Night shot of the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge photo credit: Metro New York City tours

New York City seems like a tough place to have a dog. Apartments are small, backyards are scarce, and a dog-walker for a day costs more than Netflix for a month. The fact that we feel guilty for leaving our pooches at home in a tiny apartment all day and we (ok, me) sometimes spend their potty money on binge watching House of Cards and Orange is the New Black makes New York pretty dog-friendly.

Having a Catholic family, guilt is a big part of life. So I take every opportunity to engage in shenanigans with my dog, Rex.

Contrary to popular belief, Manhattan is not synonymous with New York. While Manhattan has loads to offer in…well, every capacity, it is not the be-all-end-all of the best city in the world (Did you know there are 4 other boroughs!?). In fact, what’s so wonderful about this city is the endless sprawl of neighborhoods offering different attractions, cultures, and cuisines. From the well-known Greenwich Village in Manhattan to the lesser-known Jackson Heights in Queens, there is always something new to explore and dogs love exploring.

Perhaps the hippest of the five boroughs is Brooklyn and it happens to be where I live. As rent prices in Manhattan have skyrocketed and youngsters have moved further outside the city to find their shoebox with an exposed brick wall in a price range that their day job answering phones supports while they search for their big break into the theater/music/comedy/art world, Brooklyn has increased in popularity.

Across the East River (the not-actually-a-river river that separates Manhattan and the Bronx from Brooklyn and Queens) from such gems as Union Square, Lower East Side, and the Village, Brooklyn has become the go-to place for New Yorkers with blue hair, flannel shirts, ill-fitting thrift store jeans, and shoes reminiscent of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days- may he rest in peace. These personalities have created the hipster mecca of the east in Williamsburg where you can find faux speakeasies, socially conscious coffee shops, and second-hand clothing. You won’t find the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building in Brooklyn, but you won’t find scores of fanny pack tourists and the businessmen who despise them either.

Beyond the people-watching of Williamsburg and into real Brooklyn, you can find neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, which is known for its African American population and gorgeous brownstones; Little Odessa, which brings a taste of Russia to New York through borscht and pirogi; and Borough Park, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations outside of Israel (and a people other than hipsters with devout beard and hat traditions).

We’ve also got Coney Island, known for its carnival-like amusement area, but so much more than that. This neighborhood, beach, and entertainment destination in the southwestern part of Brooklyn, looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1880 and World War II, Coney Island brought in millions of visitors a year as the largest amusement area in the U.S. and is still a popular place with rides open from about Easter to Halloween. Year-round you can take your dog on a stroll along the mostly deserted boardwalk but only in the winter can you also enjoy a long walk on the sand where you’ll probably come across a few other four-legged fur-balls and maybe some lovebirds taking in the ocean breeze. If you can handle the cold, take a load off on the patio of the Coney Island Brewing Co. for a Hard Root Beer.

On the subject of breweries, Brooklyn Brewery of Williamsburg is another of several local craft breweries in the NYC vicinity. Kick back a couple Brooklyn Lagers with your dog in the tasting room.  The line is sometimes around the corner but it’s well worth the wait to spend a weekend afternoon where the beer flows quickly and goes down just as easily.  There is a small dog, perhaps a maltese, that has been there every time we’ve been and runs around acting like he owns the place.

After you’ve warmed up with some brews, your pooch will surely need another sightseeing walk. How about the Brooklyn Bridge? This iconic bridge connects Brooklyn (in the neighborhood of Dumbo) to Manhattan across the East River and provides a breathtaking view of both boroughs. You can walk to the halfway point and turn back or trek the entire mile across to Manhattan. I always suggest walking the bridge at night when the people are fewer and the view is especially dazzling.

What’s also dazzling is the cold.

There were two feet of snow on the ground when I was asked to write this story and while I’m all for adventure, Rex is 11 and I’m 22 going on 85. We opted for a low-key weekend that started with a walk to the park in my neighborhood of Bed-Stuy.

