Friday, November 13, 2015

Jeff Hinshaw is rounding
the corner of Christopher Street and Hudson in New York City's West
Village.
It's a mild fall afternoon, and there's a quiet, relaxed feel as
we pass through the neighborhood—tourists meandering in and out of designer
boutiques, joggers jogging, nannies pushing strollers past multi-million
dollar brownstones.
Four leashes pull taut in his hands, each connected to a
different dog—miniature Australian Shepherd ("their breed was trending
last year"), fuzzy Schip-A-Pom, hyperactive German Shepherd, and a
tiny-but-spirited Yorkie named George.
"Dogs are really good at herding," says Jeff, moving with ease through
the pedestrians and delivery men.
In his worn Doc Martins and baggy white knit
sweater, he is clearly master of the pack, the dogs scurrying along with him
rather than against him.
Me, I'm practically running to keep
up.
"They're like a metronome, they set the rhythm and I start rapping,"
he jokes. This is a daily ritual for Jeff, whose company City Wolf puts a
holistic slant on dog walking—his services extend to animal reiki sessions
and ceremonies to honor recently deceased pets.
This has attracted some
high-end clients, who, in typical West Village fashion, like giving their
pooches a taste for the finer things in life.
"I'm fascinated by the way dogs are treated in this city," he says,
"Most of these dogs have raincoats that are more expensive than mine, and
eat gluten-free dog food custom-ordered from a farm upstate."
Joseph Schechter All
of which is what brings Jeff here, twice a day, seven days a week, making this
fairytale trek through Manhattan's most picturesque zip code.
With hundreds
of hours spent strolling and observing, the job has resulted in a unique
expertise on the area.
He essentially experiences the city as a tourist would,
every day—and gets paid to do so.
Making our way up Hudson Street, four tails wagging happily below, he points
out Le Pain Quotidien, on the corner of Perry Street, where fresh-baked dog
treats are set out each morning.
Across the street, artist Mimi Vang Olsen
creates tasteful oil paintings of other people's pets from inside her small
glass-fronted studio.
And just a block over, the cupcakes that spawned a
worldwide craze can be found inside the original location of Magnolia Bakery.
(Jeff's tastes are a little more health-oriented: when it's time to
refuel, his favorite spot is Whole Green, which he claims, at $4 a cup, is the
cheapest juice in the city.) Jeff's knowledge of the neighborhood isn't
limited to cafes and pet portrait studios, though.
Over the years, listening
in on guided group tours, he's picked up a few interesting bits of West
Village trivia.
For example, the faded brick townhouse at 139 W 10th Street?
That's Janis Joplin's old address (though the basement is now home to a
sceney farm-to-table restaurant.
And further up the block, Jefferson Market
Public Library is one of New York's most architecturally interesting
libraries—it was originally built as a courthouse in 1877—not to mention
the West Village's most recognizable landmark; and once a year, Jeff tells
me, Open House New York allows visitors to climb up its ornate bell tower.
Joseph Schechter
Regardless of historical interest, the West Village's very un-New
York layout (save for certain parts of the Financial District, it's the only
neighborhood without a grid system) makes it ideal for long scenic
walks.
"Before, I used to get lost, but now I know my way around." Jeff
praises the West Village's unique vibe, separate in a way from the rest of
the city: "Everyone is more relaxed here.
Which is better for the
dogs.
Imagine one of them getting loose in midtown!" Other favorite spots
include the Integral Yoga Institute, an ashram and healing center that's
been running since the 1970s—their adjacent grocery cooperative and cafe,
Natural Foods, has all-organic produce, a juice and smoothie bar, and a
bakery.
Next door is Enfleurage, an essential oils boutique that imports
frankincense and myrrh from Oman.
"I could spend a lot of money in here,"
says Jeff, picking through the different sized bottles.
"I heard they'll
even custom-design a scent just for you."
Joseph Schechter He's a big fan, too, of
the LGBT Center, which got a $9.2 million makeover last winter, and now boasts
a slick new coffeehouse, with plenty of power outlets for laptops, a
semi-hidden courtyard, and baristas serving Think Coffee. Park-wise, Jeff
says, the West Village beats out almost every other part of the island.
Of the
many dog runs dotted throughout the neighborhood, his favorite is the one at
Washington Square Park, of which he boasts: "It's newly renovated,
there's a clean bathroom, and there's a water fountain for dogs to drink
and play in the summer.
If you've just moved to New York and need a dog
walker, go there, the place is crawling with them!" Half a mile
northwest, the brand new St.
Vincent's Hospital Park is wedged between
Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue, offering wide bench-lined paths and a
granite fountain.
In May, it will become the site of the NYC AIDS Memorial,
featuring an 18-foot steel canopy marking the site of the city's first AIDS
ward. Joseph
Schechter Strolling through the park, Jeff remarks how beautiful
the afternoon turned out.
But the changing season has him aware of what's
coming: "Winter can be extreme," he admits.
"Some days I can't feel my
hands; even though I'm wearing gloves I'm constantly taking them off to
pick up dog poop.
You really feel all the elements as a dog walker." Parts
of his routes change, too: come December, he avoids Union Square altogether
because of the holiday markets.
And once it gets really cold, walking along
the Hudson River is out of the question. Still, he wouldn't trade
professions.
"I get to be around cute-ass animals and be outside all
day.
How many people can say that about their job?"
Professional dog walker Jeff Hinshaw shares his favorite pet-friendly spots in
New York's West Village.

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