Having just returned from a fun week in New York City (without my dogs, needless to say), I am left wondering what to think about dog ownership in big cities like this. Or rather, in Manhattan exactly, since it is so unlike any other place.
Manhattan has it all: Spectacular high-rise buildings in particular, and all the shops, services, little comforts and things to do one can imagine in an urban environment. Do people on Manhattan have it all then (well, those 1.6 Million who can afford the enormous rents on the Island or are lucky enough to live in a lease price bound apartment at least)? Well, maybe … but maybe just because they have dogs! Dogs are everywhere on Manhattan, and who would know better than me 😉 that they (and other pets) have become the closest and steadiest social partner to an increasing number of urban Singles. And they make quite a good job of it, too!
Apart from the obligatory toy dogs
This little fellow reminded me of this hilarious Sitcom Scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZmCEWK1ffI,
I saw mostly Beagles (Charlie Brown’s Snoopy has probably got his share in this 😎 ), Poodles, Spaniels of all sorts, French and English Bulldogs, and – of course – lots of Labradors. Many of them came in pairs.
I even saw someone walking three huge Saint Bernards amidst the skyscraper canyon!
No Ibizans though (and I am quite thankful for that). The closest to a Podenco I could find was the little Andaluz-looking mongrel in the background:
and if their people are wealthy enough, I guess, NY dogs get to enjoy a similarly luxurious life including Doggie Day Spas, Kindergartens and many other day and overnight care facilities. There are even complete housing blocks desigend to suit the needs of working dog owners, i.e. with integrated dog nurseries, trainers etc. The only thing they do not get enough of is … space. Natural green space. Space where they can run and play freely and dig and sniff and rummage around in the mud and just be dogs! No wonder most of the dogs I saw were a bit on the fat side.
When I still lived in the very heart of Cologne with three large dogs, people had often made me feel bad about that. „How can you … that is not humanely“. Their arguments seem ridiculous now looking at conditions in the Big Apple: Presumably there are about 56,000 registered Dogs on Manhattan only. That is more than double the number of Cologne – but piled up on less than a quarter of the square mileage. In other words: Whereas in Cologne 64 dogs quite comfortably share one square kilometer of City space (and have only a short drive out to forests and lakes), it is ten times the number in Manhattan!
Where do they all go for walks?
Uptown, it is bound to be Central Park. There, dogs may even run off-leash – in a certain area, before 9 am and after 9 pm. Hooray! Downtown? I really don’t know. The Manhattan map shows plenty of so-called „dog runs“ (s. http://www.dogspin.com/dog-runs-parks/map-of-new-york-city-dog-runs/) – but most of them are smaller than my backyard, and certainly more „dead“. Even the small parks I stumbled upon in Brooklyn had no green to show for themselves: Hundreds of dogs living in the area and having nowhere else to go, together with hockey playing kids and picknicking families have taken their toll. Look at this and decide for yourself, if this high density of unfamiliar small and large dogs in a bleak little yard would make your dog happy as the main distraction from the ususal on-the-leash-walks in the streets: http://www.firstrunfriends.org/
I know dogs are very adaptable to all kinds of conditions and mostly happy just to be with their owner. But how far can we go? How, for example, do you housebreak (I really dislike this word) a puppy when you live on the 16th floor and have to wait two minutes every time for the elevator to come up? How do you get some variety in your walks, when most people living on Manhattan don’t own a car, and spending hours on the subway to reach a proper forest is nothing many would do several times a week? How much „civilisation“ are we allowed to burden our dogs with?
I have asked myself that question many times before – ever since I have lived with discarded Ibizan Hounds from rural Spain in a big City. It is a widely discussed issue here in Germany, if and how we can accommomodate the Ibizans‘ specific needs and talents outside of Spain, and some bad conscience is always with me because, for their own safety, I cannot let them off the leash in areas where game is abound. Temptation would be just too great. Well .. looking at NYC Dogs, at least my Ibizans get to enjoy some temptation, even if they must not pursue it … 😦