Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Leroy Found a Home!

leroy smiling

Thank you all for your support, I just wanted to update everyone that Leroy has found a forever home! After posting the blog, we were contacted by a few interested people. Leroy went on some “dates” with potential adopters and they were all really kind people. We felt the best match was with some of my dog walking clients, Abby & Mike, who already have 10-year-old female shepherd mix named Max.

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby & Mike live on the 2nd floor of an elevator building in Prospect Heights. I felt they understood the needs and responsibilities an older dog can present. Stairs are an issue for senior dogs, especial large ones that can’t be carried so their living situation is ideal. It is also wonderful that Max who is sometimes anxious will now have a calm companion dog her own age. They can nap & chew on squeaky toys together and enjoy their retirement. Abby & Mike promise to spoil the hell out of both of them.

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

My husband and I are sad to see Leroy go as he’s become a goofy part of our family but our cat and dog couldn’t be happier to their house and our attention back on them. I’m grateful I’ll still get to walk and visit Leroy since he’s so close by.

If anyone is still interested in adopting a pit mix, I do know a wonderful female named Loretta who is being fostered by a friend of mine. She’s a bit younger and loves to play fetch, snuggle, and is great with other dogs. I’ve posted her info below.

LorettaFlier

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs

Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

Dogs on the Wonder Wheel? Coney Island- June 16th!

Dogs on the Wonder Wheel- what?

This Saturday June 16th is Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park!

The World Famous *BOB* will host the 2nd Annual Pet Day and Pet Costume Contest at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, on the Boardway in Coney Island, from Noon to 7 PM on Saturday June 16 (Rain Date June 17.)

Give your pet (accompanied by you, of course) a free ride on the landmark Wonder Wheel.

The Pet Costume Contest begins at 2 PM. The judges are proud pet owners Bambi, the Coney Island Mermaid, and Angie Pontani, Miss Cyclone. Entries are limited to 25 and registration is first come first-serve. Pre-register at the Wonder Wheel website by downloading an application or register in person from 12:30-1:30 PM on June 16 across from Wonder Wheel Park. The registration fee is two cans of cat or dog food — a donation to Sean Casey Animal Rescue, which will have its mobile adoption van parked on 12th Street during the event.

1st prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel season pass and a $150 PETCO gift certificate

2nd prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel day passes and a $75 PETCO gift certificate

3rd prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel day passes and a $25 PETCO gift certificate

The Contest will be followed by a pet procession through Wonder Wheel Park.

I might have to break out Phoebe’s Mailman Costume!

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs

Finding Maggie- NEVER underestimate a terrier!

On Friday 4/27, I got a frantic call from one of my coworkers.

“We have a problem! Maggie just squirmed out of her collar, some guy tried to grab her to help, and she ran!”

I quickly switched to handling crisis mode. I called all our dog walkers and other walkers I knew in the area and put out an APB as I dropped off the dogs and headed to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie. I also called her owner and explained the situation. In my 12 years running a dog walking business, I’ve never had a dog get lost and it wasn’t going to happen now. I scanned the blocks of Brooklyn for the tenacious, wirey, terrier and tried not to lose my shit. I stopped people on the streets with dogs and gave them my card in case they saw her. I went into all of the local shops and did the same.

Despite all of us looking for an hour in the area she got loose, none of us spotted her. The owner came home got in her car and joined the search. We all had to walk the rest of our dogs and were over an hour behind at this point. I told everyone to go back to walking and look for her with the other dogs. I prayed she was hiding or a kind neighbor had taken her in and just didn’t know where she belonged since she’d run without her collar. I tried not to worry that she’d been hit by a car or gotten trapped somewhere.

I tried to call 311 and the local shelters and police precincts from my phone. I asked my husband to notify the local dog group FIDO Brooklyn from his computer at work. I blubbered a bit on the phone to him tears streaming down my face, but there was no time for that, the dogs had to get walked.

Maggie

The owner made flyers we all met at her house after work and worked long into the night flyering and looking. After dark the wind started blowing hard as I checked Prospect Park. I was freezing and hoped Maggie was inside somewhere warm.

I ran home for a coat and to take my dog, Phoebe, out.  She could be a wirey cousin of Maggie. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if a walker lost Phoebe. Getting angry at anyone was pointless, it was an accident and we were all trying to fix it. Phoebe, Dennis, and I walked back over to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie and headed home exhausted and depressed around 10 p.m.

