Here at Weekend Arts, we are always excited about new movies featuring anthropomorphized animals. As we waited for “Paddington” to arrive, some of us got to thinking. If a small, confused, marmalade-loving bear from Peru is an emblem of sorts for London, where is our mascot for New York? Is there an animal — or a character of some kind — who stands for our city? If not, should we make up our own?
First, a word about Paddington. He is not English at all. He is an exotic foreigner. His understanding of London is the understanding of a South American mammal deposited into a bewildering new environment with little more than the coat on his back, the hat on his head and an introductory note of sorts pinned to his collar.
We can relate to that. The immigrant experience is, of course, embedded into the fabric of life in New York. We are all outsiders, one way or another, and we are all at times as befuddled by our native city as Paddington is by his adopted one. We cannot be pigeonholed. It is hard to sum up our experiences, let alone channel them into a single being who represents all of us.
But we will try.
From children’s literature, of course, there is Lyle the Crocodile, who is helpful and resourceful and, though he probably doesn’t realize it, represents the population of crocodiles who may or may not live in this mysterious city’s sewage system. There is Harriet the Spy, who epitomizes the curiosity of New Yorkers and also our tendency to write things down.
Other non-animals include the disaffected Holden Caulfield, whose existential musings about the people in the city and the ducks in Central Park sometimes resonate with us, especially in winter, and the cheerful Eloise, who makes us wish that we, too, lived at the Plaza (before all those changes) and could spend our time roller-skating through the halls, tampering with the mail and ordering room service.
Chester, the musical cricket from “The Cricket in Times Square” who helps rescue a subway newsstand from bankruptcy, shows New Yorkers’ entrepreneurial spirit and generosity. Archy, from “Archy and Mehitabel,” proves that even our cockroaches are smart.
King Kong reminds us that although assertiveness can sometimes be attractive in romantic relationships, this does not hold true if our date is also threatening to rip apart our favorite building. Spider-Man speaks to New Yorkers’ difficulty in reconciling our professional and personal lives. Batman does not come from New York, per se, but he shows how, with the right backdrop, you, too, could look fantastic in a long, swirly cape.
How about a real animal? Pale Male, the mesmerizing hawk? Gus, the Central Park Zoo’s neurotic polar bear (now deceased), who, according to his therapist, was “just bored and mildly crazy in the way that a lot of people are in New York City”? (It’s too early to tell how bored and/or crazy the zoo’s two grizzly newcomers, Betty and Veronica, will turn out to be.) Chuck (or Charlotte), the gender-fluid groundhog who bit Mayor Bill de Blasio last year and then died under mysterious circumstances, providing us with one of our favorite things: a political scandal that may involve homicide? Or some new modern character that has not yet been invented: a locavore Williamsburg gerbil with a thing for sautéed brussels sprouts?
If it were up to me, I would vote for Stuart Little. His creator, E. B. White, was a great New Yorker writer who wrote one of the great essays about the city. Stuart represents our tolerance, ingenuity, adventurous spirit, good looks and optimism. He leaves the city to find his way in the great wide world, but he knows who he is. Like all of us, Stuart will always be a New Yorker.
Below, several New Yorkers make suggestions for a New York City mascot. Please share yours in the comments.
LYLE THE CROCODILE
“When Paddington Bear arrives in New York City, he will be welcomed with open arms (and a big tail hug) by Lyle the Crocodile. Lyle has the best of taste, as he lives in a Victorian brownstone on East 88th Street with the Primm family. Lyle is a lovable crocodile who has been described in The New York Times as nice, sensitive, urbane and “perfectly plausible.” He’s the perfect (although green) N.Y.C. welcoming-committee-of-one for Paddington Bear.”
Chris Loker, Grolier Club member and curator of the exhibition “One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature” at the club.
FRITZ THE CAT
“R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, from the story where he’s attending N.Y.U., hanging around the Village, getting into trouble. I’ve had it in mind for many years to do a funny-animals comic of my own about city animals, mostly vermin. Rats, pigeons, squirrels, roaches, mice. But then I think about spending that much time in their company, and I retreat. But I still might. There’s something admirable about their pluck, their tenacity. So long as they stay the hell out of my apartment.”
Bob Fingerman,artist and comic book writer.
THE GRAY SQUIRREL
“There are so many qualified candidates in Central Park — Balto the heroic sled dog, majestic red-tailed hawks, and a healthy population of raccoons and chipmunks — but after a robust debate in our office, we want to nominate the gray squirrel. It is by far the most popular and photographed creature in the park, and just like New Yorkers, they are hard-working, resourceful and stylish.”
