“Look, that’s my dog,” Ray said as he pointed to the TV at My Place Restaurant last week. The bartender spun around to see a promo for the 141st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show which will air on FS1 and Nat Geo WILD on Feb. 13th and 14th. Those seated around the bar saw a few seconds of a Norwegian Elkhound ensconced high above Times Square on the iconic red steps. His smiling face, his purple collar, a stylistic club logo next to his handsome head blipped across the screen. Then he was gone as a multitude of beautiful show dogs strode by at Madison Square Garden.


Linx on the Red Steps high above Times Square 

A woman seated next to Ray turned and asked skeptically, “Was that really your dog?” Proudly, Ray produced the proof in a photo of him kneeling next to his 10-year-old buddy Linx the morning of the film shoot.


“Wait ’til you see his solo 30-second promo,” Ray said. This is just the first of several promos he will appear in, which will air on 22 channels across the Fox Sports network from now until the dog show. Did I mention that the Super Bowl airs on Fox Sports?

His 30 seconds of Fame

There were 20 purebred dogs assembled over two days to help promote the oldest, continuously held, dog show in America with a series of TV promos. Each breed was paired with an New York City landmark. A Bulldog on the Brooklyn Bridge, a Portuguese Water Dog in a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park, an Afghan Hound at The Met, and Smooth Collies and a Leonberger on Broadway, among them.

It all began in Times Square one mild morning last December. We drove to Manhattan, parked, and walked Linx into, arguably, the busiest tourist place on earth. It was early when we arrived. Bark, bark, bark, bark all the way down Broadway from 47th Street. Linx was excited to be here! The throngs had not yet filled the urban space. A few looked on as Linx sat for his first picture of the morning with Ray, among empty chairs in the pedestrian walkway, with jumbo-trons, lights, and the New Year’s Eve ball looming in the background.

Then the film crew arrived and we got to work. Put anybody in the city with a film crew  and people will think they are a celebrity. Linx took notice immediately and began to strut his stuff for his new found fans. First, a quick trip up and down the red steps. Then across 7th Avenue. A very talented cameraman on roller blades between two taxis in the middle of the wide avenue captured his stroll across the crosswalk. Next up, weaving through bizarre characters down the great white way. Linx sauntered by the statue of liberty, a snowman, a princess, and a fake Rockette hawking tours. Not to miss out on a chance to expand his territory, Linx marked several light posts, garbage cans, and even a fire hydrant in Times Square. Well done for a dog who’s natural instinct is tracking moose in thick Norwegian forests. He had paused for the curious, asking to take his picture and even did a bit with a hot dog cart. Needless to say that was Linx’s favorite take of the day. I never did trust ‘street meat’ but he had no problem scarfing down the dogs.

The Red Steps 

At one point we popped Linx up on a marble island with the red steps and the TKTS booth in the background. By now, more curious tourists were watching him get ready for his close up. There were two men standing close by who had spotted the film crew, one with a skateboard. His cohort was trying to get the cameraman to film his friend in action. They were trying to get into Linx’s shot, “Yo, Bro, we are working here,” came the kind request from the cameraman to step out of the frame.


I put Linx in a sit stay. “Can you take his leash off?” came the request. Yes, I had trained my dog in obedience, but remove his leash in Times Square! Luckily, I had packed a long 15-foot leash in my bag, and gladly attached that and snaked it around the back of his body, so it looked like he was just sitting there sans leash, taking in the sights of Times Square, like a dog on a sight-seeing trip. As we wrapped up that take, a man approached us and was thrilled to see a Norwegian Elkhound, not because it was unusual to see a Nordic dog in this urban jungle, but because he had once owned one and had bred a litter. The smile across his face told a story of his nostalgia for his long ago dog. He was then followed by two girls taking his photo to post on social media, where you can now find @TimesSquareDog on Instagram. Now, we were off for one more ascent to the top of the red steps.

While sitting atop the red steps and looking out across the sea of humanity forming below, I could see Linx taking it all in. People sitting nearby, wanting to touch his soft fur, were reaching out to pet him. Sitting next to him, looking at him, with the brilliant display of HD billboards surrounding him, how proud I was of his good-natured temperament after an hour and half of the TV commercial shoot. With Linx’s history with Westminster freshly minted, I thought back nearly 30 years to my first time showing at Westminster. Where Linx’s great, great, great-grandmother Roxanne did us proud. It’s nice to keep it in the family.

