According to the kind of website that tracks such things, Chicago is the dog-friendliest city in the U.S. Don’t tell that to New Yorkers. As is their way, they’ll gladly share their dissenting opinion: No one loves their canine pals more than we do. Yes, we can even be a little, uh, preoccupied with them. (Please stop putting outfits on your dogs, people. No animal is improved by a Knicks jersey/ruffled pinafore/sun visor.) Sometimes we’re powerless to resist those warm, liquid eyes and that heart-melting expression pleading, “Take me with yooooouuuuu!” So lace up your walking shoes (they’re going to get dusty, by the way), grab the leash, silence the cell, and head to the Village, where you can’t throw a bone without hitting a dog nut and her pooch.
1. Third Rail Coffee
When it comes to endurance and enthusiasm, dogs will usually outlast you, so your first stop is Third Rail Coffee, where you can caffeinate-up to even the playing field. Probably not strictly allowed by the Dept. of Health, the warm and charming staff still welcome well-behaved dog guests. Unlike its tourist-barraged and inferior competition in the Village, this is the wee coffee bar that draws the locals — NYU students, yoga moms, writers who use real notebooks and artists who use real pens, harried professionals grabbing a cuppa on the fly. They have the best iced coffee I’ve ever tasted (they’ll divulge the secret if you ask), brew Stumptown coffee by the cup, and serve a mean cortado.
2. Washington Square Park dog runs
Since its renovation, Washington Square Park has an expansive, genteel vibe. Even the Stanford White arch got a good scrub down. One major upgrade is the creation of a dog park for pooches 25 lbs. and under. (A run for larger dogs is in the works; for now the existing run suffices if you don’t mind tatty benches and dust clouds.) Though small, the new run is beloved for its sprinklers, dog-scaled water fountain, log sculpture, and a self-cleaning system that prevents the wafting scent of eau de pew. And it’s the ideal perch for people watching, which is practically a sport in the Village. It’s a friendly crowd, with the occasional salty old timer who adds just enough color — and unsolicited oral history — to distinguish this run from its more generic counterparts.
3. LaGuardia Corner Gardens
I’ve lived in the Village for more than 20 years, and while I don’t want to go all political on you, dear reader, it’s disheartening to watch the NYU juggernaut gobble up real estate like a Bullmastiff at a barbecue. The LaGuardia Corner Gardens is an antidote to the urban sprawl. Established in 1981, it’s a homey but beautifully tended and cultivated refuge. To my surprise, volunteer Diana Alutto quickly reassured me that Reggie was welcomed. As we wound around the bordered paths she explained the dozens of flower species — so lush and exploding with color that the Morton-Williams on the other side of the fence felt like a visual insult — and also gave us a brief chronology of the gardens in that voluble way New Yorkers have that leaves you feeling like you’ve known them for years.
NYU plans to build 7 towers right next door, so you may want to sign the petition near the potting shed on your way out.
For more on Erika, click here.
Photo Credit: Liz Flock