[FoRK] Dog for Rent
owen at permafrost.net
Mon May 24 19:07:40 PDT 2004
As in my dog for your rent. $1800 a month!
> May 25, 2004
> Rooming With the Big Dogs
> *By ANDREA ELLIOTT*
> People talk to Ego Le Bow. He has the qualities of any good therapist
> - he is calm, seems to listen and is not easily fazed. He is also a
> hulking white dog who at times resembles a polar bear. "They whisper
> in his ear, tell him their dreams," said Dr. Michelle Le Bow, a
> psychologist on the Upper West Side who began involving Ego in her
> sessions with patients eight years ago.
> The story of how Ego became a quasi-psychotherapist is as layered and
> quirky as any New York tale, but has its roots in this basic fact: It
> takes creativity to integrate a giant-breed dog into one's life in the
> city. Ego, a Great Pyrenees, hails from a long line of ancestors bred
> to guard sheep in the mountains. He needs to go on four ambling walks
> every day, so Dr. Le Bow started taking him to work, five blocks south
> of the apartment they share. "He gets two extra walks a day that way,"
> she said.
> In a city defined by small spaces - cabs, elevators, cramped
> apartments and crowded sidewalks - it is often cause for bewilderment
> that New Yorkers would willingly choose to live with Great Danes,
> Newfoundlands, St. Bernards and Irish wolfhounds. Everything is
> outsize: the hair, the smell, the pull of a passing squirrel, the
> grooming bills, the food intake and its inevitable digestive exit,
> which can summon spectators like some kind of street show.
> To enter a dog run is to induce a panic of King Kong proportions.
> Hailing a cab to the vet is an exercise in rejection.
> Perhaps the greatest irritant of all are the comments from strangers.
> "If I hear 'Scooby Doo!', 'Marmaduke!' or 'It's a horse not a dog' one
> more time I will jump out of my skin," said Jaime Stankevicius, an
> opera singer who shares a Chelsea studio with his Great Dane, Avalon.
> "If you're really in a hurry, you have to put a hat on, keep your head
> down and walk fast, because otherwise it takes four hours to walk
> around the block."
> But, like so many other big-dog owners, Mr. Stankevicius is
> religiously attached to his choice of pet. A smaller dog would "feel
> like a purse," he said. Avalon stands 6 feet 3 inches tall on his hind
> legs and weighs 140 pounds. His nails are trimmed with a Dremel rotary
> power tool. He consumes $30 to $50 worth of food a week. The dog's
> largeness lends him a certain humanity, a soothing thing in a lonely city.
> "We're just like roommates," said Mr. Stankevicius, 38.
> They do everything together, including sleep in the same four-poster
> bed. There is no other bed suitable in size. For the same reason, two
> Irish wolfhounds in Mott Haven, the Bronx, share a twin mattress. An
> English mastiff on the Upper East Side sleeps on an eight-foot-long couch.
> "You can't play that, 'I'm the alpha, I'm the one in charge here,' "
> said Ralina Cardona, 34, the owner of the two Irish wolfhounds. "It
> has to be a coexistence when it's a big dog."
> In a city ruled by big personalities, big dogs fare well. Avalon's
> daily trek through Chelsea is like a celebrity tour. It begins at the
> Midtown Lumber Mart on West 25th Street, where he stands on his hind
> legs and lifts his paws onto the counter. The store manager hands him
> a block of pine, which he chews with relish. Customers stare in disbelief.
> "Does this guy live in a New York apartment?" asks one customer, Evan
> Alboum, with raised eyebrows. Outside, a woman approaches. "Is this
> Avalon?" she asks before he trots regally to his next spot, a toy
> store on Eighth Avenue where again he stands up to the counter and
> accepts a biscuit as if collecting a payment. The same thing happens
> in restaurants and liquor stores. They all know Avalon.
> "It's indecent," said Mr. Stankevicius. "Every day is Halloween for him."
> There are certain psyches that take hold with owning a large dog.
> There is the "only a big dog is a real dog" attitude, which owners of
> smaller dogs abhor. There's the vicarious love of big-dog attention.
> "I once counted 40 inquiries in an hour, but that's when the tourists
> are here," said Arnold Lebow, Ego's other owner.
> There is big-dog-owner narcissism: the notion that even if these dogs
> had acres of rolling hills or a sprawling home, they would always stay
> near their owners. "I could have 10,000 square feet, and it wouldn't
> matter," Mr. Stankevicius said. (It is true that many large dogs need
> less exercise than smaller dogs.) And then there is the "I will
> sacrifice anything for this dog" fanaticism that is almost universal
> to New York pet owners, but often comes with a greater price when the
> dog is big.
> Take Barry and Brutus.
> Barry Kellman is 35 years old and going through a divorce. Brutus is 5
> years old and has already gone through his own divorce of sorts.
> "When my wife got pregnant, she threw Brutus out," said Mr. Kellman,
> who lives on the Upper East Side and owns a medical management company.
> Brutus is an English mastiff whom Mr. Kellman bought over the phone
> when the dog was not yet a month old. He arrived from Philadelphia the
> following week and immediately started getting bigger. He now weighs
> 160 pounds.
> "When my wife met him, she loved him. Then, once she moved in - look,
> he's an animal," said Mr. Kellman. "He's a slob."
> "Beyond a slob," said the wife, Shane Markus-Kellman, 30, in a
> telephone interview. Brutus, she said, was too much to bear in a
> 740-square-foot apartment with a baby on the way. "The baby's whole
> head could fit into his mouth."
> Mr. Kellman would not give Brutus up, so the dog went to live at
> Biscuits & Bath Doggy Gym, which offers overnight boarding a few
> blocks away from Mr. Kellman's Murray Hill office. On visits, he
> sneaked Brutus his favorite treats: steak and beer.
> "We used to keep Brutus behind the front desk with us just to see
> people's reactions to this big head," said Meyghan Hill, 25, a
> But nothing compared to living with his owner, and Brutus lost weight.
> "I think he sensed all along that he was traded in for a baby," said
> Mr. Kellman, who has photos of both his baby boy and Brutus on his
> After three months, at $55 a night, the boarding bills piled up. So
> Mr. Kellman did the next logical thing (in his mind): he rented a
> one-bedroom apartment for Brutus last July and found him a roommate.
> In exchange for living with Brutus, Mr. Kellman agreed to pay the rent
> in full - $1,800.
> To meet Brutus is to appreciate the challenge of living with him. He
> slurps water from his bowl like a horse at a trough. He urinates with
> considerable force and stamina. "This goes for about 15 minutes," said
> Paul D'Amato, the doorman of his building. "He's a tank."
> Brutus also drools constantly: when he walks, saliva swings like a
> pendulum. When he shakes his head, it flies onto the walls, the front
> door, Mr. Kellman's clothes (the dry cleaning bill is about $400 a
> month), and in places not to be believed.
> "Every now and then you'll see something hanging from the ceiling,"
> said Mr. Kellman. He once found it in his shoes. But Brutus's charm is
> undeniable. His trusting eyes and massive head bring to mind E.T., the
> Mr. Kellman's marriage ended last fall - not because of Brutus, he
> said - and Mr. Kellman was also suddenly out of a home. He is now
> sleeping on a couch in Brutus's apartment while they look for a bigger
> "I'm a slob anyway," said Mr. Kellman. "We've got the band back together."
> Copyright 2004
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