Our First Few Days

Monday at 6am, Ivan and I piled into a U-Haul (Babe in the center seat). My mom and grandma, meanwhile, loaded into my mom’s CRV (with Ajax in the back). We began our trip from Erie, Pennsylvania to Brooklyn, New York—a trip that lasted almost ten hours.

By 8pm that evening, the empty U-Haul was parked at the curb of our new home, on 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

While Ivan and John (Ivan’s classmate and our friend) unloaded our mobile household, the four-legged family members checked out their new digs and the remaining humans (e.g. me, Mom and Grandma) madly rearranged the incoming boxes and furniture.

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Our new home:

  • We live on the third floor of a three-story building
  • Our downstairs neighbors are friends from our time in Grenada
  • The first floor is occupied by a computer and security system store owned and managed by our landlord
  • Next door is a restaurant and bar called the Salty Dog
  • Within yards of our front door, we can visit a deli; bagel shop; Italian, Chinese, Greek, Indian, and Mediterranean restaurants; a bank; Starbucks; grocery store; café; vet; pet shop; produce market… … you get the point
  • We have a spacious two bedroom apartment with tons of natural light and perfectly positioned windows for people-watching (a thoroughly worthwhile endeavor in New York, I assure you)
  • Our ceilings are 9’3” high and for some reason I love that

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My mom and grandma stayed with us for a few days to help us get settled in and visit our new home. Unpacking was (and continues to be) an expected burden, but we managed to make a serious dent in the towers of boxes that quickly formed a hedge-like maze in our apartment.

 

When we first started looking for an apartment in Bay Ridge (a charming residential area in southwest Brooklyn), we were told by a broker that the area is not pet friendly and we would have a hard time locating an apartment that would allow our two dogs.

I don’t know if she was right about the difficulty of finding a place that would welcome two big pups, but she was way off the mark about the nature of the neighborhood. Dogs (of every size and breed) are being walked along all the sidewalks every time we step outside. There are more dogs here than I have ever seen in my own home town. (I appreciate that may be due to the necessity of city-dwellers to walk their dogs for potty breaks rather than just letting them in the backyard.)

Our landlord is a dog lover. His two bulldogs stay in his shop downstairs every day while he works. That characteristic coupled with the recommendation given by our neighbors meant that he had no problem allowing us to keep our dogs in the apartment.

 

Having the dogs in the city:

  • Poop bags, I’ve found, are way more convenient to use than grocery bags; plus they can be carried in tidy rolls inside carrying containers (I know, I know, not exactly breaking news)
  • There aren’t many grassy spots nearby, so if we’re just stepping out for a quick potty break, the dogs gravitate towards the squares of dirt around the trees lining the sidewalks
  • Stop-and-go walking makes a “quick” stroll take forever: the dogs glue themselves to every semi-vertical landmark coated in pee from all the dogs within a two-mile radius
  • Pit bull-type dogs are not hated and feared by every passerby here, like they seem to be in Erie. As it happens, more people have stopped to pet Babe or coo at her than not
  • Linoleum floors make already clumsy dogs into fumbling clowns
  • There is such a thing as dog etiquette. For instance, people who have stand-offish dogs tend to cross the street to avoid an altercation with oncoming dogs (common sense)

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Just like etiquette with anything else, you will always find people whose skills are lacking and we ran into a couple of those types at the dog park on Wednesday. On our return loop at Owl’s Head Park, we passed a clearing with about five large, unleashed dogs and their owners. I made the naïve mistake of assuming the dogs would be very well trained if they were off a leash and would leave us alone. Unfortunately, a few of the dogs saw us and rushed in. Ivan and I separated, to avoid our dogs falling into a pack mentality, and let the strange dogs approach Ajax and Babe separately.

The first thing I noticed was that none of the owners were attempting to call their dogs back, despite the fact that we were obviously uncomfortable with the situation. When a large black dog started bearing down on Babe and she began tugging at her leash with her tail between her legs, I yelled at the group of (still uninterested) owners to control their dogs. In the end, I had to pick Babe up to get her away and Ivan waited with a frantic Ajax while the dogs finally lost interest and returned to their people.

Happily I can say that’s the only lousy experience we’ve had so far.

Otherwise, we are genuinely happy here. The apartment is dynamite. Yes, that’s right. I said dynamite. The people (in Bay Ridge) are much nicer than we had expected. The cultural diversity is awesome. The accessibility to all of our basic necessities is perfect. And, importantly, the dogs seem to be adjusting fairly well so far.

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On Wednesday, two days after we first arrived, I followed up with a help wanted sign in the window of a posh Greek café one block south of our apartment. That day, I had a brief interview at Omonia Café and was offered the job.

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