Douglas Blonsky, president and chief executive of the Central Park Conservancy.
“What other animal understands our need for flexibility, is at home in tight places, enjoys a sleep mid-commute, relishes collecting objects and embraces tenacity, yet knows how to party? Ferrets also share our hatred of humidity, below-freezing temperatures, rats and subpar food (they’d rather starve than eat something not to their liking).”
Ariel Jasper, member of New York Ferrets.
PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE, THE LIBRARY LIONS
“Patience and Fortitude remind us daily that to survive and thrive in this city, you need a good dosage of both. Paddington is quite an intellectual bear, loving antiques. Our lions guard 52 million treasures, have perused most of them and at times can appear to be rather snobbish about it all. But get to know them, and you will see that they put down their guard and are most welcoming.”
Paul Holdengraber,director, Live From the New York Public Library.
“New York blends energy and intensity. Where else are there people from so many different places, who come together to talk, work and eat each other’s food? Muppets like Bert and Ernie and Oscar are always finding new ways to make mischief, solving problems that only they could invent, and bringing music and wit to every challenge they face. There is no single animal, mascot or statue that conveys New York’s spirit and zest for life. The Muppets don’t stand still, and neither does New York.”
Mitchell L. Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning, New York University.
Companion Animal Health
Dogs, cats and horses have been our trusted companions throughout history and keeping them healthy is a top concern among their caregivers everywhere.
There are several factors influencing the growing demand for medicines, vaccines and related products and services for companion animals:
Economic development and related increases in disposable income
Increasing rates of pet ownership
Longer life expectancy for companion animals
Increased types of medical treatment now consumed for companion animals
Advances in animal health medicines and vaccines
Industry sources indicate that pet ownership and spending per pet are increasing globally, especially in emerging markets. For example, Euromonitor data shows that spending on pets is projected to increase 3.3 percent in the United States between 2007 and 2012, but in Latin America it will grow 10.2 percent.
As dogs and cats increasingly become members of the family, people in both developed and emerging markets are consuming a broader range of products and services to help their pets live longer, healthier lives.
The human/animal bond
The connection between human health and animal health goes far beyond the potential spread of infectious disease. Connecting with animals has been shown to be associated with a range of indicators of emotional and physical well-being.
Pet ownership and participation in recreational or competitive equestrian sports are examples of how the human/animal bond improves life for many millions of people worldwide. Veterinary schools have now added topics such as pet bereavement to the curriculum in recognition of how important this bond is.
The human/animal bond does not stop at pet ownership, either. Animals are also used to improve the well-being of people who are socially isolated, such as those in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and prisons, and to assist those who are hearing-impaired and visually-impaired.
10 Things Humans do that Annoy Dogs
10. Fake Playing
Canines can get quite annoyed when humans fake play with them. While they love chasing balls and Frisbees around the yard or at the park, they hate the fake act of pretending to throw. They may get excited the first few times, and they might even run to catch the pretend ball, but upon finding out that the owner is just faking it, the dog will stop playing, even if it’s for real. (I guess the lesson here is that nobody likes a faker!) So loosen your arm and be ready to throw the ball or Frisbee around. Your dog will thank you for the extra effort.
We Chat With the Co-Founder of NYC's First Cat Cafe
Feline groovy: Hanging out with Emilie Legrand and the cats up for adoption in Meow Parlour. Susan C. Willett | Jan 8th 2015
Ever since I learned that cat cafes existed, I dreamed of visiting one. It might seem odd, since my own home could be considered a cat (and dog) cafe on its own, with any one of four cats liable to jump into my lap just as a forkful of mushroom risotto is halfway to my mouth.
But still. The idea of enjoying purring cats and delectable treats that I didn’t have to bake, among a slew of other like-minded people. Can it get any better?
How about placing said establishment in New York City?
One of cats in the New York City's Meow Parlour waits for visitors.
Meow and macarons in Manhattan
Thus I found myself visiting Meow Parlour, a recently opened cat cafe on Hester Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
There I met nearly a dozen adoptable cats and had a chance to speak with Meow Parlour co-founder Emilie Legrand, a native of France and frequent visitor to cat cafes around the world. Working in the kitchen at Macaron Parlour -- a popular New York City patisserie featuring popular French pastries -- she and bakery co-owner Christina Ha fantasized about opening a cat cafe in Manhattan.
Sometimes it's more interesting inside the cafe than outside the window.
Cats and pastry
“Cats and pastry are my two passions,” says Emile, pretty much speaking for the both of them. They set about turning their fantasy into reality.
