Stay Lassie: 5 ways to hang out with dogs in Brooklyn (if you can’t actually own one)

Stay Lassie: 5 ways to hang out with dogs in Brooklyn (if you can't actually own one)

This person is not being weird. She is merely sitting *near* the dog. via Instagram user @sourayajureidini

I want a dog. Bad. I’m suffering from retriever fever; I’m not sound without a hound; I’d be merrier with a terrier. I long for a pup of my own, but I know I can’t get one. I’m too busy to give him the attention and exercise he needs, and too broke to afford a dog walker. Plus, the idea of keeping a dog locked up by himself in my apartment all day just sucks.

I know I’m not the only one in this predicament, because I talk to lit’rally everyone I know about it. They all want dogs, too. And why shouldn’t they? Dogs are happy, silly, fluffy bundles of unconditional love. You’d have to be crazy to not want one! Dogs have health benefits too, including lowering your stress and blood pressure levels. Maybe our hectic New York lifestyles and tiny, non-pet friendly apartments won’t allow us to be happy dog owners, but we can persevere. There are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of puppy time even if you can’t adopt one yourself. We’ve compiled just such a list of ways to seek out temporary canine companions in the city (and tips on how not to come off as a creepy weirdo while doing so). 

Visit a dog park
Brooklyn is a borough that loves its puppies, so almost every major neighborhood park has a dog run: McCarren in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Maria Hernandez in Bushwick, Herbert Von King in Bed-Stuy, Brower in Crown Heights… the list goes on. Prospect Park’s off-leash area even has a beach for dogs to swim at. That’s right, my friends. Steps past the entrance on Prospect Park West at 9th St., experience dogs in their most joyous state: jumping into water and getting caked in the mud they’ll track through their owners’ apartments later. Pure bliss. No human swimming is allowed, unfortunately.

Don’t be a weirdo: I suggest tagging along with a friend who owns a dog, or borrowing a friend’s dog for the afternoon (under the pretense of dog-sitting, of course) so you aren’t just a lurking observer.

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Hang out with these dogs, if you're into the poker-playing, beer-drinking type. via Lucky Dog FB

Hang out with these dogs, if you’re into the poker-playing, beer-drinking type. via Lucky Dog FB

Enjoy a beer + shot (+ pup) combo
What’s better than drinking at a dive bar? Drinking at a dive bar while surrounded by puppies! Spend a Sunday afternoon at a bar like Williamsburg’s Luckydog, that allows furry friends inside. They’ve got a huge selection of craft beer on tap plus a $5 High Life and shot combo (don’t worry, it’s not the fancy stuff). Luckydog’s patio has a fire pit and shuffleboard tables, and it’s just teeming with dogs that want to be your friends [Note: Luckydog has been fickle with their dog-allowing policy lately thanks to run ins with the Department of Health, so hope you catch them on a good day. You’ll also catch dogs at The Levee (212 Berry St.) and some other spots that don’t advertise them directly.]

Don’t be a weirdo: Tempting though it may be to just walk up to a cute pup and start a conversation, try to talk to the humans before shifting your attention to their dogs. It’s always a good idea to ask if you’re allowed to pet someone’s dog before you do, for the sake of your and their safety and for the sake of adhering to social norms. You might even score yourself some new dog-owning friends, which are always handy to have.

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You can even post selfies with the dog! No one will mind! via Instagram user dijornoo

You can even post selfies with these dogs! No one will mind! via Instagram user dijornoo

Volunteer at an animal shelter
There are roughly a zillion animal shelters in NYC that are always looking for volunteers to help them care for rescue puppies. BARC shelter (253 Wythe Ave.) in Williamsburg has volunteer dog walking hours that are totally open to the animal-loving public, no application or sign-ups necessary! Just stop by Tuesday-Saturday mornings from 9:30am-noon or Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:30pm, and their staff will pair you up with a four-legged pal to take on a 20-30 minute walk. You’ll be doing something good for the world and get some quality one-on-one puppy time. How great is that?

Don’t be a weirdo: You’d have to try really hard to be a creep while you’re volunteering your time to better your community, but if you really need some instruction, I guess just don’t kidnap any dogs and take them home without telling anyone. That wouldn’t be cool. Okay? Good talk.

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Why walk just one dog when you can walk five?  via Flickr user Gunnar

Why walk just one dog when you can walk five? via Flickr user Gunnar

Become a part-time dog walker
Maybe volunteering gave you an epiphany. Maybe you realized that dog-walking was really your one true passion, the thing you were put on this Earth to do. Well, it’s like I always say: do what you love, even if it makes your parents nervous. There are plenty of pet care companies around the city who are always looking to hire part time dog-walkers, and they’re very easy to find (they often advertise on Craigslist). Many will only hire people who are willing to commit to set weekday hours for six months to a year, which can be a little bit tricky if you aren’t quite ready to abandon all of your other ambitions for a life of toting around leashes and poop bags. For a little more flexibility you can just create a profile on a site like Rover, Care or Taskrabbit, any of which will allow you to hawk your dog walking services independently.

Don’t be a weirdo: Remember that when you walk someone else’s dog, you are essentially the dog’s babysitter. That does not make him yours. Don’t question his owner’s dog parenting decisions. Don’t go crazy on the Instagrams. Though you may love him dearly, I cannot reiterate enough: this is not your dog.

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Teach them the doggie paddle. Connie Ma / Flickr

You can teach them the doggie paddle. Connie Ma / Flickr

Move to the country and open a summer camp for dogs
If all else fails and you’re still craving dog days, it might be time for you to give up on Brooklyn altogether. Don’t pen an essay about moving to LA, though; just pack your things and move upstate, where you can open a dogs-only summer camp, like this one in Pennsylvania. All you need is a house with a lot of acreage and a few eager summer camp counselors, probably dog-lovers like yourself. You’ll offer services like door-to-door dog transportation to and from camp, and wealthy city folks who summer in Montauk will thank you for giving their dogs a character-building experience that forges new friendships and makes the kind of memories that last them a lifetime.

Don’t be a weirdo: Just kidding, you can be as weird as you want. It’s your dog summer camp! Teach dogs how to play Capture The Flag. Direct an all-dog camp production of Annie and cast a human as Sandy. Gather all your puppy campers around the bonfire, roast anything but hot dogs (trigger warning), and have them howl to the tune of anything written by Leonard Cohen. You built this dog summer camp from nothing, and you deserve to enjoy it.

Follow Kelsey’s dog days at: @sodywater

4 Comment

  • I’d advise against taking a dog that isn’t yours to a dog park unless you’ve been “madly involved” with that dog. Some dogs aren’t well-socialized, others don’t listen to anyone but their owners or get nervous when realizing their owners aren’t within smelling’s distance. A couple weeks ago I saw a guy get bit pretty bad at Tompkins Sq dog park by a dog that had been taken there by a dog-sitting friend who didn’t know that his friend’s dog got macho in group situations.

  • Other options if you have a pet-friendly apartment but a hectic schedule that doesn’t let you be a full-time owner:

    (1) Foster! We’ve fostered a few times through Badass Brooklyn – rescue dogs can be a bit of a handful but it’s good practice if you’re thinking about adopting.

    (2) Sign up for DogVacay and get paid to watch dogs, As opposed to fostering, the pups are usually housetrained/can be left unsupervised and you can be picky about size, dates, etc.

  • I’m also too busy to have a dog but I love them~~ I don’t know that there are so many ways to play with them in free time. Thank you for sharing!
    Oh! as people said, dog park is not a good choice… and maybe it will be hard to play with dog that used to be mistreated there.