Puppies, Squirrels and Birds… Oh My!

My six-year-old is a lover of all animals, but dogs are her soft spot – regardless of size, breed or fluffiness. There’s nothing she wants more than a puppy (although a balcony is a close contender). There are a million reasons why we won’t get a dog, starting with lack of a back yard, horror stories of puppy training, the demands of multiple daily walks and the whole scooping of poop grosses me out. The main reason though is because I grew up with a dog. Snoopy was my best friend and a true member of our family. He ran away in 1989 and I’m still devastated and truly miss him. I can’t imagine getting so attached to a pet again or having my children experience the heartache that goes along with losing a pet.  So they know, there are no puppies in our family’s future.

On our walk to school each morning, my daughter asks to pet as many dogs as time permits. Almost all the owners graciously stop for a moment during their rushed morning walk to allow her to do so. There’s Katie the Daschund who was recently rescued; Brooklyn, a baby toy poodle; Buddy, an Akita with a very bushy tail. Let’s not leave out Benny, Lili, Coco, Georgia, Peter, Petunia and so many others. While each one is unique and adorable,  it’s Bella who has stolen all of our hearts.

Bella is a gorgeous yellow lab that is friendly and sweet. Bella and her trainer, Stephen, are at the same bench every morning. During the first week of school we stopped to pet Bella and since then, we’ve forged an unexpected and very special bond. We don’t dream of leaving the apartment without a few dog treats. Bella spots my daughter a half block away and immediately gets up and starts stretching, yawning and wagging her tail. Her excitement level increases as my daughter breaks into a run and by the time they reach each other there’s a great deal of barking, jumping and giggling! A few times I was sure Bella would knock her over, but thankfully she knows just when to back down. She quickly gobbles her treats and settles in for a few minutes of petting and cuddling.

Over the course of the school year, we’ve gotten to know Stephen and have exchanged pictures and gifts. We even have traded emails alerting each other of vacations or unexpected sick days, as to avoid needlessly worrying. On Mondays, Bella is accompanied by Lizzie, a black lab who is a bit calmer, but equally loveable. Bella and Lizzie are spoken about often in our family and with friends and Leila has even taken their pictures to school for Show n’ Tell.

About the same time we met Bella, we came upon a squirrel in the small park we walk through and named him Rexi. Rexi (or one of his many look-alikes) seems to be in roughly the same spot most days and has taken to getting up close and personal to us, sitting on his hind legs, waiting for his treat. Oh, did I mention that in addition to the dog treats, we also take along a handful of peanuts each day? Rexi has a cousin named Lexi, and a friend named Bootsie. Sometimes they put on an acrobatic performance for us, other days they play hide and seek high up in the branches and sometimes they surprise us by popping up further along in our route. Our personal clash of the titans was when Rexi snuck up to us when we were with Bella. He taunted Bella into a state of frenzy and then made a last second escape up a tree with his peanut in tow.

Beauty is a new friend- a gorgeous cardinal that’s been flying around our building. We’ve seen him quite a few times and have found not only a nest in our building’s backyard but also his mate, an orange-beaked female northern cardinal, who is always close by. We’re keeping an eye on the nest and hope to see some baby cardinals flying about soon.

The last member of our animal posse is Buzzy (we’re working on getting more creative with names!). Buzzy is a bee that is always buzzing around the same bush of pink flowers.

Our morning walk is a true animal adventure. It’s so sweet to see the love and affection my child already has for so many different animals. What’s even nicer is that with all these friendly creatures, there’s never a need for us to get our own… all we have to do is take a walk- no leash, no plastic bag, no vet bills. I’m grateful for all pet owners in the city for sharing their pets with children and if you see me walking a little puppy a few years from now, humor me and pretend you never read this.

Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.

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