Obviously Emilie and Christina aren’t the only ones with those combined interests. The Kickstarter campaign for the project hit its goal in 24 hours, and sold out the next day. Now open to the public, the city's first cat cafe has timed visits, which are booked solid 60 days in advance.
A quick look around the tidy glass and wood space and you’ll see cats, kitty-sized lounges, cats, high tables and stools, cats, throw pillows, and cats. But where’s the bakery? The cafe?
Around the corner.
There are cat hiding places all over the place--including inside tables.
City regulations prohibit animals in places that make and serve food. But there is no law that says food can’t be brought into a place populated by feline inhabitants. So the partners opened Meow Parlour Patisserie 200 feet away; visitors can stop by on their way to the cat cafe. Lazier patrons can have their drinks, pastries, soups and sandwiches delivered.
Cats have places to explore, lounge and nap throughout the cafe.
Keeping the cats safe in the cafe
To protect the cafe's residents, humans who sign up for half-hour sessions (they can stay longer and pay for the extended time when they leave) have a series of simple rules to follow. This includes removing their shoes and using hand sanitizer on entering, and a list of don’ts: Don’t use flash photography, don’t give the cats treats, don’t bring toys, and don’t pick up a cat without permission.
I asked Emilie if the cats had any rules. She laughed. “That would be very ambitious.” Then she thought about it for a moment. Apparently there is one rule; the cats are not allowed in the double-doored vestibule -- to prevent escapes.
“Of course they try,” said Emilie.
Sip, snack, snuggle, adopt
All of the cats at Meow Parlour are adoptable, through KittyKind, a not-for-profit, no-kill, all-volunteer cat rescue and adoption group in New York City. Meow Parlour plays host to no more than a dozen cats from the group; framed photos and accompanying kitty details hang on the wall to help visitors learn who’s who.
Just three of the adoptable cats currently at Meow Parlour
Cafe citizens are chosen by KittyKind, whose staff selects cats who are social with people and comfortable with other cats. They also bring cats that “don’t do well in cages, that don’t show well,” says Emilie. The ones who hang in the back of their pens and won’t come out, who can languish in shelters for too long -- not because they’re unfriendly, but just the opposite: They want to be out and about.
It's good to find friends to play with at the cafe.
Lucky Lemon's story: a sour beginning turns sweet
Emilie told me the story of Lucky Lemon, a gorgeous orange mancat who spent his first three days at the cafe hiding under a bench. “One customer spent a lot of time with him,” she said. “She was very gentle.” It was all Lucky Lemon needed, because soon after that, he came out of his shell.
I asked Emilie to point him out to me. “That one? Really? I don’t believe it.” I had just spent about 15 minutes playing with the handsome dude; he was incredibly friendly.
Look at sweet and friendly Lucky Lemon now.
The snuggle effect
According to Emilie, the typical Meow Parlour visitor is a cat lover who falls into one of several categories:
Someone whose roommate is allergic to cats. "Roommate" might also mean husband or wife. I would have thought that should be on the interview list of potential roomies or life partners: must love cats.
Students who can’t have cats in their dorms. Manhattan alone is home to more than 50 colleges and universities -- and there are four other boroughs just a subway’s ride away.
People whose landlords don’t allow cats. Don’t get me started.
Potential adopters: What better way to fall in love than over a cup of coffee?
Sometimes it’s just people who are in New York for one reason or another and miss their cats at home. Or folks who are searching for what Emilie calls the “snuggle effect.” An escape from everyday life. From work. Stress.
“Coming here is relaxing,” says Emilie. “People tend to speak more softly. And when they leave, they have a smile on their face.”
About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found at Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with three dogs and four cats (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans -- all of whom provide inspiration for her work. Refusing to take sides in the interweb's dogs vs. cats debate, Susan enjoys observing the interspecies interaction among the varied inhabitants of her home -- like living in a reality TV show, only furrier. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™, Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting.
Meet Alice de Almeida, the woman responsible for taking care of Matilda, the cat who lives at New York City's Algonquin Hotel.
When Alice de Almeida first answered a job ad for an executive assistant position at New York City’s iconic Algonquin Hotel, she thought her daily tasks might include answering the phone and keeping up with her boss’s schedule. But de Almeida’s job soon took on one extraordinary task: she became the hotel’s “chief cat officer,” caring for Matilda, the Algonquin’s mascot, as well as managing the adorable feline’s social media accounts. She spoke to Conde Nast Traveler’s Lilit Marcus about the gig she describes as her “pot o’gold.”
Have you always been a cat person?
