Dogs And The City

I love animals, I really do, so that’s why I feel so badly for these poor creatures who are forced to live in such tiny cramped boxes, also known as New York City apartments.  I wouldn’t call myself a card-carrying member of PETA or anything, but it seems inhumane to have them live in a place that goes against their natural instincts.

Dogs should always be jumping around and running free, rolling around in the grass with their tails wagging and their tongues hanging out.  Dogs in New York, however, waddle along obediently on a leash and only have sidewalks and trash bags to sniff on.  Their tails limp, their fur matted, their eyes clouded and crusty, they always look like they’re about to keel over.

It seems that dog owners get more out of the relationship than their pets do.  In fact, according to a recently published article in the New York Times titled “New York Burial Plots Will Now Allow Four-Legged Companions,” domesticated animals are now allowed to be buried with their owners. They can now be united and decompose together forever in a cemetery plot.  I’m sure that’s what the dog wanted all along.

I was sitting on a crowded subway the other night, when I noticed that the tan canvas tote bag that was right in front of my face had a furry nose sticking out of it.  It belonged to a lady that had it slung over her shoulder, as if it were an ordinary purse.  The nose belonged to a dachshund, and it was sitting in the bag very still, with its nose pulsating as if desperately trying to breathe.  The owner may be considered an animal lover to some, but I felt so badly for this poor dog who was forced to sit in this lady’s bag, suspended in mid-air, constrained to be perfectly still on a crowded subway car.  It was like a type of urban animal torture.  I imagined slashing the straps of the tote bag to release it from its misery and screaming “You’re free, doggie!  You’re free!”

Recently, my church held a service called “The Blessing of the Animals” as part of the celebration of the Feast of St. Francis.  It was where everybody could bring their pets in to church to have them blessed by the rector.  On a typical Sunday, it’s quiet and barely half full.  On this particular Sunday, the service was completely packed.  It was standing room only, and I had to stand at the back by the entrance next to a lady and her rabbit.  I’ve never even seen these people before.  It’s as if they sprouted out of nowhere.  They were more concerned about the salvation of their pets than they were of themselves.  Or maybe they were just taking advantage of the fact that they were allowed to bring their fury critters inside a building without being scolded for it.

You think New Yorkers are tough?  Just observe them with their pooches, and their tough New York exterior just melts away.  I’ve never seen so much PDA in church before- the hugging, the kissing, the abundant ardent phrases they whispered into their receivers’ floppy ears.  They slung their poodles over their shoulders and patted their backs soothingly like a baby.  They dressed up their terriers in pink satin with matching booties and pearls.  They snapped selfies with their pets to post on Instagram.  They could go deep into conversation with their pets than they can to another human being.

I wonder if these dogs ever have a chance to realize how different their lives would be if they had a different owner.  How their fates were determined by whether a guy from Scranton picked them up from the litter box instead of the lady from the Upper West Side. Scranton:  Spacious backyard with trees and your own little door to go in and out of the house as you please.  Upper West Side:  Where you have to hold it until your owner comes back to let you out, or if you’re really lucky, the dog walker to come pick you up, so you can go pee on a slab of concrete.

I’ve noticed that the dogs in New York always perk up their ears and wiggle their tail whenever a stranger passes them by on the street.  It makes them look so optimistic and hopeful for something.  They’re probably wishing that the stranger is from Scranton and will take them away from this godforsaken place.



She was a Lebanese Catholic grandmother living in an Italian woman’s living room in Washington Heights for $1000 a month. She preferred this arrangement than living alone in New Haven. She lost her husband five years ago, and in order to get over the grief, she decided that New York would be the escape that she needed. She made it a task to get out of the apartment by 5 every afternoon because she didn’t want to be around when her roommate brought back her date for the night. She was a member of MoMA which gave her free tickets to all the movies they showed in their compact theater on a daily basis, so every night, off she went, no matter what movie was playing, because if she didn’t like it, she would just walk out. It was free, after all. She tried not to return home until after midnight, so she would spend the last couple of hours wandering around Times Square, with the lights from the billboard flashing and radiating around her and the rest of the crowd.
During the day she telecommuted as an interpreter for a government agency. She was fluent in French, and when she spoke she sounded as if she were French. All of her work was done over the phone, although her computer skills were proficient enough, which took up several hours a day.
She had family here in the States, like a cousin in Colorado, but her children lived in Paris, and her 90+ mother was still alive and well in Beirut. She still had an apartment in Lebanon, but kept it empty. She visited her children in Paris several times a year, but they were painful visits, hinting that there were unresolved issues that happened long ago when she sent them off to live with her cousin in Paris during the civil war back home in Lebanon. Sometimes, her daughter didn’t even want to see her, and when she would visit her son, he would kick her out of the house for a couple of hours every evening so he could put his kids to bed “properly.”

Every weekend she would hang out at MoMA and strike up conversations with random strangers. She met more than a dozen people this way. There are other folks that keep dogs just so someone can speak to them, these dogs are poorly kept. Dogs in the city are so limp and can barely walk- not like the ones outside the city where they leap and wag their tail and pant heavily with their tongue hanging out with such fervor. This town will suck the crap out of you- even the dogs. These people will just do anything to combat their loneliness- even if it’s against the well-being of these poor dogs. Maybe it’s the ether here, but whatever prevents us from connecting is overcome by the ability to talk about four-legged creatures.