Today was the last day of my 5-day visit to New York City. After Broadways shows, Letterman, and fancy cocktails, today was a day to dig deep. I walked the length of Central Park, discovering waterfalls, finding someone’s lost fortune (it read: He that can’t endure the bad will not live to see the good), spying fat squirrels, and watching dads shout “Skate!” at their kids placing ice hockey. After the park, I joined a guided tour of the Tenement Museum, where they tell the stories of 97 Orchard Street. Built on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1863, 97 Orchard is a tenement apartment building that was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants through 1930. The banister that spirals five floors is original. I ran my hand along the smooth mahogony, thinking of all the hands that have used the railing. Sounds kinda silly but it felt like shaking hands with history. I ended my day at the Manhattan Animal Shelter in East Harlem.
I walked the rows of dogs available for adoption. Kennel-after-kennel, pit bull, pit bull, pit bull. And I didn’t see all the pit bulls that were at the shelter. Three were out for their afternoon walks, and a handful are in quarantine according to a volunteer. Of the 51 dogs currently listed for adoption on their website, only 11 are not pit bulls of some variety.
While I was there, I chatted up as many people as I could. One woman adopted her dog from this shelter 14 years ago, and her dog died 2 months ago. She’s back to find her next dog. Pit bulls scare her. Can’t trust em she said to me. One guy really wants to adopt a pit bull because they get a bad rap. But pit bulls are banned in his apartment complex so he just comes to look at them every couple of weeks. Jenn, a dog walking volunteer, estimated only 1 in 5 pit bulls will be adopted and that the rest are euthanized. She explained she walks the dogs because she wants to make the time they do have a little better, a little less stressful. Vince, an adoption volunteer, confided: At the hint of kennel cough, the shelter will euthanize all the pit bulls because it’s an excuse to do something with all of them.
Being there today sapped me. Looking at each dog, I saw hints of my own dogs. Chaney’s gentle giant eyes. Buffalo’s smile. Blue fawn coats and baked potato markings. I saw traces of dogs I’ve fostered. Star-blazed chests. Skinny bellies. Timid moves. I saw reminders of dogs from the Seattle Animal Shelter. Goofy faces. Anxious bodies. Shutting down. I photographed each pit bull I saw today. It’s an understatement to say I wanted to take them all home.
I called home before I boarded the flight back to Seattle, and Miguel sent me this photo of our two dogs to cheer me up. Chaney’s head resting on top of Buffalo’s. Cuddled up on the couch. Their Christmas stockings hanging on the fireplace next to ours. I’m not sure it cheered me up.