Walking Safely Isn’t A No-Brainer

I marvel at the many dog walkers I see wearing headphones or talking on the phone, dogs attached to belt loops, while crossing even the busiest intersections. I’m safety obsessed, probably due to my vast, and sometimes unfortunate, experience in all facets of animal care. I’ve rushed badly injured dogs into vet clinics, sobbing owners in tow, and assisted the vets as they fruitlessly attempted to save fading lives. Seeing the results of auto injuries and dog fights day after day as a veterinary technician was more than I could bear, because an animal in pain is sheer torture for me. You can explain injuries to at least adult humans, but animals have only to fear the worst.

(This walker is sort-of famous all over Chelsea/The Flatiron/The Village because he always has 10 to 15 dogs with him, and they miraculously stay exactly where he places them in the pack. He clearly uses some kind of Jedi mind control).

As a dog walker, I’ve heard horror stories of dogs escaping from collars and taking off across 7th Avenue at rush-hour, and I’ve helped other walkers retrieve escapees more than once. In absorbing my environment for the last five years, I’ve concluded that my level of attentiveness is abnormal, but it’s the reason I’ve never even had a close call, safety-wise. I’ve been told by more than a few graduate psych professors that I was both a high self-monitor and a highly sensitive person (the latter of which is actually an acronymized trait, apparently), meaning, I process sensory data, especially that which relates to and affects me and my dogs directly, much more deeply and thoroughly than most people. It’s as exhausting as it sounds, but it adds up to my hearing, seeing and even feeling every possible danger before it becomes dangerous. For example, I cross every intersection with my dogs’ noses pulled well behind my knees, just in case a bicycle delivery person decides to zoom past stopped cars and run his red light. That exact scenario took place a few weeks ago, and had I not instructed Summer to heel as we crossed 7th Avenue and 26th Street, the bicyclist’s tire would have met Summer’s head instead of my right Timberland (which, consequently, was sturdy enough to knock him over and keep my foot unscathed). If I’d had headphones on, or had been chatting on the phone while holding her leash loosey-goosey, it could have been a very, VERY bad day.

Another aspect of walking safety that many people take for granted is equipment reliability. Most accidents occur because collars are too loose or harnesses are ill-fitted. Putting an Easy-Walk harness on backwards can allow dogs to compress their shoulder blades and slip out easily, while Puppia harnesses have been completely outlawed by many dog walking companies due to their high escapability (I know a Schipperke who was startled by a child and simply backed out of hers, running right into a cab’s front tire and…phew!…living to bark about it). Before trusting your dog’s collar or harness and leash on the mean streets, make a safety checklist.

Collar or Harness Fit – Does your dog’s collar stay as tight as it should (you should be able to get only two fingers between it and your dog’s neck, especially if you have a breed with a small head-to-neck circumference ratio), or does the fabric allow it to slide loose? Decorative collars often focus less on security than aesthetic appeal, so I steer clear of shiny, un-ribbed fabrics, spiffy though they may be. If you choose a harness, read the instructions thoroughly, and ask a trainer (NOT a vet, they are not experts in equipment safety and routinely give wrong advice, in my experience) or consult a video how-to if you’re not absolutely certain you’re using it correctly. I always supplement harnesses with a noose-style safety leash, because construction that prevents pulling most effectively does not always prevent escape. Remember, panicked dogs often back up rather than running forward, and many harnesses can turn your dog into a little Houdini by not accounting for this.

Leash Compatibility – Yet another consideration is how your dog’s leash attaches to his collar or harness. If the metal rings on a harness are too large to fit inside the leash’s hook without creating resistance as it moves, the hook can be popped open, freeing your dog. Likewise, even the sturdiest leash hooks can be made moot by other details, like release tabs that are too large. I discovered recently that Jackson’s new leash, which I immediately applauded his parents for buying since it looks impenetrable, was faulty when combined with his tiny harness. When he lunged for a squirrel in Madison Square Park, the leash clasp suddenly released from one of the harness rings, scaring me half to death and prompting me to buy an additional safety leash. I took the video below to demonstrate how it happens, just in case we should ever need to seek legal recourse with the leash’s maker. You can see here why twisting, turning and generally manhandling your leash and collar/harness combo is essential to knowing it will stick…because even the most well-trained dog is going to throw you a curve occasionally in this unpredictable metropolis.

The way I see it, with my Spidey senses, New York City is an accident waiting to happen. It’s a doomsday mentality, I’ll admit, but it doesn’t mean my dogs and I don’t have fun…in fact, I would say we have even MORE fun knowing we’ll always make it home safely.

Mad City

The second most fun thing about dog walking in NYC (first is the dogs, obviously) is never knowing what or who we’re going to see, and dramatic events seem to enjoy company. This particular Monday was the delightful variety of exciting.

Frequenters of Chelsea and the Flatiron tend to become desensitized to film productions, but even the natives have to stop and snap pics when a car is being hoisted in the air by a crane. We cleared out before it was dropped on the cab. I love how unimpressed Ke$ha is. She has the aloof New Yorker vibe down to perfection here.

