“Can I pet your dog?” And other NYC stories

I hear variations of ‘can I pet/stroke your dog/pup’ every day. Alfie is very popular here in NYC. There are a few border collies here (and quite a number of Australian shepherds – smaller with a stub for a tail) but not that many and although I say it myself, he is particularly handsome. The approaches go from lunging at him unexpectedly to surreptitious touching when people think I can’t see – it is hilarious! 

Walking home through Central Park then down along 72nd Street, across Columbus and Amsterdam to catch the Broadway ‘Uptown 1’ train to Debbie’s after watching a French film in the open air the other night, I swear I was stopped about 15 times by people – mainly guys.

One guy said “I have one of these at home. I just love them”. Others remark on their intelligence and, it is true, that Alfie is very bright, knowing his way to places after just one time going there. 

I love walking back through Central Park at night when there are lots of people leaving together. You feel so safe and the twinkling lights from the skyscrapers contrast with the darkness of the trees, illuminated by the pretty lamps.

On Saturday 9 May “Summerstage” hosted Ensemble LPR – an orchestra playing the whole of Bowie’s Blackstar album with an amazing cello player in the role of Bowie’s voice! Because I had Alfie with me we sat on the lawn outside with lots of other people watching nightfall and enjoying the music.

Apart from the Pain Quotidien Cafe in Central Park (at the level of 66th street, West), there is also the ‘Ballfield Cafe’ (around 63rd, East) so-called because it is right next to the Ballfield. It is quieter than the other cafe which is opposite Sheep Meadow and often full of noisy children.

I met a woman while I was walking around and she helped me discover the delights of the hidden cafe with its dogs and their owners. Alfie enjoys watching the birds and the squirrels climbing around the trees. 

The other evening we lingered in the park and got chatting to some corporate people playing softball in the ballpark. It was fun to watch. They had sliders (small hamburgers) as well as cookies and bottles of water, all of which I was invited to partake of.

Alfie enjoyed the beef from the sliders… Someone had left a fold-down dog bowl which I was given for Alfie and use every day. I love the ‘nyc water’ logo inside it. 

Walking back I ended up chatting to the doorman at the ‘Tavern on the Green’ for ages while Alfie charmed everyone going in and out.

The Tavern on the Green is beautifully illuminated with hundreds of fairy lights in the garden at night. 

The park is well surveilled, with the NYPD driving up and down, as well as the Parks Department vehicles. One advantage of walking at night is that after 9 p.m. dogs can be off the lead (or ‘off-leash’ in American-speak)

Alfie made a big hit at the Shakespeare Sonnet Slam at the Naumburg bandshell in Central Park. I recited a sonnet with him in tow last year and was asked if I wanted to repeat the experience.

Alfie sat patiently on stage and at the end when the clapping started he just stared out at the audience lapping up the applause – so he got a second helping! 

Not only has he identified the cat at the pet shop on Broadway, but he realised that his vet, in Harlem, has a cat, too. He tries to drag me towards either cat if I am going in their direction. 

Unfortunately, we now have Canine Flu here. It was first reported from a ‘doggie day care establishment in Williamsburg and it has now hit Manhattan. Vets are suggesting 2 vaccinations 3 weeks apart.

It is too late to do that for Alfie and so I went out and bought him Phosphorous 30c that is recommended for chests and flu – dogs as well as humans.  I am using it as a preventative.

Alfie has been relatively well but when it has been hot (though mercifully for us – but maybe not for everyone – it has been cool) it can be challenging. He seems to become immediately lethargic and the next day when it is cooler he is back to being fine. 

As I said, the weather has been cool for the time of year apart from some blisteringly hot days. We had a massive storm come through while Alfie and I were walking back from the park. Everything seemed to go from calm to huge winds in a matter of seconds.

We were just near a Fire-station so of course, had to dip in there amongst the lovely guys!

Suddenly 2 of them started running as we saw a huge metal sheet fall 200 feet from some scaffolding. Luckily no-one was underneath but a police car, across the way, was damaged. We ended up walking some more and then waiting in a laundromat (to which we were beckoned by the Chinese owners) while the rain bounced off the sidewalks and the streets became rivers.

The following day, 3 trees were down in Riverside Park near to where we are living. 

An interesting fact is that 97% of New Yorkers live within ten minutes of a park. Apart from Central Park – the best one, of course – we enjoy Riverside every morning, where since we arrived the ground has gone from mud to some grass, though nowhere near as lush as in England. 

On one of the daily e mails I receive with various events (the best being ‘The Skint’) there was a Central Park ‘Foraging in North Wood’ event.

We set off but somehow I didn’t find the starting point so we wandered aimlessly through North Wood – that I discovered to be much bigger than I realised.

We met a dog-walking group, an orienteering group and a bird-watching group, but no foragers! It was raining and the vegetation was lush. An enjoyable time, even if we didn’t find what we were looking for!

Alfie and I decided to try Inwood Park – in North Manhattan (around 250th Street).

There was a pow-wow for the First Nation population and we enjoyed walking around (and in Alfie’s case, managing to run in some lush grass).

They had a sound installation in the forest where there were about 20 speakers hanging off the trees with different chants emanating from them. Really cool. 

So although I enjoy rushing around with Debbie in the evenings, the days are mainly devoted to doing things with Alfie.

He and Ellie (Debbie’s dog) get on brilliantly and love to be with each other, fortunately for us! 

Although I have no doubt that Alfie loves Bristol more, he is managing in NYC and, of course, getting all of those cuddles and strokes from the locals….. 

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