If you ever walk down the pedestrian district of downtown Jersey City, walk along the waterfront, or visit Washington Park in the Heights, you’ll notice a common trend: dogs are everywhere in JC. They’re a presence to be reckoned with and definitely making JC theirs. A few weeks ago, I took to Instagram to survey the Jersey City community about all things pets and the outpour was tremendous. Scrolling through the responses, I realized it wasn’t only about the dogs. Cats, rabbits, snakes, and fish are all vital family members to our Jersey City residents. In speaking to pet owners, business owners, and Instagram “petfluencers” over the last few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that Jersey City pets are a huge part of our local culture. Additionally, the lengths to which their owners go to make their lives the best that they can be has helped support local businesses, develop new ones, and most importantly, create a pet subculture and sense of community in our city.
As a single 36-year-old woman, with no children, I completely empathize with a lifestyle centered around one’s furry friend. Because of my rescue dog, Felicity, I no longer can head off for 16 hours a day without looking back. Almost every decision I make each day needs to take her bathroom, feeding, and emotional needs into account. Being a pet owner means being mindfully responsible for providing care and comfort to your little (or big) best friend.
I spoke with Pedro Mojica, owner of Anything’s Pawsible, a company which provides walking, cat sitting, vacation care, etc. about his perspective on the importance of pets in our community.
“In a world where hustle and bustle is the new normal, there are few things that force us to take it slow and relax. Having a pet fills this void beautifully by forcing you to take a break from work and spend time walking your pup, receiving daily affection from your cat (especially around supper time), and giving you a reason to get out of the house and go to the park. We have some clients who have us walk their dog 3 times per day while they are away at work from 9-5! So to say they take their pet care seriously is an understatement. Not to mention the turtle neck sweaters, coats and bows,” states Mojica.
The need for Jersey City pet owners to make sure their family members are properly taken care of and pampered has helped to generate consistent business for many local walking/pet care services, photographers, pet supply stores, and animal hospitals in our area. Furthermore, the increasingly important role pets are playing in our lives is creating the opportunity for new local businesses.
Danit Zivan, co-founder of Bark Buildings, recognized the growing market when developing his company which works directly with residential property managers and developers around Jersey City.
“The great thing about this city is that pets are at the forefront of their minds (residential developers) when planning amenities and facilities. This is because pets have become such important members of our families! We naturally want to give them as much as we can – from the best quality dog foods to play dates with friends and full-blown birthday parties – we treat them like our kids. Our goal is to make apartment living not just feasible, but fun and exciting for the resident dogs,” says Zivan.
Zivan also recognizes the essential role pets play in the development of community.
“We started Bark Buildings because we saw the importance of socialization for dogs living in an apartment setting in a big city. Dogs often get anxious in the smaller spaces and lack opportunities to meet their doggy neighbors in a safe open setting,” he says.
The community extends beyond just our pets, however. As someone who finds it difficult to venture out and meet new people, I can personally attest to the positive influence my dog’s socialization has had on my own. My tendency has always been to stay inside, binging shows in my pajamas. However, having Felicity has forced me to get up and go outside which has inevitably led me to develop new friendships with other dog owners. Felicity’s Instagram, which I started as a joke, has also significantly influenced my life by introducing me to the wonderful world of Jersey City pet owners.
Stephanie and AJ Dunk, parents to @zipthefrenchie, another local petfluencer, have had a similar transformation in their lives.
“I can’t express enough how much joy Zip brings to our home. The most joy I get other than being his mama, is from the Frenchie community I’ve become a part of. It’s so great to have other owners as crazy as I am who can totally relate to my obsession with this breed and I’ve met so many awesome people who’ve become our friends. Dog park-play dates are the best, especially being in JC which has several dog parks,” gushes Stephanie.
The ever-growing pet community is not just limited to owners themselves, however. One could argue that the ownership of pets is shaping Jersey City.
“Jersey City has turned into a complete market for dogs. Grooming shops compete amongst one another within a 5-block radius. Restaurants leave water bowls at their doorsteps now. As a community, we’ve seen folks bring their dog everywhere they go. If Scooter can’t have a seat on the table, then you can’t have my business. Jersey City is adapting very quickly to this demand— it’s safe to say that dogs aren’t just vital to Jersey City, they are simply, just part of the family,” the folks who run the @jerseycitydogs Instagram account told me.
Whether you like it or not, pets, dogs especially, are influential members of Jersey City. Small businesses, jobs, and niche communities have all benefited from our furry pals. Our infinite love and desire to care for them structures our lives and influences our decisions on a daily basis here in Jersey City.
We want to hear from you! How has your pet influenced your life? What is your opinion on the local Jersey City pet culture?