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City Dog: Small pooches in the big city need protection

BY LYNN PACIFICO | The smallest dog I’ve had was 23-pound, 13-year-old Daisy Rosebud. Harry, my large Arctic mix, and I adopted Daisy after her owner died.

Daisy was a big flirt. One day she saw a hunky German Shepherd on the sidewalk and flagged her tail in front of him, but he was aggressive. They both froze. Time seemed to stand still. Harry, looking hard at the GSD, let out a loud deep growl. The GSD slowly turned and left. My heart was in my throat. Harry, a friendly sweet dog, protected both Daisy and me, as I would have tried to save Daisy if the GSD attacked her.

No longer having a large, intelligent, protective dog makes me fear having a small dog again. A recent occurrence in our neighborhood underscores this fear. A woman with her small dog in her arms was walking on the sidewalk when a leashed Chow Chow jumped up, grabbed the woman’s dog out of her arms and mauled it. The small dog, seriously hurt, was rushed to the hospital. This poor little dog might never be the same, even if she recovers 100 percent physically. The small dog’s owner will also never be the same. How could they not be fearful?

A friend has a 9-pound male dog. We walked our dogs together and the little male dog and my 65-pound Pax became friends. Pax and I were visiting them. I was petting Pax when the tiny dog, with teeth bared and growling, attacked her. Pax responded but I stood up holding Pax by her collar, lifting her off the ground. The tiny dog received only a scratched eye. Pax, with her powerful pitbull jaws, could crush large raw bones like crackers. If she had gotten the little dog’s head… . Once a small dog is in a large dog’s mouth there is damage done. We never walked our dogs together again.

Harry, right, and Daisy. (Photo by Lynn Pacifico)

Dogs exist because their ancestors were good at catching prey. Without this instinct, they and their pups died. Small dogs’ quick little movements can trigger prey drives. An adolescent dog might never have displayed a prey instinct until, one day in the run, it gets an urge to chase and catch a small dog. They do not yet know this is not allowed. The adolescent dog’s owner is not prepared to handle this situation because it had never happened before.

Small dogs are killed in “all-sizes” dog runs. This is why I lobby for separate runs for small dogs. Our newest is the dog park on Gansevoort Peninsula. I asked that each of Gansevoort’s runs have two gates as a safety feature after I was cornered one night in the Leroy Street run. With a large, threatening, mentally ill man at the only gate, there was no way for me to get out until Pax made him leave. But what if I had had an old or smaller dog?

I recently passed by the Gansevoort run and saw that the gate between the run for large dogs and the one for small dogs was open and dogs of all sizes were running between both runs. Unless the owner of a small dog knows each dog at the scene, this is playing Russian roulette with the small dog’s life. Even if the larger dog’s owner says it is not aggressive, it might be an adolescent animal about to engage a prey drive.

Dog runs are a necessity for raising well-behaved, socialized canine citizens in the city, since without a way to release their energy and play with others, our dogs would be much more aggressive and destructive. We see our dogs as the sweethearts we snuggle, and 1,000 to one, dogs use their survival instincts to protect themselves and their pack, like my Harry and Pax did. But flukes happen. It is so traumatizing to see and hear a small dog being hurt that witnesses rarely return to a run afterward. Protect your small dog. Please keep the Gansevoort gate closed.

Pacifico is a fourth-generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.


  1. Mel Mel March 26, 2024

    I just came from Gansevoort, and the big dog owners always keep the whole area to themselves, unless there are many small dogs. Not everyone is comfortable walking into this space, and ripping down their bungee that keeps it all open, so they just walk away from the run. When I brought this up, the big dog owners said it’s because their balls roll underneath between the 2 areas. Well, my small dogs’ ball rolled underneath, and we just had to deal with it. At minimum, for some fairness and just to improve the space, the gap between the areas needs to be covered, so that balls don’t roll where they are inaccesible, in any part of the run. The small dog run is already so tiny, and already less accesible because the big dogs take it over. If the fencing gaps were closed, big dog owners would be less inclined to default to keeping the protective fence between the big and small dog areas open — which it is 80% of the time I come to Gansevoort.

    • lynn pacifico lynn pacifico March 27, 2024

      Thank you for bringing this up, Mel. There are a few issues that need to be addressed at the new run. Maybe we should have a meeting at the run (as soon as possible) as I would like to hear about any other issues before I approach the Hudson River Park Trust. If your or anyone have issues with the Gansevoort run please contact me on Nextdoor.

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