I could barely sleep that night. In the morning I got up and sent a million emails with her photo and info to local dog walkers, shelters, day cares. I posted her picture on blogs. I printed up more flyers and flyered Park Slope asking friends to help. A friend took me all the way out to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control. After a long wait they took me for a walk through to see if she was in there. I looked through the bars at all the shivering desperate dogs but she wasn’t there. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at shelters so I think I handle it better than most people but I still got nauseous from the fumes and wanted to take everyone home.

I spent the rest of the day walking around with Phoebe and Dennis flyering and periodically checking in with the owners to see if there was any news. Nothing. Where could she be? This is every dog walker’s worst nightmare and I was living it. Not only was I worried about Maggie, but I also worried about the reputation of the business I’d been built over the past 12 years. Would people think we were irresponsible? Would we lose clients? It really didn’t matter anymore, all that mattered, was that we find Maggie. Surprisingly though, everyone was really supportive.

Sunday Dennis and I went to Manhattan’s branch of Animal Care and Control. If Maggie was picked up in the middle of the night, when the Brooklyn center was closed, they would have taken her up there. Another wait—I did see a touching scene of some owners finding their dog there—but no one was moving fast enough for me. Didn’t they see I had to find this dog now? She wasn’t there, so we walked down from Spanish Harlem to the ASPCA and checked there. Nothing.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s owners headed back to Brooklyn AC&C and did another walk through with a woman named D-Light (Of course). Nothing. Dennis and I headed back to Brooklyn to feed some cats and continue the search. Around 4 p.m. I got a call from a woman who’d seen our flyers in Park Slope. “I think I saw your dog running on Pacific and 3rd Avenue in Boreum Hill on Friday afternoon.” I couldn’t believe it was her. She would’ve had to have run over a mile and crossed the busy thoroughfares of Flathbush and 4th Avenues without getting hit. But she was a terrier—never underestimate a terrier.

I called the owners and we all headed to Boreum Hill to flyer. We started writing “reward” on all of the flyers, after hearing that sometimes people only call if money is involved. That night around 9 p.m. Maggie’s owners called me. “Someone called and said they have Maggie. They wanted some ‘compensation.’ They’re headed over,” she said.

“Ok Dennis and I are headed over,” I said. We debated calling the cops but didn’t want to spook the people who may have Maggie.  We hopped in a car service and headed over in case shit was going to go down. I called a dog walker I knew in Prospect Heights and told him to go over to their house in case we couldn’t make it there in time. I figured the more people we had there the less likely someone would try to pull something.

By the time our car had pulled up Maggie was sitting on the stoop with her owners in a happy reunion. The people that had her had accepted their $500 and left with their son in his boy scout uniform. I pulled some cheese out of my bag for Maggie and hugged the owners. I offered to reimburse them the money and buy her a GPS collar.

“We need a straight jacket for that dog,” I said.

Maggie jumped up and licked my face like nothing had happened. I wished I could’ve had a video camera to witness her big adventure. I was so thankful she made it home. “What a troublemaker you are!” I said to Maggie scratching her ears. Dennis and I headed home and finally got some sleep.

The next few days we spent recovering at work, tearing down flyers, and thanking everyone for helping us to find Maggie, the tenacious terrier.

On a side note—I will be reading more tales from DOGS OF BROOKLYN this Wed May 2 at 7 p.m. at Pianos on the Lower East Side at Freerange reading series. Come on down and say hello—never a dull moment!

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry

How a Dog Walker Paid off a 37K Student Loan in 6 Years

Me and the Dogs

At 25 I made the naïve mistake of getting an MFA in Creative Writing at a private college in New York City. I had moved to Brooklyn, NY when I was 22 from Florida after finishing my BA in English at Florida State University. For three years I floundered around in various jobs at a tattoo shop, TV and film, public and private schools, baby sitting, dog walking, selling produce at street fairs etc. You name it I did it. One thing that’s great about New York is that you can always find work, it may not be the work you want but there are plenty of odd jobs. Somehow I paid the meager rent in my sub-basement apartment (that’s right, below ground, one small shoebox window under a sewer grate) and was able to eat. There were night I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared about money and the future, but I had hope because I was in New York and it seemed anything was possible here.

In 2003 I thought it would be a good idea to get an MFA to hone my craft and build a local writing community/ connections. I didn’t want to leave New York so I applied to three schools—two local and one low residency. I only got into one school, so that’s where I went.  There was no thinking about how I’d pay for it. The school helped me apply for and set up a student loan program.  They had no teaching assistantships or scholarships really, though I think I was able to get a yearly 2k scholarship. They didn’t care how I paid back my loans either as long as they got paid.

