Eddie is eager to go for a walk. Jacqueline Rivera puts on his collar and grabs his leash.
They’re off. Eddie bounds down the polished granite stairs of the fourth-floor walkup, allowing Jacqueline to follow him at a discrete distance.
Eddie, a little dog with a big underbite, is from South Carolina. Seven and a half years ago, he was in a kill shelter when Jacqueline found him online and volunteered to foster him.
She succumbed to the canine and his canines in only two days: It seemed fated to be that hers would be his forever home.
Jacqueline, who owns the dog-walking and pet-sitting service Pawfect Day, doesn’t know how old Eddie is or even who he is – a DNA test confirmed only that he’s more mixed than the toppings on an everything bagel.
When they come back, Piglet, the 2-and-a-half-year-old guinea pig, is stirring in his corner cage, waiting for Eddie to give him a kiss.
Eddie, however, climbs the two-step stool placed specifically for his petite paws and curls up on the couch.
“His mom is a math teacher who works long hours and could no longer keep him,” Jacqueline says. “She had two of them but had to separate them since they did not get along.”
Eddie, who like Jacqueline has black hair and brown eyes, isn’t the first animal that has come into her life.
“I don’t have to search them out,” she says. “They just seem to find me.”
Jacqueline, who grew up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, was not allowed to have a dog when she was a child.
“My mother wouldn’t let me,” she says. “She’d say, ‘Here’s a guinea pig instead.’”
It wasn’t a satisfying solution.
“I was obsessed with dogs and felt connected with them,” she says. “I didn’t have a lot of friends, and there’s a large age gap between my two older sisters and me. And I was shy.”
Which may explain why, when she was 8 years old, she came home with a chicken. It wasn’t a dog; how could her mother object?
“It was dark and rainy and there he was, wandering,” she says. “I brought it home, bathed it and put it in a fish tank. My mother made me put it back on the street the next day.”
Undeterred, Jacqueline brought home a Siberian Husky puppy.
It was while she was on summer break from classes at the University of Buffalo, where she was studying Spanish, a language she grew up speaking but not grammatically correctly, and marketing.
She was in Chinatown looking for a TV when she crossed paths with a woman carrying a puppy and stopped to pet it.
“She saw the stars in my eyes,” Jacqueline says. “She asked me if I wanted the dog, and I said yes.”
Jacqueline’s mother also saw stars, but of a vastly different kind.
“She thought he was too big a responsibility for me and would not let me keep him,” Jacqueline says. “I had him a week and trained him before she made me re-home him.”
During another college summer, Jacqueline found three abandoned kittens and a guinea pig in an apartment complex where she was thinking of renting. (She kept the guinea pig and named him Fluffy.)
She also has had adventures with a family of ducks, a squirrel and a kitten who wandered in from the street and hid under a friend’s couch.
“I named the kitten Lucky and was going to take him back to college with me, but he grew on my mother and she asked me to leave him behind,” she says.
After graduation, Jacqueline returned to Washington Heights, petless.
For the first four years, she was a leasing agent for Columbia University. Then she became a freelance copywriter and translator.
In 2008, she decided to open her own business, and given her passion for pets, it was inevitable that it would revolve around them.
Pawfect Day proved the purrfect fit.
Around the same time, Jacqueline finally got her first dog. Odie, a rescue pug pup, was Eddie’s predecessor.
“He lived with a family who had a cat,” she says. “The cat scratched his cornea and could no longer keep him, so I took him in.”
Eddie, who’s one chill dude, is a large part of Jacqueline’s life.
“He’s my baby,” she says.
He also was the dog of honor at her 2013 wedding.
“He wore a tux,” she says. “He was pretty much the star. He fell asleep on the train of my dress.”
Two years ago, Jacqueline, her husband and her fur babies moved to Astoria.
She’s hoping to expand Pawfect Day, which has a staff of 11 and mostly works with clients on the Upper East Side.
Right now, though, she has to attend to a client closer to home.
She goes downstairs to her neighbors’ apartment to pick up Sparky. The year-old Yorkie/Maltese mix is going to spend the day with Eddie while his humans are attending a wedding.
Astoria Characters Day: The 10th Anniversary is Sept. 15, 2019.
Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.
Copyright 2019 by Nancy A. Ruhling