Have you ever found yourself feeling at least a little bad for city dogs? Of course city dwellers love their pups just as much as people in the country or in the 'burbs, but the lifestyle is just so different. City dogs don't have backyards, for the most part. They usually live in apartments, with less space to roam and run. It's easy for us to assume that city dogs are bummed about their zip codes, but now, one man has actually gone to the source for answers.
Ken Foster, who runs a Bronx-based community outreach program in New York City for the Animal Care Centers of NYC, interviewed more than 4,000 dogs (and their humans—but the dogs are the important part, obviously) and got to the root of what makes city dogs tick. The 54-year-old dog-lover traveled the five boroughs along with photographer, Traer Scott, to meet with New York dogs in their element. The pair are publishing the results of their hard work in a book called City of Dogs.
In an in-depth Q&A with the New York Times, Foster shared what he learned and, spoiler, city dogs are happy dogs too. Here are some of the key takeaways Foster shared:
Don't worry about city dogs—they adapt to city life.
Foster met dogs across New York City and, from his descriptions, it sounds like they're all pretty adjusted to their backyard-less lifestyles, tyvm.
One dog in particular, Oz, a pit bull mix who lives in NoHo, has a life any dog would envy.
"His owner, Noah, is a trainer and has this chain of gyms across the country called Rumble Boxing," Fosters said. "Oz often goes to the gym and sits, waiting for classes to be over. He lives in a great apartment with a nice roof deck. He's got the spoiled life. I like to say, and Noah doesn't disagree, that he needed to maintain his dog in the lifestyle he deserved."
Oz deserves everything he has and more, we can already tell.
A lot of city dogs have jobs that keep them happy and occupied.
Foster says that a lot of the dogs he met are a part of the hustle and bustle of city life themselves. Among the working dogs Foster met were dogs who work at JFK:
"I think we think of dogs strictly as pets, but we went to J.F.K. Airport, where there are dogs that work and love their jobs. They are mostly looking for agricultural contraband, but they also go through the mail that comes through, like every piece of mail. They go through people's luggage on the conveyor belts. It's like a game that they're playing all day long. We should all enjoy our jobs that much."
A service dog for a girl with autism:
"Talia is a girl in Queens who is autistic. She has a service dog that's trained to stay with her. As she is getting older, holding her mother's hand in public is not a cool thing to do. So now she has this dog to hold on to. I think dogs are anchors in a lot of different ways for all of us. But in this case, it almost seemed like a literal anchor to keep somebody calm and in place."
And, dogs who live at Rikers and have a special kind of "job" of their own:
"The Rikers dogs are spending eight weeks, usually living in a cell with inmates who are charged with caring for them and training them. They come from different shelters. The men who are assigned to them work in teams, so part of it is also about really learning to work with other people and build team skills. It's a mutually beneficial exchange. A lot of the men have dogs that are waiting for them to come home."
Dogs bring city-dwellers together.
Cities also get a bad reputation when it comes to their human residents. You know the stereotypes. People in urban areas don't know their neighbors, they don't make friendly chit-chat, they're all in their own heads 24/7. Those things might be true, but owning a dog makes you an exception to the rule, Foster found.
"No matter how completely different we are, if you have dogs in common it cuts through whatever else you might think would be a barrier. We're different people, we come from different cultures, we speak different languages sometimes, and yet if there's a dog in front of us, we can find a way to connect," he said. "I think that's true no matter what part of the city you're in. We may not have the same kind of dogs, and we might not interact with them in exactly the same sort of way, but we can all understand each other by observing the bond that we have with our pets."