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City Dogs Have Their
Biscuits and Eat Them Too

A dog lover moves to the West Village

By Laura Ellis

Before moving to the West Village in 2005, I spent 30 years on a Vermont farm raising cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children. That list is in reverse order of importance -- for some reason I never liked cows much.
Country life was good, but the winters lasted longer than pregnancy. My dual career as a nature illustrator and admissions officer at Middlebury College were nourishing, but one dark, frosty afternoon, predictably at mid-life, I found myself staring out over the treetops to Lake Champlain from the withered remains of my flower garden. The children had grown up and left home; the cattle had been sold during the dairy crisis; horses and dogs had died of old age; and my marriage had run its course. Winter stretched out its Dementor arms, and I broke into a run.
I arrived in New York, like others who wash up on its welcoming shores, determined to build a new life. Friends and money were scarce, but determination and passion were gas in the tank. I had met a gay (and, therefore to my mind, trustworthy) man on an airplane who, after a long conversation about writing and publishing books, said firmly, “Girl, you are meant to live in the West Village.”
“What’s that?” I asked, being clueless about the City except for the general idea that it was a vast, terrifying jungle. But I had nowhere else to go, so I listened.

“Meet me for lunch at the Hudson Grill and I’ll show you around,” he said.

We did that, and after lunch we walked down West 11th Street, admiring the not- yet- frosted flowers and the lineup at Tartine. The tree-lined streets, neighbors gossiping on their stoops, bookshop windows proudly displaying non-bestsellers and dogs, dogs, everywhere, were redolent of home.
Dogs everywhere — more dogs than cows in Vermont. I began to sketch and paint the dogs of the West Village and soon had a business. A London gallery picked up my work, and Brush and Bone was born.
The more I know of City dogs, the more I admire them. Their country cousins would envy them if they knew the truth.
Country dogs, that have “room to run” (the common definition of dog heaven), are actually left alone outside for much of their lives while their families are at work. They are either chained to a doghouse or left loose to gang up with other miscreants in a roving pack to harass livestock and deer. Think adolescent boys in a mall full of teen beauties, and you have an idea of the mad euphoria that can take over idle young dogs. They get into a lot of trouble.
City dogs are more like full time students. They can spare a few moments for socializing on a street corner, but mostly they must follow the leash and listen to their humans. They’re happy with hours of attention, warm, clean surroundings and regular meals and are focused on getting more of this good stuff by emulating people.
Civilized conversation at the fire hydrant, exuberant but polite play in the dog park, dutiful trudging through slush while wearing silly clothes -- who cares, as long as I get hugged and fed at the end of the day?


Having fallen for City dogs, I wander the streets of the West Village with my camera, so don’t be shocked if someone in blue jeans and rubber boots stops you and your dog in the street! n

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