August 6, 2010

Summer Friday: Secrets of Owning a Dog in NYC

Every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'm going to be featuring guest bloggers as a part of my "Summer Fridays" series. This week's entry comes from new dog owner Jacob Y. who gives us a glimpse of what it's like to own a small dog in the big city.

I’ve always loved small dogs ever since I was a kid and remember how much I loved to chase after my shih tzu, Sony (named after my childhood bedroom TV.) After living alone for the first two months in my new place in NYC I realized I could really use some doggie company. I started looking in pet stores on the upper east side where puppies average about $3000. After picking my jaw up off the floor I began checking for rescued pups. After about a week of searching I found my perfect doggie and Zipcar’d to New Jersey to adopt him. In keeping with my tradition, I named the new little rascal Samsung, aftter my current TV.

Here's a picture of Sammy and a video of me and him on the day I adopted him.

Samsung the Cute Puppy

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past two weeks about being a dog owner in NYC:

Everyone will talk to you
I’m not just talking about the dog lovers you see on the street who will want to pet your fluffy puppy or the neighbors who want to investigate what’s going on when you’re playing fetch in the hallway on a rainy day. There seem to be two other types who will approach you when you’re walking a puppy:
1. Those who want to namedrop and talk about themselves. Yesterday, walking down Madison Avenue I met Elton John’s agent’s wife and also a girl who claimed to be the best friend of one of America’s Next Top Model judges. People just start spewing information during the 15 seconds that they are petting your dog.

2. Those who need a job. I’ve heard so many sob stories of layoffs and failed companies and how bad the economy is. What I didn’t realize is that every one of these people on the Upper East Side seems to have turned to dog walking as a way to make extra cash. I usually thank them so much and tell them that Samsung already has an Italian au pair who takes care of him during the day.

The dog world is highly political

There is a dog park right behind my building along the East River. This park is our sanctuary. Sammy can spend hours here running and playing and swimming in the kiddie pools. So you can imagine my dismay when we show up every morning and something is vandalized – shade umbrellas slashed, water hoses cut, holes in the pools, etc. For a while I assumed this was typical teenage vandalism until I learned about all the controversy surrounding the dog park and that it’s allegedly a group of adults who systematically vandalize the park. Over time I’ve been approached by dog owners on both sides of the controversy, which apparently started when the city was building the park 3 years ago and stems from what type of flooring the park should have... I’m not making this up!

There are many ways to pick up poop
It seems the most common way to pick up poop is to let your dog do its business and then put a bag over your hand and pick it up. My personal technique is to keep a watchful eye and slip a newspaper or bag under Sammy before he does his business. Then I just fold it over and trash it. Other dog owners are totally in awe of this, yet I never see anyone else doing this.

Dog trainers are miracle workers
What nobody tells you is that in NYC your puppy will be expected to behave perfectly from the moment you get him. Some people don’t think it’s cute when your puppy is yapping and lunging at them on the sidewalk. I’ve told more than one scowling upper east side lady to go pop a Xanax. The problem is that with all the distractions on the sidewalks of New York it's almost impossible to train your dog to walk correctly on a leash and obey commands. After one particularly grueling walk where Sammy was so spastic that he latched his teeth onto the bottom of my shorts and pulled them completely down my legs, I decided it was time for some professional help. I took a big chance here because of course they all want to be paid obscene amounts and for multiple sessions up front, but I was somewhat desperate. And it was the best money I've ever spent. We've had one session so far and this guy truly worked a miracle. Sammy now walks almost perfectly at my feet with a loose leash and is trained to sit at crosswalks and before going in and out of doors. It was seriously like watching the dog whisperer in action. We have three sessions left and I’m expecting him to be doing acrobatics by the end.

Dog names are rarely unique
I’ve come across a few dogs with really cute names like Olive or Twigz but in general people give their dogs really unoriginal names. When we see a puppy with a pink leash, I already know its name. Every female puppy in this city is named Bella!

Just for fun, here's another cute video of Sammy in my apartment. Good luck, new dog owners!

Who knew dog politics were so serious?! I can't wait to get my hands on that dog. Click here to read all of the Summer Friday entries.