MTA Police Canine 2015 Graduates – New York’s Furriest

The most recent Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)  police graduates came heeling into Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall October 21st amid the Pomp And Circumstance Walking Commencement March and the MTA Pipe & Drum Band Ceremonial Unit presenting of the colors.

MTA Pipe & Drum Corps presents the colors at the MTA Police Canine Explosive Detection Graduation

MTA Pipe & Drum Band Ceremonial Unit presents the colors at the MTA Police Canine Explosive Detection Graduation

After bagpipe music filled the cavernous terminal, everyone fell silent when the Phantom of the Opera’s Marcus Lovett sang the National Anthem. A moment of national pride.

Only thing better than hearing bagpipes in Grand Central Terminal is Marcus Lovett singing the National Anthem

Only thing better than hearing bagpipes in Grand Central Terminal is Marcus Lovett singing the National Anthem

This ceremony was like none other.

Marcus Lovett during rehearsal. He sang the National Anthem after the presenting of colors and America The Beautiful during the recessional

Marcus Lovett, left, during rehearsal. He sang the National Anthem after the presenting of colors and America The Beautiful during the recessional

Among the 19 law enforcement canine graduates, there were 15 MTA police dogs and two from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. There were German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, several that were a mix of those two breeds, and two adorable yellow labs, hailing from the United States Park Police. The proud canine handlers and their partners walked forward, one-by-one, executed a sit, and received their new badges dangling from a collar hung around their necks.

Graduates received either the 12-week explosive detection training and / or the 16-week anti-terrorism training at the MTA’s 72-acre training facility in Stormville, NY. During the ceremony the canine unit’s executive officer Lt. John Kerwick, explained how these dogs are a valuable tool with, “four legs, a brain, keen instincts, good eyesight and a nose that is 3000 times stronger than humans. They can interrupt a threat to keep MTA customers and employees safe.” One dog can scan an unattended package in minutes versus calling in the bomb squad. The MTA Police Canine Unit, founded in 2002, is one of the largest explosives detection units in the country. They have approximately 50 dogs, which last year responded to 25,860 requests for service and inspected and cleared 2,584 unattended packages.

Each handler received a diploma, each canine received a badge, and each family of the dog's namesake received a plaque

Each handler received a diploma, each canine received a badge, and each family of the dog’s namesake received a plaque. Then all posed for a group photo to commemorate graduation

Connecticut MTA Police Canines 

And while these police canines are first responders to a dangerous threat, they also carry a tribute each time their handler calls their name. Each of them is named for a fallen hero or dedicated officer. As each graduate received his badge, the family members of the canine’s namesake were invited to come to the podium to share a moment of sacrifice and service that the dog’s name will carry on. Each family received a commemorative plaque with the dog’s photo, name and a description of the officer’s sacrifice and service. Three of the graduates live in Connecticut and these are their stories.

K-9 George and MTA Police Officer Allan Fong from Fairfield. George was named in honor of Police Officer George Wong of the NYPD, who died on May 24, 2011, from illnesses he contracted after inhaling toxic materials as he participated in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Fong said he wanted to name his dog after Wong, who helped him as a young NYPD officer.  He and George have been through months of training in tracking, article recovery, subject searching, wide field search, and handler protection. The 91-pound German Shepherd/Malinois mixed-breed is Fong’s first police dog.

K-9 George and MTA Police Officer Allan Fong after graduation

K-9 George and MTA Police Officer Allan Fong after graduation

“He has a very good temperament, is great at home, loves coming to work, loves being in the back of the truck,” Fong said. “He can’t get enough of coming to work!” And while his main purpose is to patrol MTA properties, he also assists other agencies in need of assistance, such as tracking down lost children. Each dog and handler develop a deep bond working so many hours together. “I’m with him like almost 24/7,” Fong said. “I spend more time with George than I do with my wife or kids.”

