When riding the subway in New York, I have learned that pretty much anything goes. I’ve seen people eat meals, paint their nails, lip sync to their own reflection, preach, sing, dance, flip, make-out and yell. One thing I love about the unpredictable New York City subway experience, is that every once in a while I get to see a dog riding the train! For me, seeing a subway dog is like finding a four-leaf clover. Those adorable eyes and soft ears poking out of a dog carrier melt my heart every time, and I can’t help but say hello. Subway dogs are usually well behaved, adorable and mine for the petting.
I did some digging and was able to get interviews with three of New York City’s finest subway dogs and their lovely owners. These are their stories,
Three years ago, Nick adopted Donny, then 2 months old, from Puerto Rico through a rescue program called The Sato Project. Donny has had a comfortable and happy life with Nick in New York City ever since.
All dogs, except service dogs and K-9s, are supposed to be “carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers” while on the train, according to New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Donny gets carried in a large tote.
“He loves his bag,” Nick tells me as he sets the bag on the ground. Donny hops right on, managing to get his two front paws in the center of the bag, but his hind legs remain on the sidewalk.
“He thinks he’s in it,” Nick says, bending down to adjust the bag around Donny and then scooping him up.
We head down the stairs and through the turnstile without a problem. Before I can even ask if Donny makes friends on the train, an MTA officer is walking toward us to say hello. He tells us about his dog who looks similar to Donny, but is older and currently very sick. As if Donny understands, he immediately offers a kiss to his new friend.
After a few minutes we head down to the platform toward a wooden bench. Because Donny is a heavy pup to tote, Nick and Donny regularly sit next to each other on the bench to wait for the train. Like a true New Yorker, Donny is busy looking out for the train from his carrier bag as I try to get his attention for a photo.
“Look at you in your bag,” a new friend says approaching Donny. “You are the king of that bag!”
Another kiss is doled out. It is impossible not to fall in love with this metro dog!
I joined this little fluff ball and his owner, Stephanie, on a Sunday afternoon ride.
“You should see him after he gets a haircut,” Stephanie says. “You wouldn’t recognize him!”
Oscar was certainly the most curious and excitable of the three subway dogs. And he was less willing to go in any dog carrier.
Stephanie works close to home, so she is able to walk him often; she only rides the subway with him on occasion. He is always a little intimidated by the turnstile, but once he gets on the train he is one happy passenger.
Perhaps it’s because he is an infrequent metro rider, but interestingly, he seemed extremely curious about his surroundings. He was quite busy exploring the numerous sights and smells through every part of his journey. Oscar explored as far as his leash would let him.
“I often get asked if he’s a puppy,” Stephanie tells me. “He’s 3 years old, but he has so much energy!”
Anything but a grouch, Oscar was more like a class clown the way he made eyes at fellow riders and even caused a few grins with his playful postures.
Kevin is a 14-month-old Beagle mix. He lives in Brooklyn’s Forte Greene neighborhood in an apartment that is so dog-friendly that it even has its own dog park. The doorman knows every dog and has treats ready to dole out to the four-legged residents.
Kevin, metro dog extraordinaire, goes to work twice a week at a startup in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood with his owner, Lisa. While many commuters race to the train with coffee in hand, suffering through a face-to-armpit ride to get to work on time, Lisa must take her time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make sure Kevin gets to work peacefully. This busy Tuesday morning, we let a crowded train pass and waited for a less cramped subway car.
Because Lisa doesn’t have a podmate, Kevin gets his own desk. He also has plenty of two- and four-legged coworkers. Lisa tells me that on any given work day, there are four or five dogs around, but in total there are twenty different dogs that frequent the office. Like their owners, the pups spend a few minutes socializing before heading to their desks. Lisa tells me at the end of the day Kevin is pooped, which is no surprise. An eight-hour day at the office sandwiched between two trips on the subway always wears me out, too!
What do all of these subway dogs have in common? Their loyalty to their owners, their love for their fellow New Yorkers and, of course, those soft ears and big eyes! Their friendliness, playfulness and lack of judgement connect strangers and brighten our days. I’ll gladly endure the adventures of the subway, as long as our four-legged friends can come along, too.
By Lindsay Johnston
Lindsey lives and works in Brooklyn, New York as a freelance writer, photographer, and restaurant manager. She likes short walks on the beach and eating ice cream on the daily. Although she doesn’t currently have pets of her own, she loves meeting neighborhood dogs and sending telepathic messages to the cat in the backyard.