I hadn’t done any research on schools with funding or really given it much thought at all. I thought when I graduated I’d just sell my novel and pay my student loans with the book advance. Needless to say that didn’t happen and when I graduated in 2005, I had $37,000 to pay back. Not only that but the MFA program was super unsupportive—both the faculty and students. Despite doing well in the program and really trying to connect with people I finished feeling no better off than when I’d started. A few years later when applying to residencies and then PHD programs I couldn’t even get letters of recommendation from most of my former teachers. I had to hit up my undergrad professors who are thankfully lovely generous people who have always been supportive of my work.

In case anyone is unaware, the job market is not pounding down the doors of people with MFA’s—shocking, I know.  After graduating, I worked in publishing production for about 5 minutes. I got a job at McGraw Hill in the building above Madison Square Garden. My parents finally thought I’d made it. I had an office job with benefits and a somewhat decent starting salary. I commuted everyday to the clusterfuck of Penn Station during rush hour. I tried my best at a job I wasn’t properly trained for. I routinely got yelled to the point of tears at for making mistakes though I was really doing my best. The florescent ceiling lights and soviet block architecture had me sitting on the steps of the main library on 34th street eating my lunch with the passed out bums just to be outside of that place. I got laid off 3 months later, had to move out of my apartment, and got dumped. 2005 was a stellar year.

When things fall apart sometimes it’s for the best. Some of the most painful times in my life have lead to the best changes.  I applied for deferment of my student loans. I thought about all of the jobs I’d had so far. The only one I somewhat enjoyed was dog walking. I called up a few dog walkers I knew in the neighborhood and told them I was available for work if they needed help. Luckily one did. I worked for her for a few months then started my own dog walking and pet sitting business full time since I’d always been doing this on the side anyways.

I was so angry at the world and the writing community for not publishing my book or being supportive that I quit writing and just played in punk/noise bands for a few years. Once I was making a little money I started doing minimum payments on my loan though I was really resentful and angry. I felt like the school had taken advantage of my naiveté  by charging all this money for essentially a useless degree. Resentment though is like drinking poison and hoping the other person (or school) will die.

My dog business continued to grow as my bands fell apart, now I was angry at music for the same reasons as the writing community. I even resented dog walking despite loving the dogs, because I felt like I was this super educated person picking up dog shit for a living. The truth was I was afraid it was all I could do and that it wasn’t  “good” enough in my eyes or in the eyes of the world. I started to have problems with my health- chronic ankle pain, a burst appendix that landed me in the hospital for a while, and then getting hit by a car. Thank god I’d started to hire people to work with me at that point with the dogs or I would’ve completely lost my whole business.  I’d also met and started dating a really nice supportive guy around that time which helped me get through it.

Some time on my ass in hospitals and at home helped me be grateful for the things I did have instead of always looking at what I didn’t have. Up till then I’d had my health, a family who loved me, and a job that supported me. I started to realize the least common denominator in all of my problems was me and my thinking. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself for all the things life wasn’t giving me and start being grateful for what I had. As for my job I was clearly in this dog walking profession for a reason and maybe instead of thinking it was beneath me, I’d just try to do the best at it I could. I finally grew up and accepted life on life’s terms and decided to go out there and do the best I could with what I had. This is when things really started to change for me.

I began to learn about dog training and help clients train their dogs to make their relationships and lives easier. I let go of the rock scene. It didn’t really do much for my mental health—it was more of a spiritual vacuum than writing ever had been. I began writing again, working on a book of poems about Brooklyn and the dogs to give a voice to this odd life of mine, and the characters, animal and human, I encountered everyday.  My boyfriend began photographing the dogs to go along with my poems to help me with my book.

I took responsibility for my student loans and began to attack them with everything I had. I paid as much as I could every month instead of paying the minimum and being depressed thinking that I’d never pay them off. The dog walking business fluctuates—some weeks it’s great and some weeks are slow. When I’d have fear about money I’d pay more on my loans, or give an employee a raise, or contribute a little to a charity. I call this daring God to financially take care of me—faith in action. I wanted proof that I’d be taken care of. Initially, I’d do it and sort of cover my eyes afterwards waiting for the ceiling to fall in. It never did. Inevitably, I’d get a new client or business would pick up with training or pet sitting. I learned that instead of holding on so tight to money, if I trusted the universe that there would be more money, there actually was.

The most amazing thing that happened was that one day my parents (who are not rich) called me up and said they wanted to help me. They wanted to give me a yearly contribution of 5K for my student loans. I was really proud and hadn’t asked my parents for money since I’d left Florida and felt weird about it. I told them I’d think about it. After thinking about it I told them I’d take it, but only if I could match it every year. I figured it would be tight but I could try to pay $400 a month or more towards loans. This was in 2008, I think. I still had 30K in loans so I figured if I did this for 3 years I’d be done.

