“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.

Prince – The White English Terrier That Lived at the Octagon House

Towards the latter half of the 19th century, the popularity of purebred dog paintings was at an all time high. Newly acquired pets by society were all the rage and many artists were commissioned to capture their likeness in oil on canvas. These purebred dogs, mostly imported from England, not only were comforting to the women of the house, but greeted the men returning from work with a wagging tail. Americans were following this “pet craze” as it was the fashion in Victorian England. Queen Victoria, an avid dog fancier, was especially fond of Pomeranians. Many in Great Britain and in the States emulated her by having pets of their own.

Prince - The White English Terrier - as seen in the George Earl Painting circa 1874

Prince – The White English Terrier – as seen in the George Earl painting circa 1874

Paintings of royal dogs, sporting dogs, hunting dogs and pet dogs across all breeds were in abundance in the grand estates and city townhouses of the Gilded Age. At the same time, field trials were gaining in popularity with many hunting dogs being imported from England to compete in the U.S. in both field trials and the newer sport of dog shows. These hunting and show dogs became celebrities in their own right.

George Earl British Painter

George Earl, an English painter known for his depictions of sporting dogs, came from sporting families in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. An early member of The Kennel Club in England, he had two exhibitions at the Royal Academy in 1857 and 1882. His most important work “The Field Trial Meeting” was a compilation of the most famous sporting dogs and their handlers of the ear in a fantasy field trial on a Northern Welsh landscape.

Earl’s other notable work, “Champion Dogs of England,” was painted in the 1870s. This series of 24 purebred dogs were portrait head studies painted in a circle or oval design. They included such famous dogs as Warrior, a Scottish Deerhound. He was one of the most prominent Deerhounds of the 19th Century. Sir Walter Scott is credited with promoting the breed to the masses. He wrote about them in his novels and kept them at Abbotsford, his estate in the Scottish Highlands. Others portraits in the series were Rake, the Irish Water Spaniel, Cato, the Newfoundland and Prince, the White English Terrier.

The White English Terrier

The White English Terrier, a ratter with cropped ears, hailed from Birmingham and Manchester eventually working its way down to London through promotion by Fredrick White. By the end of the 19th Century dogs with cropped ears were barred from dog shows in England and this little white breed fell out of favor among fanciers.  By 1906, there were no White English Terriers to be found at any dog shows and soon after the breed went extinct. But not before one handsome male, Prince, made his way to the new world.

In 1872, Joseph Stiner, a tea merchant from New York City and an avid dog fancier purchased one of the most beautiful and unusual houses in America, the Octagon House in Irvington-on-Hudson from Paul J. Amour, a New York financier. Nestled 25 miles to the North of Manhattan, this eight-sided house built in 1860 became his summer retreat. It was Stiner who added a unique dome and lovely verandah to the original house. According to a book written by the Octagon House’s current owner, preservation architect Joseph Pell Lombradi, “Stiner traveled extensively throughout the world, and was noted as a connoisseur and collector of art. A breeder of horses and dogs, he had the head of “Prince”, his prize winning White English Terrier, cast in iron in the center medallion of each bay of the cast iron railing of the new verandah.” 

Close Up of Prince's head on the Verdana railings

Close Up of Prince’s head on the Verdana railings

When I first visited the Octagon House many years ago and heard the story of Prince and the breed’s extinction, a deja vu feeling came over me. The verandah head study is in profile, facing right, wearing a small leather collar with Prince inscribed on it. When I went to work at the American Kennel Club the next day, I came upon an oval painting, of a little White English Terrier named Prince, in profile, facing right, hanging in the Chairman’s office. Bingo! I was looking at the very same “Prince,” one of George Earl’s series of dog portraits from “Champion Dogs of England.” Looking at that painting, you couldn’t help but think it was used as the model for the iron cast heads on the verandah of the Octagon House. It is possible that Joseph Stiner may have owned that George Earl oil painting of his beloved dog at one time?

The Veranda circling the Octagon house ~ Prince's head is seen at the center of each panel

The Veranda circling the Octagon house ~ Prince’s head is seen at the center of each panel

I can only speculate, but it is known that Prince was a show dog and exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club. Based on my research, Prince most likely arrived from England after 1872 and before the First Annual New York Bench Show, held by the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877. At that time his portrait, most likely, had already been painted in England by George Earl. This top winning British show dog eventually joined 1,201 other purebred dogs at one of the first dog shows in America at the Hippodrome at Gilmore’s Garden. But like all dogs, his biggest achievement was to greet his owner Joseph Stiner with a wagging tail.

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.