Writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis is traveling the country meeting dog-obsessed Americans for a book about dogs in America. He kicked things off by spending a full day with his dog at Tompkins Square Park in New York’s East Village, the oldest in the city.
Dog parks are a relatively modern invention, a “kind of victory over the anonymity and transience of life,” as writer Mary Battiata put it. They’re a place of long-lasting friendships, longer-lasting feuds, and dog-park know-it-alls who disapprove of the job you’re doing with your pet. At a dog park in Boston, where I live, the park’s queen bee once asked me what I was feeding Casey.
She didn’t like my answer. “Well, you can certainly feed him that if you want to _kill_him,” she barked.
I’d come to New York City to experience the rituals and rhythms of the city’s oldest dog run. The New York Times has described Tompkins Square (also called First Run) as a lively and contentious place, one brimming with dog-park politics and the kind of class-related tension that led one woman to declare that some dogs deserved to get “roughed up because they wore sweaters.”
One dog park regular says it’s a great place to meet people, and a few of the regulars have even gotten married. Another regular, a woman, replied, “I try not to date where my dog shits.”
Dog parts engender community. Immediately after 9/11, regulars flocked to the dog park to be with people close to them.