Saratoga Park, Brooklyn

Fritz the Snow Doodle

Just two blocks from my apartment is a wide-open public park that allows dogs off leash before 9:00 am and after 9:00 pm. Many city parks have this ‘before and after 9’ off-leash rule and it is a godsend for the grassless lives our dogs live. Brooklyn has a lot more space than Manhattan, so one can bet that if you walk a few blocks from wherever you are, you can find a park that’s perfect for your dog to roam and sniff.

Rex enjoyed the mostly deserted snow-covered Saratoga Park and though we were ecstatic to have a quiet morning to ourselves it didn’t stop us from wagging our tails when we spotted Fritz, a future friend, across the park. Our new buddy and his owner shared their Frisbee and topped off our morning by sharing their treats!

 

See? New Yorkers are friendly! Well, at least Brooklynites are.

After our morning jaunt, we headed home to warm up and have some breakfast. I did a little work, then we went to dig my car out of the snow. I had planned to take Rex with  me to my salon appointment and to lunch, but two hours of digging had us both exhausted (I’m 85 I told you!). So it was back inside for a calm night of Chinese take-out and movies in order to rest up for our big Saturday.

Saturday morning rang in a sunny, though not warm day for roaming. We headed to Williamsburg.

Williamsburg’s demography can be a negative for the anti-hipster among us, but it is great for dog lovers. I’ve made my peace. There are tons of dog-friendly bars, restaurants, shops, and parks for every pup to have a fun-filled weekend outside of the house. Just a twenty-minute drive from my neighborhood, you can bet I’ll end up in Williamsburg at least once a week.

Yes, I said drive.

Brooklyn has much less traffic and is much easier to get around by car than its Manhattan counterpart. If you don’t have a car or don’t feel like losing your coveted (FREE) parking space, you can always take the subway. While only small dogs are allowed on the subways and must be in a carrier, most well behaved dogs on a leash are overlooked. We will talk more about that in a later post when we take the subway into Manhattan. In the meantime, since we had to finish digging my car out of the snow anyway, we decided to take that short drive over to Williamsburg.

With a vacation on the horizon, I was in need of a new dress. La Di Da Dee tends to have a great selection and while I usually shop on the cheaper side, who can pass up a funky little black dress that you would never find in a chain store? Hipsters really are good for something. Even Rex was panting at the sight of me in a new mini…or maybe that was from the other patrons petting him.  Since shopping makes me thirsty, we needed a drink. I knew the perfect place…just a 10 minute walk away!

Dog at South 4th Brooklyn

Enjoying a rest at South 4th

We arrived at South 4th Bar and Cafe just in time to try the last few contestants’ eighth annual chili cook off entries. A surprise to us, the cozy dive bar was packed with people and their furry mates in the middle of the afternoon.

We found a table near the back and were quickly joined by three other patrons who provided us with plenty of conversation and Rex with plenty of back scratches.

Opposite the bar is a shelving unit filled from top to bottom with games ranging from Cards Against Humanity to Jenga. In addition to a small collection of craft beers that can only be found for $6 on this side of the East River, the bar also boasts a photobooth, a jukebox, and a foosball table—who could ask for anything more?

 

Speaking of the East River, South 4th Bar and Café is only two blocks from it and a step outside rewards you with a comforting glimpse of tourist-trap Manhattan where you could be drinking the same beer for $3 more a pint. A few beers and dog treats (provided by the bar) later, we needed dinner. Rather than opt for having food delivered to the bar through Seamless (please tell me you know what Seamless is—you click a few buttons, they bring you food), which is encouraged by the staff, we decided to head out.

Just ten minutes away sits the 9th oldest, continuously running pizza restaurant in New York. Roebling Pizza is a tiny shop with just one table offering pizza to stay or go by the slice or the pie. A local favorite, this place has the soft, fluffy crust and sauce with just a hint of sweetness that we all love to love. When I first asked if I could bring Rex inside the friendly gentleman said, “Sure! Y’know we’re just a small little pizza shop.” It gave me the at-home welcome feeling that only the most Italian of men-like my Great Uncles- can. It was crowded with people waiting for that one table and as much as I love Roebling Pizza, Rex would rather have fried chicken. So we hopped in the car back to our own home turf.

