August 27th, 2009
A few weeks ago I headed to my favorite local Brooklyn coffee shop to buy an overpriced caffeinated beverage(an indulgence that I make no apologies for.) Along my trek, I passed a family with a dog in a stroller and a kid on a leash. Has the life of a dog gotten so stressful that the “masters” of man’s best friend feel obliged to provided wheeled transportation, “matter of factly” pick up feces and offer the four legged diva an impressive cocktail of antidepressants?
One of the biggest debates in urban canine circles is the following: With limited space and open areas, is it ethical to have a dog in the city? Well humans have certainly put in their two cents regarding this ongoing heated back and forth. I feel that the doggies are the center of this argument and should also have a say in which lifestyle is preferable. I interviewed a handful of dogs and got their thoughts on this logical argument. Yes, I am able to communicate openly and freely with pooches because I speak fluent Barkonese. Story for another time. I think you’ll find my research surprisingly enlightening.
My first interview was with Liam, a Wheaten Terrier that I met for a late lunch at an upscale midtown Irish Pub. After a few Guinness, my new furry friend really opened up. “It basically comes down to this.. I can’t complain. I like my life here in the city. I’m hypoallergenic, cute ‘enough' and pretend to like kids. I never lived in the country so I have nothing to compare my present situation to. No memories of running through fields filled with gourmet dog treats.” He was giving me great stuff and I was psyched to learn about this angle. Then Liam took a big chug of stout, stared off into the distance and quietly uttered, “Besides I just discovered that my parents were from the same litter so I have bigger problems on my plate right now.”
Wow. Liam had really been forthcoming. I was thrilled that I was able to get such an honest response. I left the bar pretty tipsy, hopped in a cab and headed to an off-track betting in the outskirts of Queens to meet Rusty the Chihuahua. He spoke so fast that I had to struggle to keep up with my notes. Manically he said, “I’m a little shit with bug eyes. I’m very much aware that I didn’t win the genetic lottery. My mom told me that I was just ‘special’ and then she was hit by a UPS truck.” Rusty just seemed so self-aware and really wore his heart on his paw. “ Truth is, I know that I wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else. With all its downfalls, New York does embrace those of us that are..unique. I just know that my method of ass sniffing would be frowned upon in other areas.”
I got what I needed from Rusty. In all honesty, he did creep me out a little because if eyes are the window to the soul, I was scared to dig any deeper. I headed back to Manhattan where I was going to meet Maximus, a beret wearing French Bulldog who finally stopped battling with his sexuality. He spends his days and nights at his master’s Chelsea art gallery that focuses on post modern abstract expressionism. He handed me a glass of a delightful Cabernet Sauvignon. We perused though the gallery and connected right away. Truth be told, we didn’t talk much about my research topic because we just became instant best friends. What can I say. Gay dogs love me. The only quote I can share with you..is about me. “You’re fabulous! Promise me that I can go shoe shopping with you and you’ll join me and some of my clubbing dog friends in Fire Island.” I think it’s safe to assess that Maximus won’t be leaving the city anytime soon.
Next I headed to a late night Kegger at NYU to meet a Shih Tzu named Oscar. He didn’t have a lot of time for me because he was the hot commodity at this party. His owner was a daddy’s girl who grew up amongst the Upper East Side elite. Oscar was with her at all times. Every drunk sorority girl couldn’t get enough of this little guy. The party was getting loud and crowded and Oscar only gave me 30 seconds of his time because bouncing from one female admirer to the next was way more intriguing than talking about the ethics of dog habitation. He told me, “I put up with the lame dog carrying bag, clothes and frilly bows because I’m surrounded by beautiful vulnerable women who let me lick them. I know I’m a Napoleon and New York is the only place where I can, quite frankly, get girls that are out of my league. I don’t want to give this up to live in the Midwest, eat processed Puppy Chow and piss on garden gnomes.” After this admission, he ran away and jumped on the lap of a girl who just finished a keg stand.
My last meeting was at midnight at a diner with Mollie, a sensitive and humble middle aged golden retriever. I’d guess around 7. She had just finished up with her late night shift volunteering affection in a nursing home. There was something very comforting about her. Wise beyond her dog years. She was quite candid. “There is a lot that makes the city appealing to us. I love sitting on the stoop with other dogs from my building and the smells are simply divine. So much ethnic restaurant garbage to sniff through. Although I do stay away from Chinese because..well you know.”
Sipping her chamomile tea, she was the first of my interviewees to express concern for her owner. “Although city living makes sense for me, I worry about him. Living in a small studio apartment and not being able to run freely…just doesn’t seem fair.