Dogs of Brooklyn cover designed by Claudean Wheeler

In 2010 I finished the poetry book I’d been working on and started submitting it to publishers. I got the same lackluster response as my novel did, though I had some poems published in magazines and even got paid for one by Dog Fancy Magazine. After a year and a half of this I was done. I talked to a friend in publishing about self-publishing and she actually said it was the best way to go these days. I hired a book designer and worked hard with friends to edit it etc. The result, Dogs of Brooklyn, can be bought by clicking here!

I had all these notions that I wouldn’t be accepted by the publishing world if I self-published. Maybe I won’t, but I’ll have something tangible to show for all of my work and that’s all that matters to me right now. I’ve had friends publish with major publishers and barely make any money or get any help with promotion from them—it didn’t solve all their problems in other words. Once again I found I needed to change MY thinking about things. I seem to be the only one limiting my own success with narrow ideas of what success means.

Dennis, Me, our dog Phoebe at Wedding in Prospect Park

This year I also married the supportive, non-punk rock/artist, but wonderful man I’ve dated the past 3 years. I never thought I’d marry someone who works for the government, but I guess two crazy/moody artist types just makes for double the crazy. Again, not who I thought I’d end up with, I had to be open-minded, and am so glad I was. He accepts me, and my crazy animals and is smart, funny, and easy on the eyes.

I sent in my final student loan payment last night. I only had to accept 2 of my parent’s contributions. The rest I paid myself and I’m proud of that. I believe so much is possible if I can just be more open-minded. Sometimes when one door closes or won’t open, you got to take a window.  Next on the agenda, trying to buy an upstate property for dog and Susie sanity, seems impossible but who knows! Happy 2012!!!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

Self-hatred and Self Publishing

19th century illustration of La Fontaine's Fables by Jean Grandville

I have been in the pit of despair, climbed out, and then jumped right back in. Living in Brooklyn, NY I am surrounded by successful writers and artists- some lucky ones are even making their living off their art. I have been writing stories and poems since the age of 9 or 10 and my dream has always been to publish a book. I followed this dream through undergraduate and graduate school. I rang up quite a bit of debt getting my MFA in creative writing at New School University. I thought I’d finish my novel sell it and pay off my grad school loans with the book advance. That didn’t happen. I finished a novel that was the best a twenty-something writer could do but probably wasn’t very good and needless to say didn’t get published. I also didn’t publish my first collection of poems despite publishing a few here and there in various literary magazines. I was so disgruntled I stopped writing for a few years and just played in bands screaming my head off and being angry at the world. Those bands sadly didn’t take off either.

During all of this I started to find my way in a career of dog walking and dog training. At first it was really humbling to see artists around me publishing books and having their bands succeed while I was battling the elements picking up dog doo. In 2007 I found myself a few years out of grad school with nothing to show for it except a lot of debt and bitterness. One of my awesome undergrad poetry professors David Kirby was nominated for a National Book Award around that time. He and Barbara Hamby, my favorite poet and mentor, came up to NYC for the ceremony and I had breakfast with them. I spewed all of my garbage and disappointment at them and they kindly said “Why don’t you write about being a dog walker in Brooklyn?” Thus began the my book of poems “Dogs of Brooklyn.”

I worked on it for 2-3 years carefully crafting and editing poems. I had other friends and writers look over the work, published some poems in various literary magazines, and did some readings. When the book was “finished” (are books every really finished?), I began sending it out to all the first book contests in the back of Poets and Writers Magazine and to lots of different publishers. My then boyfriend, now husband, Dennis Riley photographed the dogs and we thought about making it a photo/poetry book. For a year and a half I spent money and time trying to get other people to publish and approve of my work. I was also writing for BOMB magazine interviewing poets on their work. In combing through the pile of books they get sent for review I definitely saw that while my book wasn’t maybe the best it also wasn’t the worst. I’m constantly amazed by some of the amazing books that get published and some of the ones I cannot believe got published. I felt like while I may not be the best poet out their I certainly am not the worst. But I also came to understand that in the hyper-intellectual world literary world poems about dogs aren’t always accepted.

I realized the people who liked my work weren’t necessarily the literary world, but regular folks who loved animals and Brooklyn. While I could sit around and be bummed that The New Yorker (who’s poetry I rarely enjoy) won’t publish my work, I realized that being yet another disgruntled artist really wasn’t productive. I come from a background of publishing my own zines in high school and being in the DIY punk rock band scene who put out their own records. I decided that even if the literary scene doesn’t believe in me, I do, so I will publish my book.

