cold weather, and over this past winter, I've been party to many conversations about a particular dog's cute new winter jacket or sweater. One of my dogs wears a brown corduroy coat that fastens by Velcro underneath his chin and torso. When it's cold, he likes to bow his head, indicating I need to put on his coat.

When they were puppies, my own dogs used to run around the back yard of a house, but now that they're grown up and have become denizens of an apartment building, they have adjusted to a different lifestyle. Going out for walks three times a day and seeing the other dogs in the big city seems to please them, and when they come home, a doorman opens the door for them and gives them cookies. That's a nice life. The doorman doesn't give me cookies.

A List of Fascinating Dog-Related Links:

• How do dogs put one paw in front of another? A new study shows that illustrators, toy designers, and others get it wrong when showing a dog walking. All four-legged animals walk this way, in this order: left hind leg, left foreleg, right hind leg, right foreleg. Science Daily has the story.

NYC Parks page: Dogs in New York Parks. See rules and regulations and list of dog runs.

• A special website for the Dog Heroes of September 11th.

• New York Dog Statuary: Central Park, Balto, East side of the park near E. 67th St. by Frederick George Richard Roth, 1872 - 1944. Hero husky that led a dogsled team through a blizzard to get medicine for a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska in 1925. On December 17, 1925, 10 months later, Balto attended the unveiling in Central Park. Balto died in 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio, where his stuffed body is on display at Cleveland’s Natural History Museum. NYC Parks page on Balto.

Also, Seward Park, Lower East Side at Canal, Hester, Essex, Jefferson Sts. Bronze statue of Togo, a contemporary of Balto (right). NYC Parks page.

Prospect Park, Boy and Dog Statue. Curious marble sculpture depicting a nude boy with a faithful dog from the post-Civil War era. NYC Parks page.

• Dogs in Art History. While at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, I flipped through William Secord's fascinating new book, Dog Painting: A History of the Dog in Art. Secord's gallery at 52 East 76th Street specializes in fine art dog painting. See gallery website for more information.

• Abraham Lincoln had a dog when his family lived in Springfield, Illinois. His mixed-breed yellow dog was named Fido. See more at the National Park Service website on pets.

WOTBA's personal recommendations for dog resources in the Village:

• Does your dog have tons of hair and needs a good haircut every spring? How about day care in a Sponge Bob-themed room? Visit Happy Paws Pet Resort, 316 Lafayette Street. New York, NY 10012. 212-431-6898

• Is your dog regularly throwing up on your nice big area rug? See Washington Square Animal Hospital, 23 East 9th Street, (between 5th Ave & University Pl). New York, NY 10003. (212) 674-1670

• What happens when your dog gets a shish kabob skewer stuck in the roof his mouth (sideways) on a Sunday morning? Answer: Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists. 1 West 15th Street. New York, NY 10011 212-924-3311

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. See my photo essay on the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and extra images in a set on Flickr WOTBA.

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