The Real.Est List
Rental Rookie: A dog is more than just another roommate
Living near Central Park and seeing all the happy owners walking their canines would make any dog-loving person want their own pooch. I fell victim to the oodles of cuteness that paraded by my house and decided to adopt a dog off Craigslist that was in need of a new home.
Roscoe is a 15-pound Westiepoo allergic to beef and wheat who likes to snuggle but is prone to accidents, especially on the bed. Oh yeah--he doesn't like other dogs, or other people, which makes it really uncomfortable sometimes. But I loved him immediately.
While taking Roscoe home might have been one of the best choices I ever made, it was also an impulsive move that luckily worked out for me.
Here are some things you should check out before you decide to adopt a Roscoe of your own:
Finding an apartment that allows pets
For starters, you have to find an apartment in a building that allows dogs. And just because the ad says “dog friendly” doesn’t mean it applies to your dog. Many buildings only allow dogs that are under a certain weight, usually somewhere in the range of 15-25 pounds. As a friend said, “That’s basically a large NYC subway rat with a lot of fur.” So it’s easy to exceed the limit.
You may also be required to pay an extra deposit. My pet deposit was an additional $250, which wasn’t that bad, but it probably will make landlord more critical about little scuffs and scratches when you move out, so be prepared not to get your entire deposit back no matter how hard you clean.
FYI, to avoid the possibility of you and your pet being traumatically separated by your landlord, most adoption and rescue centers in New York City will require either written permission from your landlord, or ask to see the provision in your lease that says you are allowed to keep pets.
Getting a dog from Craiglist like I did can be risky, and I would not recommend it again. It turned out that my dog had actually been resold at a higher price by a scammer who bought him from the original owners a few days before. The scammer left Roscoe’s old collar on so I was able to contact the first owners, get his medical history and make sure he wasn’t stolen.
If your dog is a large breed, you will have a harder time finding a place to rent. One tip: Most neighborhoods have dog runs for large dogs and small dogs. Visit the large dog run during a busy time and ask which rental buildings in the area take large dogs, then approach those landlords directly about vacancies. You might even find yourself a no-fee apartment this way.
The good thing about living in a pet-friendly building is that chances are that many of the other residents have dogs. You can ask for tips about good veterinarians, local dog parks and pet stores. Plus, it’s easy to find a playdate if your dog is keen, and if you’re close with your neighbors, you’ll have someone who can run in and check on your dog if there is an emergency.
People with dogs also tend to be more tolerant of barking dogs. (Conversely, if you’re not a pet lover, you might consider moving to a non-pet friendly building if these things bother you. It gets a bit loud in my about 70-unit building with all the critters chiming.)
Dog-proofing your apartment
Make sure there are window guards so he can’t jump out when you’re not looking. If you have a roach or mouse problem, keep the traps and poison far away from his or her food to avoid accidental snacking.
Your dog is definitely going to be hot in your place during the summer and might overheat in the overheated winter, so invest in screens and air-conditioning to keep him or her cool. That means that in the summer, you should plan on keeping the air conditioner running even when you’re at work.
Dog-walkers and wee wee pads
Many New Yorkers with small breed dogs use wee wee pads in their apartments, drastically curtailing the need for walking 3 times or more per day or in severe weather. (Tip if you’re new to wee wee pads: Pick up the poop with a tissue and flush it rather than throwing it away with the pad. You will use fewer wee wee pads and your trash will smell better.)
If you work all day and your dog doesn’t use a wee wee pad or needs a lot of exercise, you may need to hire a dog walker.
Don’t hire a random dog walker, especially someone off Craigslist. There are a lot of rumors about dog walkers take pets and try to resell them. I’m not saying that all Craigslist walkers are bad, but there’s a reason why those with an established reputation can charge a lot. Ask other dog owners for a recommendation.
There’s also the problem of trying to lug 50-pound bags of food or huge boxes of wee wee pads from your local pet store. For items like these, it’s worth considering delivery.
Petco.com and Petsmart.com offer cheap or free delivery depending on specials and might even be less expensive than your local store.
Petflow.com offers an automated delivery service so you can make sure that your dog doesn’t go hungry, and they can FedEx supplies the next day. He --no one said having a pet was cheap, but most of us pet owners can’t imagine life without our dogs.
Next on Rental Rookie: Bored with your apartment? Spruce up your space mid-year with a coat of paint and wall fixtures, but make sure everyone is okay with it first.
Michelle Castillo moved to Manhattan last fall to attend Columbia University's Journalism School. She has covered arts and entertainment for The Los Angeles Times, Billboard.com, Hollywood Reporter, MSNBC.com and EW.com, and she currently writes about geek culture for Time.com's Techland. Rental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.