Ke$h was still amped up by all the movie gawkers when we came upon the Neapolitan Express pizza truck near Madison Square Park, and these promoters were ready for her. They gave us a free pizza for posing in a pic with them, and it was aMAzing (Ke$ha got chicken strip treats, NOT pizza…there will be no runs on my watch!).

Sometimes ya just gotta dance on a cab. Candy, Yoyo and I were sure this woman was going to fall, but she had the agility of a mountain goat…and in heels!

Weekend Pupdate

Sorry for the delay folks! I’ve decided to post weekly on Fridays (and I think I should get a pass on being two days late this week because a) Nemo happened and b) last Thursday was my birthday), since my least favorite thing about blogs is the pressure to post even when nothing blogworthy has happened (you can only see your dog pointing at squirrels SO many times). But if, say, I catch a shot of a squirrel drinking a cappuccino with his pinky sticking out while being pointed at, I will do a spontaneous daily post.

Summer and Jackson playtime is video-worthy every time. They’re the two best friends that anyone could have (yes the two best friends that anyone could have). Apologies for the camera flip, my husband just told me he has a stiff neck after craning to watch this.

Ke$ha always tries to go on the art viewing benches in MSP when people are lying on them. She thinks it’s an invitation to cuddle.
This is what Ke$ha does when I give her a RRREEEAAALLLLLLYYY tasty treat. It’s hilarious.

Candy and Yoyo pulled me toward the PetCo at Union Square. They’re not often opinionated about where we walk, so I indulge them when they are.

Rocky and Bullwinkle played tug-o-war as the sun went down.

Jackson’s mom and dad completely surprised me with a birthday card and beautiful gift. I was so moved.
My pups knew they were about to get frosting.

What’s A Friday In Manhattan Without Some Chaos?

A water main break at 23rd and Broadway turned a normally congested and crazy Friday into an absolute circus. Jackson inspected the situation and was pretty sure he knew where the problem was and could fix it, if only someone would’ve asked him.

What a mess. Ke$ha tends to get anxious around loud noises, especially from machinery (idling truck motors are her nemeses), but this scene was exciting to her. Workers with neon jackets seem to have a gravitational pull on her, maybe because she knows she’s free to maul their tough Carhartt coats and gloves since they’re always receptive. Life is a contact sport for Ke$ha, and she’s always looking for the next person who’ll play with her, so we work on understanding the difference between a lady wearing platform stilettos who might tip over and a construction worker who’s clearly up for a wrestle. And she always reigns it in when I ask her to, as evidenced below (good girl!).

An impromptu play session with Olive (Ke$ha sees her from across the park and starts crying, she loves her so much!) and another pup. They couldn’t have cared less if they had running water at home. Note the sweet kiss the multicolored pup was giving Ke$ha.

Candy was cold in the shade, so I stuffed her into my coat for a warm-up.

Summer and Jason joined us. Such a fluffy, attractive trio (the dogs, not Jason…though he does need a haircut).

Foreboding clouds crept in at the close of the day. Happy weekend everypup!

We Actually Might Be In Kansas Now

The strong winds today created hundreds of mini trash tornadoes and jostled huge signs hanging overhead. Some of my pups thought it was the apocalypse and stuck close to me (everyone but Jackson), and others took it as a challenge and chased every piece of flying debris and barked at dangling billboards (Jackson!). No pics of those moments, unfortunately, I was busy making sure no one’s eye was impaled.

Ke$ha and I escaped the wind tunnels to a sunny section of the park, just in time to watch tourists feed a very friendly squirrel.

This shot of Emma struggling to walk west with me toward the piers illustrates how powerful the wind was. She was working so hard it looks like she’s running.

It Was A Beautiful Day

Summer and Jackson let off so much steam together, which is a wonderful thing for their parents. Still shots are impossible once playtime starts.

The nice people at the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck always offer a teensy bit of vanilla to pups of patrons. And Yoyo looks like ice cream, so it’s fitting.
Candy and Yoyo love surprise visits from Jason (my husband) because his pants are always dirty and they know they can jump on them.

Half a second later, this hipster lost his finger. Just kidding, Rocky licked him and he told us to have a beautiful day. And then there was a lovely sunset…awwww.

That’s Better

This is what happens every day when we round the corner of 22nd and 7th. Summer didn’t care about the puppies on the other side of the glass until she realized she was free and they weren’t. Now she taunts them. Jackson can’t be bothered with youngsters since he’s a big boy now (that sounds ridiculous but it’s really how he acts), and instead wanted to play with the ladies at OMG Jeans who were clapping and dancing to “Girl On Fire.” Then they ran because some people think Summer is a polar bear.

Ke$ha usually thinks it’s lame when street musicians start playing “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” when she walks by, but she has the decency to stop and listen to the handicapable guitarist’s rendition every time.

Emma and I enjoyed our gray afternoon walk along the pier.