I’ve been working on it the past few months with a designer and some volunteer editors. I can’t tell you the highs and lows of this experience. There are days where I’m really excited about it and days where I’m filled with so much doubt, despair, and self-hatred I find it hard to function. I’ve received some really lovely feedback from folks in the writing community and some not so nice feedback. The format I’ve decided to publish in probably won’t support photos the best so I may have to publish it without them to keep costs down, and that is disappointing. We are still figuring it out.

There are times where I question why the hell I’m even bothering doing this. I guess overall I’m doing this as a gift to myself. I’ve worked so hard on various writing/ creative projects that haven’t seen the light of day and when you spend years working on something I guess you want something tangible to show for that. Maybe its a huge mistake, maybe I’ll never have a writing career with a faculty position at some college and have the admiration of all my peers (sounds a little like high school right?) But at least I’ll know that I tried my hardest to respect the work I’ve done and time I’ve invested.

It’s funny though in talking to my friends who have “made it” and are having success with their artistic careers they still struggle too particularly with money. It seems odd to me that they have published books and still sometimes have to juggle multiple adjunct jobs etc just to pay the rent. I’ve been really lucky that I have established a career working with dogs and I’ve always been able to pay my bills for the most part and have time to write. It may not be the most prestigious job, but particularly since I started training dogs, I get to really help people and their animals. I guess in this “race” I’m the tortoise and not the hare. I’m slowly getting okay with that.

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Filed under Art, Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

It’s Not a Muzzle, it’s a Gentle Leader!

“Why is that dog wearing a muzzle?” is a question I get at least once a week, to which I respond, “It’s not a muzzle, it’s a Gentle Leader.” A muzzle and a Gentle Leader are two very different types of equipment, this and other common misconceptions prompts me to write a little about dog equipment.

Pooh wearing a Gentle Leader photo by Dennis Riley

Gentle Leaders may be one of the best dog equipment inventions of the last decade. Similar to a horse bridal it goes over the nose and behind the ears but still allows a dog to open its mouth, pant, and breathe normally. When a dog pulls forward it puts pressure on the nose instead of the neck and, therefore decreases pulling an immense amount. I couldn’t do my job as a dog walker without them. These work great on big strong breeds like German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Burmese Mountain Dogs, etc. They take some getting used to by the dogs and they often try to pull them off with their paws initially but once they get used to them they usually forget about it and walk normally. I much prefer the Gentle Leader and teaching the Heel command to dogs that tend to pull than using Prong Collars or Choke Chains. If your dog’s nose is particularly sensitive you can wrap the nose portion with Moleskin found in the foot care aisle of the drug store.

This IS a muzzle:

And this is a ridiculous muzzle for short-nosed dogs (as if they didn’t have enough trouble breathing):

I only recommend muzzles when a dog has been known to bite and it should accompany some serious dog training to correct the behavior. But the majority of dogs don’t need a muzzle.

The other collar I like is a slip or training collar. This is what dogs in dog shows wear high up on the neck right behind the ears and under the jaw bone so its not pressing on the windpipe. Its very effective in guiding a dog without a lot of force.

I’ve walked about 20 dogs a day for the past 10 years and tried a lot of equipment and a gentle leader or slip lead and a simple flat 4 to 6 foot leash is my preference for making a walk enjoyable for both the dog and the walker.

Equipment I don’t like:

Easy walk harnesses and harnesses in general. Harnesses were invented by people to have animals pull things for us so if your dog pulls and you use a harness you’re shooting yourself in the foot. I understand in some cases like a collapsed windpipe these are the best option but I’ve just found that dogs pull more with harnesses unless you put in the time to train the Heel Command which most people don’t. Also younger dogs try to chew on the leash when wearing an Easy Walk harness since it is in front of their face.

I will say the Easy Walk is great for older, mellow dogs but that’s not what most people are using them for.

Lastly extendable leashes- oy vey! I actually tell my clients they need to provide a regular leash if they want me to walk their dog, I won’t walk them with an extendable for the following reasons:

1- This is the city and there are several people on the sidewalk that don’t need to get clothes lined by a long extendable leash.

2- It teaches a dog to pull as opposed to walking near the handler.

3- I walk up to 4 dogs at a time and a big plastic handled extendable leash is a nightmare to juggle with 3 other leashes.

Again there are some exceptions, like if you’re house training a dog and they won’t eliminate near you and you need the distance, or if you live in the country, I suppose.

Other than those two I really don’t have a problem with most equipment. All dogs are different and some equipment may work better on them than others. However, no equipment is a substitute to good old obedience training. So get a clicker and some treats and get to work, training is a great way to bond with your dog and challenge them. Most dogs crave a challenge or a job instead of just sitting around the house all day!

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Filed under dog training, Dogs