Astoria Characters: The Canine Crew

It’s play time!

Miro, a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd/hound mix who has a dash of blue in one eye, can’t wait for his pals to arrive at the new dog run.

He keeps looking up at his human: “Where are they? Are they here yet? Can I have a treat — or two or three — until they get here? Please, please, please?”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Bandit, Miro and Raffi greet each other.

Before many treat-less dog seconds pass, Bandit, a 2-year-old Siberian Husky with big blue eyes, barges in with his human in tow.

Straining against his leash, he’s like a bull in a China shop – he wants to run, run, run and have lots of fun.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The dogs supervising their humans.

He’s followed by Bruce, a 1-and-a-half-year-old coffee-colored dog whose pedigree is that he’s a non-pedigree, what his human calls a mutt.

Technically, Bruce is a retriever mix, but judging by his exuberant Jack Russell-style jumping, it’s quite possible that he may have some terrier relatives.

Raffi, a mellow 6-year-old Golden Retriever with a smile and swishing tall, completes the Saturday-morning canine quartet.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Bandit and Bruce go full throttle.

These four have been meeting each other since the spring, when the dog run at Triborough Bridge Playground C, on Hoyt Avenue South between 23rd and 24th Streets, finally opened after significant delays.

The concrete run, which is under the bridge overpass, is enclosed, prison-like, by a 6-foot-high black chain-link fence and is divided into spaces for large and small breeds.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Bruce and Raffi play ball.

The noise of the cars on Hoyt and the vehicles overhead fail to drown out the barks and bow-wows that amplify and echo through the run’s overhead arches.

Unlike its puppy patrons, the run doesn’t have a designated name.

It’s shaped like a dog bone, a design that was designed to impress humans, not the pups who play in it.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
It’s mine!

The run, which covers a half acre, cost $1 million, which none of the dogs in this story wanted to be quoted about, at least not for publication.

They do, however, have decided opinions about the bright-blue fire hydrants and the drinking fountains.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Xena, the warrior princess.

Their most common comment: They are convenient.

Before the day’s play commences, sniffs are exchanged.

Then balls are rolled, and the pack races around the run like thoroughbreds at Preakness.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Rocco plays it cool.

The dogs pair off. They wrestle. They play tag.

They get into friendly dog fights. (Bandit had to have a couple of time-outs, which didn’t seem to bother him.)

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Bandit is benched.

They scale the concrete embankments, they jump on and off the blue park benches where humans are supposed to sit, and they run around in circles as the cars on Hoyt Avenue South circle them.

While the pack is playing, the humans are otherwise engaged.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Bruce in the center of things.

They sip coffee, check smartphones and chat, mostly about their fur babies.

It’s unclear whether they even know the first names of their dog-run friends.

Here, they are mere props for their pups. Who they are and what they do are unimportant. Even if I told you, you wouldn’t remember.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The elegant Penny Lane.

But the dogs, ah, you’ll never forget their wagging tails and innocent eyes.

Penny Lane, the latest newcomer, is, fittingly, named after the Beatles song. She’s a King Charles Spaniel, the breed of British royalty since the 16th century.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Miro was one of the first to arrive.

At 6, she’s one of the older pups in the place.

She made her grand entrance with Rue, a 1-and-a-half-year-old Vizsla mix who looks a lot like Bruce.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Hugo Durand acts as dog toy.

Rocco, a 4-year-old black Labrador/boxer mix, decides to spend some quality time at the water bowl.

Like several of the others, he’s already been to Astoria Park, so he’s here to socialize rather than exercise.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A final sprint.

Xena, a little black dog named after TV’s warrior princess, is the next to join the pack.

“We recently started watching the series again, and I have to admit that it was a pretty silly show,” her human says somewhat sheepishly.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Pearl smiling.

She’s 4, and she’s a mix — of something, something, something. Oh, it doesn’t matter. She’s really, really, really cute.

There’s a stir as teeny-tiny Pearl, a black Pomeranian who looks like a powder puff, enters the run.

She spends her time vacuuming the ground for crumbs, a habit that has led to more than one trip to the ER.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The end of one party, the beginning of another.

After an hour or so, the dogs, tongues hanging to the ground, round up their humans.

The gate opens. One dog goes out. One dog comes in.

And the next party begins.

Astoria Characters Day is Sept. 13, 2020. Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at, @nancyruhling, nruhling on Instagram,,

Copyright 2019 by Nancy A. Ruhling