Don't get me wrong, my dog is my best friend in the whole world and I often wonder how I ever lived without him. But at the same time, I do remember how I lived without him — without guilt. Having a dog in New York City is not easy — in fact, it's even harder than it looks.
Despite the fact that I now work from home (which is the most optimal position to be in as New York City dog owner), it's still incredibly trying. Every season comes with new challenges and every time you leave the house, you must take the time to plan arrangements. You can't live your life by the seat of your pants anymore. Gone are the days of staying out late, having unplanned sleepovers, taking last minute trips, traveling for extended periods of time or dating someone who doesn't like dogs or has their own complicated pet situation. A dog will weigh you down as much as a child might, but worse, because most places legally won't allow you to bring your dog inside their establishment.
At times, it's hard not to be envious of people who only have themselves to worry about — the concept can seem like a luxury from where I stand. But then I think about that moment when I walk through the front door and my dog greets me like he's just won the lottery, and I realize over and over again that it's really me who's won. Awhhhh, right? Regardless, here are some things only New York City dog owners will understand:
New York City Is A Giant Toilet
Maybe it doesn't take a dog owner to realize that, but when your dog will literally go to the bathroom on any surface in the city, you know it's dirty.
The Dog Park Is The High School Cafeteria
A hierarchy exists at the dog park. Once you head through those double gates, you have to pick a place to stand, despite the fact that no one seems to want you to stand near them. Some people stand in cliques and you worry that they're regulars who don't like newcomers. Other will sit with their faces in their phones — typically those are the people that your dog will target with muddy paws and a licking tongue, and typically those are the people who want none of it. And if no dogs will play with your dog, you take on the shame.
F.O.N.P.B. (Fear Of No Poop Bag)
Despite the fact that you think you know your dog's digestive system like the back of your hand, there's always room for surprise. That one time you leave the house without a plastic bag will be the time your dog decides to take a big old poop in front of a group of people who will grill you so hard your skin will burn and you'll flee the scene like Jason Bourne ... (But not before going through an entire charade where you pretend to look for a bag in your pockets.)
Paw Prints Everywhere
Because New York City is so freaking dirty, your dog's feet are so freaking dirty. So on every light surface will be little black paw prints. Sometimes they're easy to dust off, other times a good scrubbing is needed. But the most disgusting thing about black paw prints is trying to guess what they're made of. Your dog will become very used to the bathtub and you will become very sick of having to give up your good towel to your dog.
Eyes Up Here, Buddy
People in New York City will have no problem coming up to your dog to talk to it, pet it, and even take a photo of it, all without ever meeting your eyes. It's like you're invisible. That theory that having a dog makes you more approachable is untrue. Ninety percent of the people who say "hello" to my dog fail to say "hello" to me.
All Walks Are Not Created Equal
Sometimes your dog will do his business quickly because he wants to get back inside just as much as you do. Other times, they'll decide that they want to sniff the entire neighborhood, walk around in circles and half squat to make you think they might pee, but then decide against it and continue sniffing — which either means that they're dragging you, or you're dragging them. There is no comfortable speed and no average walk.
Your city dog spends so little time in the grass that when they're in it, they go buck wild. It's like nature's carpet that they can pee on without getting in trouble, and eat without getting full. Only most grass they're not supposed to pee on and most grass has been sprayed with chemicals and should not be eaten. You'll tell your dog that one day you'll move to the country and really believe it.
Weather Of All Kinds
Literally every kind of weather presents a different issue for dog owners. If it's a sunny day, the streets are crowded with dogs and the parks are at capacity. If it's raining, your dogs feet will turn into mud socks and make your floors filthy. If it's snowing, the salt the shopkeepers put down to melt the snow will also burn through your dogs paws and cause them to ache and bleed (and forget booties, your dog hates them). If it's windy or stormy, your dog might get too anxious to do his business.
No matter how much you love your dog, no matter how much time and money you invest into their happiness, you always feel a little bit guilty that they're stuck in the city — hell, you can't stand the city and you get to wear shoes and eat at restaurants. You'll try to create innovative ways to play in the apartment, and you'll dream about finding a partner or friend who has a dog that might be your dog's savior. Every time you leave the house you'll feel a pang of guilt and find yourself apologizing. And when you come home, even though your dog is jumping up and down like a pogo stick with joy, you're still apologizing. If you stay out late, your heart hurts. Every time you see a dog on TV that's running in an open field you pray your dog isn't paying attention. But while the city is a tough place to raise a dog, the most important thing is that he is loved and has everything he needs. And while you think you're never doing good enough job, that's because you love your dog so much, it will never feel like a good enough job. Don't worry, it is.