I‘ve always been an animal person. My mother liked cats, my father liked dogs—so they bought me birds. It’s true. And then as soon as I grew up I had a dog, and then I had a dog for years, and—for the last 20-some odd years—I’m the cat lady.
Can you describe what your typical day is like? Not just Matilda, but what else you do in a typical day.
It’s the beauty of the hotel. Why I love it is because every day is different. You don’t know what your challenge is going to be when you walk in in the morning. So normally I’ll walk in, and it’s feeding Matilda and taking care of her needs, and then it’s coming upstairs and preparing for the day, getting all the reports and the VIPs and all of that in order, and then whatever happens.
What is Matilda’s day like?
She’s up at about 6 a.m. and she sits at the front desk waiting for me to arrive at 6:30, and then she eats, and then she has to take a nap. Then when one of the front office guys comes in, she loves him to death and he’ll brush her. So, soon as he comes in, she’s up and she’s waiting to get brushed. And then that’s exhausting, so you have to nap from that. Then she might get woken up once or twice because we’ve had guests request [to meet her]. She might sense it and she just might come out for a while to be admired and fawned over, and then we’re back to napping because that’s exhausting.
Is there any specific maintenance that a hotel cat needs?
Whoever had her first had her declawed in the front but not the back. [Note: All of the Algonquin’s cats are rescued from animal shelters.] We do have scratching posts anyway. She gets groomed three to four times a year.
I understand that you once went a little bit above and beyond the call of duty and Matilda lived at home with you. Can you tell me about that?
She did! The hotel closed for renovation [in 2012]. She came to me in December 2011 and I brought her back in May 2012. We had fun, except she is the queen and I had three other [cats] at the time and she decided that they couldn’t live there. Everybody had in time and out time. They all had their own rooms. She actually cornered a squirrel one day inside the house. We have an attic loft, and I couldn’t find her one day, I lost her. And of course it was like Oh my god, I lost the Algonquin cat.
Now that there are multiple ways to get in touch with Matilda--email, Facebook, Twitter—what kind of people write to her?
It is absolutely incredible. Worldwide. Last year, she posted “Where are you from?” on Facebook and I don’t think there was a country that was missed. She has a woman in Russia who emails her all the time and sends gifts. There was a lady in Japan that hand-made an exact replica of her, two dolls, out of wool. Each strand of wool, strand by strand, she put those in. It looks exactly like Matilda. One is just Matilda, we have her in the showcase out front. And then I have one up here where she has her in a kimono.
I have to tell you what got me. It was in 2011 and we were just preparing to close [for renovations] and Matilda was here in the office with me. I get a call that there’s this lady and she wanted to see Matilda. It’s an older lady, and she says she’s been in the hotel about four or five times, looking for Matilda, and hadn’t met her. And she was in from Texas, she wasn’t staying here, but could she come back and see her? She really, really wanted to see her before she left. We arranged a convenient time, and she asked if she could bring a friend, and I said fine. I brought the cat in, and they were just having the best time. Then one of her friends grabbed me outside and she thanked me. She said, “You have no idea. She just had a heart transplant and Matilda was on her bucket list.”
Where do you keep all of Matilda’s gifts?
It depends what it is. At Christmastime, when she gets a lot of toys, we will send them off to a shelter in her name. We have two paintings of her, so we have them hanging up. Somebody hand painted a Christmas ball for her; that’s in the showcase downstairs.
How do you get into the Matilda voice when you’re posting on her social media accounts?
It’s part insanity, part cat…I guess I’ve just been around them so long I kind of think I think like them? You put yourself into her paws.
Is there anything she doesn’t like to do? She seems to be pretty friendly with guests—I actually did get to meet her briefly once—but is there anything she doesn’t like or is afraid of?
Nothing scares her. We have fire drills in the hotel and the alarms go off and she sits there and looks at you. She’s very willful, though. And when she doesn’t want something, she’ll let you know. She will nip. She never bites skin. She never breaks skin, but if she’s had enough and you’ve really annoyed her, she won’t just walk away. She’ll let you know, and she’ll nip. If she sees you trying to take a photo and you’ve already taken too many—she’s determined that you’ve taken too many; it’s her decision—she will actually sit in front of you and turn her back to you and face the wall so you can’t get her face.
The hotel has a specific Matilda hotel package that people request. What does that entail?
They get a personal welcome note from Matilda. They get a replica—a stuffed doll. They get the Sandy Robbins book, Fabulous Felines. Interestingly enough, it’s more men than women. But I don’t know if it’s the men making the reservation for the family. Matilda doesn’t have thumbs, so when she writes those notes I have to hit the space bar for her, and I just did five for this weekend—well, she did five for the weekend—and only one was a woman.