K-9 Johnny and MTA Police Officer Kevin Pimpinelli of Naugatuck. Johnny is named in honor of Sergeant John Mullen of the MTA Police Department, who suffered a fatal heart attack while on duty on January 26, 2007. Mullen was Pimpinelli’s supervisor for many years. In fact, Pimpinelli’s first dog, Mullen was also named for the late MTA sergeant. There were 12 Mullen family members in attendance at Johnny’s graduation.

K-9 Johnny as he appears on his own trading card. Each of the MTA Police Canines have cards that handlers can share with children. On the back of the card Johnny says, "If you see something, say something."

K-9 Johnny as he appears on his own trading card. Each of the MTA Police Canines have cards that handlers can share with children. On the back of the card Johnny says, “If you see something, say something.”

K-9 Johnny had a blast at the graduation. “He’s a social dog, loves people petting him, little kids walk right up to him and even loves getting a belly rub,” Pimpinelli said. The two-year-old purebred German Shepherd was born in the Netherlands. He is fully trained for explosives detection and certified in NY and CT. K-9 Johnny can detect about 15 different explosive odors. “Once he finds one, he’ll sit and stare right at that item. Then I have to interpret what he is doing.” Pimpinelli explained. It’s this communication between dog and handler that creates a great team.

Pimpinelli said that his first dog Mullen is retired and lives as his home. He joked that Johnny and Mullen both vie for his attention. “They both sleep in the bedroom, one is on one side of the bed and one is on the other side of the bed. Sometimes, they both try to be on just one side.”

K-9 Vinny and MTA Sgt. William Finucane of Guildford. Vinny is named in honor of Sgt. Vincent J. Oliva of the Port Authority Police Department, who died on November 27, 2013, after a battle with cancer. Sergeant Oliva led the Port Authority Police Department’s Canine Unit. Today, Sgt. Finucane, is the head trainer for the MTA police canine unit. It was him and three assistant trainers — police officers John Brazil, Nelson Hernandez, and Allen Kirsch — that trained the 2015 graduating class.

Sgt. William Finucane asked K-9 Vinny to sit to receive his new badge at the MTA Police Canine graduation at Grand Central Terminal

Sgt. William Finucane asked K-9 Vinny to sit to receive his new badge at the MTA Police Canine graduation at Grand Central Terminal

K-9 Vinny, is Finucane’s fifth dog, and came to him serendipitously. “He wasn’t a planned dog. Vinny was going to replace another dog that was having problems, but he made it. So now I have a dog with no handler,” Finucane recalled. His dog was 12 years old and ready to retire, so Vinny became his.

Thanks to Lt. John Kerwick for inviting me to this very special occasion!

Lt. John Kerwick, his recent graduate K-9 Seabee, a German Shepherd, and me.

Lt. John Kerwick, his recent graduate K-9 Seabee, a German Shepherd, and me.

Tobey Rimes – World’s Richest Dog or Urban Legend?

Several years ago a New York Daily News reporter called my office and asked what I knew about the world’s richest dog, a poodle named Tobey Rimes.  His inheritance was passed down from generations of poodles descended from the original Tobey of the 1930s, owned by Ella Wendel, the last surviving heir to a vast Manhattan real estate fortune built up over two centuries alongside the Astors.

Wendel never married and lived her entire life with her siblings in a Fifth Avenue mansion, at 39th street, build by her father in 1856 surrounded by a large yard. By the early 20th Century the house had been dubbed the “House of Mystery” since the front door and first floor windows had been shuttered for more than a quarter century. By 1930, all her siblings had died and it was just Ella and her dog living in the aging four-story brick and brownstone mansion.

An Urban Legend 

Intrigued, I checked AKC pedigrees to see if there was any truth to these Tobey Rimes rumors, but without current Tobey’s owner’s name it was impossible to track. But the proliferation of misinformation still haunts online:

From MNN.com – “Ella Wendel’s dog: $92 million – Poodle Tobey Rimes inherited a staggering $92 million…  he is “the poster dog for the benefits of trust funds and compounding interest” since he descended from a poodle who got his millions from a trust of $30 million set up by Ella Wendel.”

