I have a card that my best friend gave me that pretty much sums up my life at this point. It has a drawing of a slightly trashy, too-blonde woman in a Westerny, cleavage-bearing shirt looking up at stars in the sky, and it reads, “I’m Going to NY — You Can Go to Hell!”
In the past I might not have identified so strongly with this somewhat risqué notion, but because I’m going through a divorce I have a particular subject in mind for the “Go to Hell!” part. I’ve also managed to somehow bleach my hair to a very odd shade of pale lemon and, if I dig through my closet, I can find a shirt or two that would work at a hoedown.
When I found out that my husband wanted a divorce, my first impulse was to flee — that whole fight or flight response thing. I was just too tired to fight, so I started making plans to move to New York City. I’d lived there for a few years in the past and I loved it. And, during that time, I’d had two dogs, Manny and Kingfish. But, the thing is, Manny and Kingfish were innocuous Lab and Golden mixes and, though large, they weren’t the dreaded P.B. — they weren’t Pit Bulls. This time round I have two Pit Bulls, Hudson and Falstaff, and, if I was too tired to fight for the marriage, I realized early on I was going to have to take lots of 5-hour Energy to fight to find an apartment to rent in New York City with my dogs.
Finding a pet-friendly apartment in a big city is tough, whatever the city and whatever the type or breed of dog. But, in some ways, New York City actually has some advantages over other places. For one thing, New Yorkers are surprisingly willing to help — those with dogs even more so. New Yorkers appreciate creativity and just plain guts. They also are curious creatures by nature and, contrary to the stereotype of black-clad figures moving so fast that they have blinders on, will take a brief break from their harried pursuit of whatever they’re pursuing to check out something unusual. Another benefit is that New Yorkers walk, so opportunities of one-on-one contact are greater than in most cities.
New York City, here I come
So, patting Hudson’s smooth black head and promising Falstaff special treats upon return, I headed off to the Big Apple (never call it that if you’re there) on the first of many trips to apply my creative spirit and brain power to the task of finding an apartment to rent that would take two Pit Bulls. Keeping the unusual qualities of NYC in mind, I set upon a plan (though this plan could certainly work elsewhere). First thing was to buy some cardboard and markers and tape. Upon the first piece of cardboard, I taped pictures of my dogs and wrote, “Need Assistance Finding an Apartment.” On a second piece, I wrote:
1. Bad Credit
2. A $1,500 Limit
3. Two Pit Bulls
4. A Chance in Hell of Finding a Place
(I thought that last line was very clever at the time.) I then sat down in Union Square by the dog run and waited for an apartment to fall in my lap.
After the fifth or sixth person tried to give me money, I changed “Assistance” to “Advice.” This method did have some helpful results, with several New Yorkers giving me names of pet-friendly landlords and suggestions such as attending the Rare Dog Breed Show, which was in town. I even had my fortune told by a passerby.
Next, I hit the dog parks. Dog parks are good places to trap dog owners and ask them if they rent and, if so, where. If you have a sob story, like my whole divorce-bankruptcy-foreclosure situation that I have milked to the bone, it’s even better. I ran across a couple of clueless dog walkers, a few snooty dog owners, and some folks who were speaking Ukrainian (I think), but I did get an idea of which areas were more dog and Pit Bull friendly.
So, I headed off to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which one of the dog walkers had told me about. Spending time only in neighborhoods where you see a lot of dogs is wise, and Pit Bull owners need to look for Pit Bulls specifically, since it’s tougher to find a Pit Bull-friendly place. I bothered people with Pit Bulls on stoops, outside bars, and in bookstores. The start of a conversation can be awkward (what would you think if a stranger suddenly said, “Where do you live?”) so it’s important to get that point about being a dog owner looking for an apartment in there quickly. Another good place to hit is a pet store.
Don’t forget to use the Web, too
These are all word-of-mouth, one-on-one strategies, but you can get help looking for a dog-friendly apartment from the comfort of your home, too. New York City has a Meetup.com group for Pit Bull owners, as do many other cities. Join the group, explain that you’re trying to move there, and start posting. I got two or three inside tips from members, including the address and phone number of the superintendent of a Pit-friendly place. Your other resource online or via phone is rescue groups. A mostly Pit Bull rescue called Mighty Mutts in NY put me in touch with a Mighty Mutts member who specifically rents to Pit Bull owners.
All of this creativity and cerebral function was tiring, but … I did get an apartment in New York City! In fact, if you’re thinking of moving to New York or another big city, you may find it’s easier to find a dog-friendly place than in smaller towns. Cities have more options, and often it’s just a matter of finding the right people to steer you the right way. It does take hard work and a lot of luck, but I’ve found that dog people are almost always willing to help another dog person out.
Have you had trouble finding a Pit Bull-friendly apartment to rent? Are there any creative ways you’ve found a place to rent with your dog? Let us know in the comments!