One wonderful thing about eating dinner with your dog in New York is that in the winter, when patios are closed and pet-friendly places are harder to come by, there are still plenty of options—food carts. The idea is simple, well known, and nowhere more prevalent than in New York. From hot dogs, to candied nuts, to halal food, you can find just about anything you want at a food cart.

You could also go to one place that has everything. Brooklyn is sprinkled with take-out diners that offer zeppoli, gyros, fried chicken, macaroni salad, ice cream, and just about anything else you could want. I can’t explain why all of these wonderful things are sold at one place or how they could all possibly taste good, but it’s a thing. They’re everywhere. And I’m a fan.

New York Fried chicken

Rex knows what he wants

With Rex in tow, we walked a block from our apartment to New York Fried Chicken, one of what must be hundreds of restaurants (not) so charmingly named that. There are no tables, just a case of cold dishes and a brick and plexiglass wall behind which every food imaginable is being prepared.

No tables for people means no problem for dogs. The workers greeted Rex when we walked in and he spent our wait sniffing the varied options as an endless stream of patrons flowed through the door with the request “Let me get a thigh,” by which they mean a chicken thigh that rivals the home cooking of Mama Dean’s back home in Arkansas where the tea is sweet and the summer’s are long. Fried goodness in hand, we headed home where Rex instantly began snoring at my feet—a weekend well spent.

 

Each weekend in Brooklyn brings a new to do list for exploring the local neighborhoods:

· Book Court is an indie bookshop in Cobble Hill where you and your dog can explore titles from around the world and maybe even attend an event. I’m a sucker for a nook and cranny bookshop that smells a little funkier than a chain, and what dog doesn’t like a nook and an interesting sniff?

· Foxy and Winston in Red Hook is a great place to peruse gifts for all occasions or, let’s be honest, for yourselves. That house warming party coming up? How about an organically made apron? Searching for a custom-made wedding invitation? Jane can help you out and she likes dogs!

· 4 Play Brooklyn in Park Slope is an adorable boutique where your dog can help you find the perfect dress or the perfume that hides your stinky human scent. Last time, Rex helped me pick out the perfect shoes for a night on the town.

Whether you’re drawn to New York for Times Square and want to see every attraction there is or you’re a seasoned visitor of the city, you can’t say you’ve been to NYC without spending some time in Brooklyn. Even if you go into Manhattan every day, making Brooklyn your home base allows you to see more than just the tourist traps and can even save you money.

Nu Hotel takes the claim as Brooklyn’s original boutique hotel and is dog friendly. There is a one-time $100 pet fee but each night is around $170–cheap for such a great hotel in NYC. It’s right off the C line (subway in case you didn’t know) in Downtown Brooklyn and a 15-minute walk to just about any other train. If a hotel isn’t your ideal place to stay, you can always choose an Airbnb. I found almost 200 pet friendly apartments being rented out in Brooklyn ranging from $100 to $6500 a night.

If you stay in the one that is $6500 a night, you’ll invite me too, right?

Snow in Saratoga Park

Kammie & Rex

After moving to New York City from Arkansas in May 2014, Kammie Melton finally found her first big girl job and settled in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. They found Rex, an 11-year-old Husky/Beagle, at Animal Care Centers of NYC in Manhattan and he quickly became the spoiled only child. Rex spends a lot of his days lounging in the sun-soaked bedroom, but is determined to show Kammie how an old dog rallies whenever he gets the chance. He enjoys long walks to the park, subway rides to fun things, gourmet cuisine, craft breweries, and any dog that’ll give him the time of day. He’s never been caught on camera without his tail wagging and he isn’t gonna start!

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