From vice.com – “Toby Rimes: Worth $80 million – Toby’s great-great-great-dogfather, the original Toby, was the pampered poodle of crazy rich lady Ella Wendel, who left him all her money when she died in 1931. The endowment, passed from dog to dog ever since…”

From PetPlan.com – Toby Rimes the dog – £30 million – Ella Wendel originally left her pet poodle Toby £15million in 1931. Since then there have been a succession of pampered pooches, with the current heir being Toby Rimes.

World's Richest Dog?

World’s Richest Dog?

What’s The Real Story 

According to press reports as early as 1915, Ella Wendel’s little dog occupied the yard of the mansion. “In that lot are on old tree and a dog house and the sisters wait until the dark so that they may take their exercise” and not be looked upon by prying eyes from the new skyscrapers. The vacant lot used to be their grass-covered yard and some newspapers called it the “million dollar dog run” since many a developer offered that sum to purchase it, with Miss Wendel always refusing by stating that her dog needed an exercise area.

By 1930, her attorneys advised her to move since it was costing her $1,000 a day in taxes and expenses to live there. She told them it was her home and Tobey “needed a place to run around in.” So not only, did she maintain the million dollar dog run for her beloved pet, but kept an aging mansion without electricity or modern comforts just so the dog could have an indoor space as well. In addition, she had a small replica of her four-poster bed made for him as well as a dining table covered in red velvet, just like hers.

The Wendels maintained a summer home at Irvington, New York. According to the 1938 book, “I Remember,” by Jennie Prince Black, her neighbor Ella Wendel lamented to a neighbor that she was upset because, “The little dog has a stone in his foot.” He suggested that she get her driveway paved and then the stones would not be a problem to the dog. A local business did the work and presented her with a $20,000 bill for the driveway work from the house to the gate.

On March 15, 1931 Ella Wendel died. The next day The New York Times reported that “Tobey, a fat white poodle, lay beside the coffin” in the House of Mystery.  At one point Tobey followed the clergyman into the dining room where he went to put on his vestments, studied him for a while, decided he was friendly and went back to his post at the bottom of his master’s coffin.

“What will become of the dog. Tobey, who was not settled last night,” the reporter asked. Later The Times stated, “His little bed and little table were removed. He had been assigned to the kitchen, where three servants, left as caretakers in the bleak house, took care of him.”

The Passing of Tobey 

Tobey lived another 18 months while the executors probated the will and readied the mansion for demolition. His death was widely reported on Oct. 5, 1933.  Reports said he had become ‘snappish’ and ill. The statement from the executors read, “It was necessary last week to have a skilled veterinarian bring the dog’s life to a painless end. In natural course, he could not have lived much longer.*** The executors have followed Miss Ella’s wishes as to the disposal of the dog, and he now sleeps peacefully alongside his predecessors.” He was buried in a green plot, behind the summer home in Irvington, N.Y. along with his predecessors, all poodles and all named Tobey.

The Medina Daily Journal read: “With the closing of the Wendel Mansion on Fifth Avenue recently, that the “richest dog in the world” is dead. Toby, a French poodle,  occupied a prominent place in the spotlight when his mistress, Ella Wendel, died in 1931, leaving an estate of $100,000,000. It was said Wendel lavished more affection on the dog than any other living human.Toby had his own bed, a velvet-covered dining table, and a plot of ground to play in, which his mistress declined an offer more than one million dollars, “because it was Toby’s exercise place.” Painlessly destroyed, the little dog sleeps in the grounds of the Wendel summer home in Irvington, NY. in accordance with the last will of his mistress.”

It seems fitting that Miss Ella was the last of her line and well as her poodle Tobey. I think the modern day Tobey Rimes is made up by mixing historical fact with rumor. Whatever the truth, there is never any mention in press reports of the day that the dog got any money, but perhaps that her mansion was made available for him to live in until he died before it would be given to Drew University, one of 14 major beneficiaries. Here’s one clue: Mrs. Black in her memoir claims it was the same dog (with the stone in his foot) that held up the sale of the Fifth Avenue property because, “Miss Wendel insisted that her pet must have a place in which to exist.”

