Imagine Lassie frolicking in endless fields, Snoopy lounging atop his doghouse in the sun, Rin-Tin-Tin beasting his way out of World War I’s battle fields, or Cujo jumping around a breezy town in Maine scaring the crap out of people. (Okay, maybe scratch that last one, yikes.) No matter the pooch, it can be hard to picture man’s best friend feeling at home around ye ol’ concrete jungle. And while NYC is surprisingly populated by canine companions, dog ownership can be a real pain. So, the plight goes: "I'd love to have a dog, it just doesn't seem fair in this city.” Small apartments, endless flights of stairs and the lack of any free space for pups to frolic all leave bleeding-heart inhabitants of this fair city thinking twice about bringing home a dog.
But, like all good things in this city that are too cumbersome to own (real estate, cars and normal sized furniture), there are multiple ways to rent. Be it for a weekend or just a couple of hours a day, there are a number of services, organizations, and shelters that are clamoring for us to take some of their dogs for the short term, and help folks get their Fido fix in the process. Yep, it is possible to do a good deed and pet a puppy all day. (We’re feeling good already.)
Here are a five of the organizations we love the most, and most frequently use:
Puppies Behind Bars
This non-profit organization teaches prison inmates to train Golden and Labrador Retrievers to be service dogs. Even better, when the pups graduate they’re placed with returning soldiers suffering from PTSD and other war-related ailments. Since the puppies spend their first two years living in a prison cell, they need to be socialized – that’s where we come in. Volunteers take a puppy one weekend a month into their home and, well, love them, play with them and teach them how to interact with the outside world. They only take on new volunteers once a year, in the spring, and you have to be trained before you can host a puppy. Check out their site for more information.
This Midtown shelter’s harmonious motto is “Animal people for people who love animals.” Their primary focus is on giving some much-needed TLC to the city’s homeless cats and dogs. Volunteers get the full dog-ownership experience here without any of the pooped-on-your-new-leather-shoes or ate-your-couch-cushion blues. Help walk, feed, clean, socialize and prepare these recovering pooches to become members of the Reading to Dogs program, a community initiative to help get kids hooked on books.
Want to take care of someone else's dog and make a little money on the side? Create a profile on DogVacay and let other dog owners around New York know you're willing to open up your home (for a nominal fee). The site matches you with pet owners going out of town but not wanting to put Fido up at a kennel. You will arrange a meet 'n greet to make sure it's a suitable match, then all payment is taken care of through a PayPal-type system on the site.
Social Tees Animal Rescue
The name is slightly misleading (they actually do make t-shirts here, too) but this local non-profit, no-kill animal shelter has been taking in NYC's stray dogs and cats for decades. While they would love for you to come and adopt any of their animals, if you've only got a few hours to spare, they would equally love for you to stop in and take one of their pups for a lap or two around Tompkins. Stop in between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. Pro-tip: Walkers must bring their I.D. to give a very grateful pooch a little fresh air.
Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition
What’s better than happy hour? Meeting new pups and taking them for a walk around the ‘Burg. This Wythe Avenue shelter encourages volunteers to swing by for dog walking every day from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Most canine lovers opt for dog walking, so be sure to swing by on time. Don’t fret though: for folks who like all four-legged pets, a trip to the Cat Loft is one of the best consolation prizes ever. The shelter often needs help caring for the kitties awaiting adoption.