For those of you who have ridden the New York City subway, you'll know that you can be in a car with ten people or a car packed like sardines at rush hour and no one, but no one will speak to anyone. Not so much as an acknowledgement, not a "good morning, afternoon, or evening." If anything, you might witness disagreements, arguments, fights, thieves, panhandlers and the inevitable crazy person. Everybody going about their hectic New York life. Manhattanites, like hamsters on their wheels. Running, running, running.
Now, this all changes when you bring a dog on the train. Or I should say, a dog like my Dachshund, Bunny.
As I was getting ready to head downtown NYC to meet some friends, Bunny was doing her very best "take me, take me" dance. As usual, because I'm so well trained, she got her way. She rides the train in a sling style dog bag, though I do admit, she worms her way out so that she can look out of the window at all the dots, spots and things that she sees as the train whizzes through the stations. She generally climbs up my chest and onto my shoulder, pressing her nose against the glass and looking like she's watching a tennis match, glancing side to side, side to side, with an occasional up and down. She also often turns and stares at a person. This is when it starts to happen, people cannot help but to smile (a sight on the subway as rare as a Yeti). And, well, I just can't resist, I have to say something...usually "made you smile!" or when she stares, I say "she doesn't know it's rude...."
So, on this particular occasion, I was surrounded by people. Gradually one by one, they all started smiling and laughing at Bunny's antics. Some would not offer me any eye contact, seemingly wanting to only keep it to themselves or perhaps afraid to engage. As the train continued on, a conversation started up, soon those that were at first reluctant, joined in. We talked about the love of dogs, the funny things that they do, our favorite breeds and the value of a Mutt. A lady mentioned that she had owned a Dachshund that had passed away some years ago, as she spoke her eyes misted and drifted fondly back.
For a few minutes, a train full of strangers found a way to relate to one another, to laugh and enjoy some stories together. Never to see each other again. It truly was a magical New York moment for me. I was glad that I had listened to Bunny's demands, her one persuasive action had a ripple effect of happiness for many.
So, in the City that is oft considered cold and rude, a subway car full of people, found warmth and comradery. It's clear, people aren't so different really. All it takes is knowing what love is, we as dog lovers, all have that in common.
Written by guest blogger Carly Arbitman who is getting featured, along with her dog Carl, in Oprah Winfrey's magazine! Congratulations Carly!
When one envisions getting a dog, it is usually the image of a puppy with large eyes, a soft nose and big paws that comes to mind. One expects to go to the vet for puppy shots, learn how to house train, have the occasional shoe or piece of furniture chewed on and, most of all, to have a loyal companion for 10+ years. Dogs are our best friends; giving everything to us unconditionally even when we do not realize we need or want it. That is why it is particularly heartbreaking when I see an older dog left in a shelter where they are disoriented, scared and have no understanding why they have been left, possibly to die, in a cold, unforgiving cage.
I understand that there are 'life events' that can render a human unable to care for an elderly pet. I think that it is difficult (not just financially) to watch a dog age and our society is designed to constantly want an upgrade when something gets old, worn out and needs maintenance. Face it, a new iPhone has barely been released before another version is being promoted. We have become a World where things are easily discarded and for some, dogs are included. This is where I decided to make a change, even if it is only significant to one dog at a time, I would adopt and care for an older dog for whatever amount of time they had left.
A few years ago, my sister rescued a 5lb chihuahua from a hoarder and brought here into my life. She was old, had only 4 rotten teeth in her mouth, a significant heart murmur and occasionally had seizures. She was also sweet, spunky and fearless. The moment I met her I realized we had a connection and knew she was supposed to be my dog. I named her Chiclet and had almost three wonderful years with her. It was incredibly hard when I had to let her go, but I do not regret adopting her, only that it was for such a short time. Even though she was tiny, Chiclet left a big impression on me and I now understand the love and gratitude that older dogs have for those who adopt them. These older dogs are thrown away and have to learn to live differently with no understanding of why. On the day Chiclet died I decided that I needed to adopt another older dog. Even though losing her hurt and I never wanted to feel pain like that again, I knew there was another little dog out there that was sad and in need of love and care and that I could help.
After Chiclet died, I (half jokingly) said to my sister that I would end up adopting an old, blind, deformed chihuahua. Two weeks later Carl, an 8lb Chihuahua mix who was blind from glaucoma and had a severely deformed front leg, showed up on the Animal Care and Control's Super Urgent list (the dogs on this list can be put on the euthanasia list at any time). He was everything I wanted and just like with Chiclet, I knew he needed to be my dog. Luckily, a great rescue group pulled him out of the shelter and he was transported (via The Mayor's Alliance) to me.
The first night Carl curled up in my bed with his head resting on my pillow and I could see that he knew he was where he belonged. Older dogs are grateful in ways that puppies can never be because an older dog has trusted and loved and been let down. Once they feel loved and safe again there is nothing more special then the look they get on their face (yes even the blind ones have the look!) and the peace that radiates around them. I will always see the value in an older dog and will honor Chiclet, Carl and all the others who will come after them by giving them a safe and happy place to live out their lives.
Please consider adopting an older dog. It may only be for a short time, but they will remain in your heart and add strength to your life forever.
Chiclet may she R.I.P. and Carl.