Save the Carriage Horses of New York City

With the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show right around the corner, it’s time to share a column I recently wrote about the Carriage Horses of New York City. If you are coming to the city for the big dog show, stop by the stables to meet the horses, take a tour and go for a carriage ride. Go to Facebook for Canines and Coaches 2015 open house event info: https://www.facebook.com/caninesandcoachesNYC2015

Grooming Tyson before he heads out for a carriage ride

Grooming Tyson before he heads out for a carriage ride

Lisa Unleashed ~ Originally published in The Newtown Bee, November 14, 2014:

Last summer I was invited by a fellow dog breeder to go on a tour of the carriage horse stables on 52nd Street in New York City. I was vaguely aware that New York City’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio had made a campaign pledge to remove the horse carriage industry from Manhattan and replace them with electric car rides in Central Park. As a horse lover, I found this political promise odd and even dangerous. Animal rights extremists were alleging that the carriage horses were not be treated humanely and that they needed to be “rescued” from this dangerous life on the city streets. I was curious, so I accepted the invitation and went to tour the stables.

Tyson & I - Carriage horse Extraordinaire!

Tyson and Lisa Peterson. Carriage Horse Extraordinaire! Tyson is a handsome 12-year-old Percheron/Morgan cross. 

What I found amazed me! As I toured the three-story stables, I was impressed with with rubber matted ramps connecting the floors in a barn any horseman would be proud of. It was summer and there was neither a foul odor from the box stalls nor a fly that I could find. What I did find where well cared for, well-groomed, well-fed, content horses munching on good quality hay, drinking clean water, and taking carrots from my hand. One of the drivers, Steve Malone, a second-generation horseman, offered us a carriage ride through Central Park. We climbed aboard the open-air carriage and enjoyed the views, the clip clop of the hooves on the roads, and the slowing down of a hectic day to enjoy the nature of the park. It was a touch point with horses and history.

Carriage Horse Driver Stephen Malone takes us for a tour of Central Park

Carriage Horse Driver Stephen Malone takes us for a tour of Central Park

Because I had taken the time to visit with the horses, experience a carriage ride, ask questions of the owners on all matters of care, conditioning and retirement, I was soundly convinced that these horses, who have a job and do it well, don’t need to be rescued from the city streets. In fact, this industry is highly regulated since the 1850s with oversight by five city agencies and a 144 pages of regulations. Horses cannot work if it’s too hot, the can not work if its too cold, they get mandatory vet visits several times a year and five weeks of vacation away form the city. They even have a retirement home called Blue Star Equiculture.

Rally for Support

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in support of animal welfare where one of the licensed drivers from New York, Christina Hansen, spoke on the topic of the threat to ban the horses. It appears to me that there is a hidden agenda behind this issue. I won’t taint your objectivity about it but it involves real estate developers and animal rights groups electing a political candidate. It also involves a community’s response in the face of attacks. In addition this issue has created a rare occurrence in New York City media, where The New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post, all come out in favor of the carriage horses in their editorials. I urge people who want to learn more about this topic, this hidden agenda, and how to support saving this important tradition of horses in our everyday lives to visit www.savenychorsecarriages.com. Please watch the video, narrated by Liam Neeson, a strong advocate to preserve this historic tradition in the city. Also, stop by the blog posts of author Jon Katz at www.bedlamfarm.com for yet more insight about our humanity and our horses.

Stall with a view!

Stall with a view!

Canines and Coaches & Clip Clop NYC!

The industry has several opportunities each year for open houses and tours of the stables. They believe in being transparent and are proud to show off the care their give their horses. Last June they held their annual ClipClopNYC open house –  www.clipclopnyc.com – and in February they held the first annual Canine and Coaches open house in conjunction with the venerable Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The carriage drivers offered discounted rides for any exhibitor and their dog who had been to Westminster. It’s nice to see that when the going gets tough, the dog and horse people always pull together. Next year, Canines and Coaches will be happening again. For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/caninesandcoachesNYC2015.

Stopping for a drink of cool water from a water trough used by horses for more than a century

Stopping for a drink of cool water from a water trough used by horses for more than a century

The movement to ban the carriage horses is not over and it’s an issue still before the New York City Council, despite a recent poll showing that New Yorkers are 2-to-1 in favor of keeping the carriage horses in Central Park. If you are a horse lover and want to support keeping this tradition alive, please, follow “The Famous Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park” on Facebook and @NYChorses on Twitter. Use their hashtag, #SaveNYCHorseCarriages to stay informed and help however you can.