What does she eat?
She’s a Fancy Feast girl, and it’s gotta have gravy. Her absolute favorite treats are bonito flakes. We had a Japanese gentleman come in and he used to bring them from Japan. And Matilda would know it, and she knew him. If she saw him, she would sit by the elevator waiting for him. It was incredible.
Every year, you organize a birthday party for Matilda complete with a cat fashion show. What kind of coordination does that involve?
We are partnering with the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City Animals again. We have our principal players down and all the “mew”dels. Now we just need to figure out our theme. I am the coordinator. And I am very fortunate, I have a fabulous team.
People love puppies. But all too often -- and in so many cruel ways -- these animals are betrayed by the very breeders who raise them. These breeding facilities are called puppy mills, where female breeding dogs are kept in close confinement and forced to bear litter after litter without any break for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often killed. Adult breeding dogs and puppies are typically kept in cages with wire flooring that can injure their paws and legs.
Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, though families who eventually buy these puppies in pet stores don't know their purchase feeds the profit-making machine that keeps puppy mills in business.
That's why we stood proudly with the New York City Council last week as they admirably addressed this issue head-on. By an overwhelming margin, the Council passed groundbreaking legislation -- Intro. 55-A, Intro. 136-A and Intro. 146-A -- that will put effective and enforceable pressure on commercial breeders to substantially improve the lives of thousands of dogs currently languishing in puppy mills in this country.
Spearheaded by Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Corey Johnson, these measures will prohibit city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic care standards prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, as well as from animal brokers known for selling puppies to pet stores from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources.
It will also require New York City pet shops to disclose information about the origins of the animals they sell, and require that dogs and cats sold at city pet shops are spayed/neutered, microchipped and dogs licensed prior to sale. These measures are critical to reducing pet homelessness, reuniting lost pets with owners and ensuring the safety of pets and the public.
Prior to this year, New York cities and communities did not have the authority to set their own standards, but in January, Governor Cuomo signed milestone legislation to allow local governments -- including New York City -- to regulate pet dealers for the first time in almost 15 years. Quickly acting on their new authority, the New York City Council created these humane measures.
While these laws won't keep all puppy mill puppies out of New York City pet stores, it's a critical step in the right direction. Taken together they will deeply impact the lives of dogs in puppy mills across the nation, and further New York City's reputation as a leader in animal welfare and safety.
These measures also send a clear message that I hope resonates outside of our city and state boundaries: A civilized society does not tolerate animal cruelty, whether it's fueled by greed, negligence or anything else.
Once that message travels far and wide, we may finally be able to elevate all our animal welfare policies and laws to match values that emphasize animal protection, not exploitation.
Matthew Bershadker is President & CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Learn more about the ASPCA's mission and programs at ASPCA.org.
By Michelle Cohan, CNN Updated 8:37 PM ET, Thu January 8, 2015
(CNN)At first glance, Mugly -- a 10-year-old Chinese crested dog -- is a rather unappealing and unfortunate-looking animal.
With a few random hairs protruding from his snout, a pair of squinty, beady eyes and thin, patchy skin, his genetics didn't do much for his exterior.
But beauty isn't skin deep. And that is exactly what photographer Bego Anton wants to portray through her pictures of Mugly.
"Ugly Mugly is a reflection on how we relate to our pets and how what is close and important to us can change our perceptions on terms such as beauty," Anton said.
Bev Nicholson is the owner of Mugly and five other dogs. None of the five is as provocative-looking as Mugly, yet he is her prized possession in more ways than one -- if his tiny outfits weren't already telling of her immense love.
Along with winning the "World's Ugliest Dog" contest in 2012 and being declared "Great Britain's Ugliest Dog" by a national newspaper in 2005, Mugly works as a therapy dog in a local hospital and attends a ton of charity events.
He helps raise money for small dog rescues in the United Kingdom -- like the one where Nicholson found him. He visits schools and takes part in the "Read to Dogs" program, where reluctant students can read to him without the fear of judgment and receive encouragement through his affection.
Striking a balace between landlords' rights and the needs of the disabled
Most people know that federal, state and city laws require building owners and landlords to accommodate tenants who have disabilities — for instance, by waiving a no-pet rule for a blind resident’s guide dog. But word apparently is spreading about how broadly these laws define a disability, allowing people with a wide range of physical and mental conditions to seek waivers for their dogs.
Features: Double-gated safety vestibule with fences all around. Fresh running water is generally available for pets inside the dog runs from mid-April through early November. Hard surface has drainage. Benches and trash cans are provided for dog owners/handlers.