By Sarah Bennett

New York's many dog runs reviewed, one by one. This week: Union square.

Obviously, the number one factor in choosing a dog run how far it is from your home/how long the distance for your dog to physically drag you there. For the sake of reference, however, we’re going to attempt to compile info on as many NYC dog runs as humanly possible, because you never know when you’re going to move, a jerk is going to move onto your regular run turf, or your dog may wish to move his bowels somewhere else.

Union Square (west side of the park, near 15th St)

Basic stats: Medium sized with gravel of a slightly-larger-than-pebble gauge (and before you mock, realize that this is important to know if you have a little dog with slightly-smaller-than-normal feet who finds bigger rocks hard to walk on). Free poop bags, but there’s only a couple of trash cans, and they’re on the other side of the fence (although you don’t have to go outside to get to them, just reach awkwardly over the fence). There’s a water source, bowls, and a kiddie pool provided. You’ll usually find tennis balls scattered around, but they’re sometimes so disgusting that my dog won’t even pee on them. No separation for small dogs and big dogs. Secure fence and entry.

Placement in the park: While the east side of the park has always had the shadier reputation--one stretch of benches has always had the charming nickname of “methadone alley”--the west side is quickly playing catch-up, especially in the winter months when the holiday market blocks the walkway by the dog run, creating a nice little cul de sac for teens to sit around, make loud noises, and smoke weed that seems to be harvested straight from a skunk’s rotting asshole. The farmer’s market on the other side of the run is sometimes hard to get through due to foot traffic, which is a constant bummer because it makes you long for the days when parks were made for people and their pets and not retail.  

Vibe Inside: Mostly friendly, if not a little cliquey. Most of the dogs are friendly, smaller, or just older and more chill.  

Cons:  It’s a clusterfuck on weekends, especially when the weather’s nice; people who come in for a day in the city bring in their dogs to stretch out before getting back into the car for the Island or Jersey, even though these dogs aren’t used to being around lots of other dogs, aren’t fixed, and sometimes aren’t even taken off the leash, all of which are quick ways to get dogs into scary situations. Plus, tourists tend to be less invested in the run, so they don’t care as much about cleaning up after their dogs, and by Sunday the whole place turns into a turd minefield of death. The gravel is also a big issue overall, not just because it’s harsh on smaller dogs’ feet and creates a mudpit atmosphere after it rains, but because it turns the whole place into a giant litter box minus the magic crystals that absorb odor. In other words, the smell in the summer can make you retch, and certainly make you think twice about ever going in with open-toed shoes.

Pros:  It’s easy to fit a trip to this run into a bigger errand run since it’s right below Petco and Sepohra, above Forever 21, and right next to that farmer’s market, which, despite being a pain in the ass in some ways, is also one of the few places you can take your dog to buy food. It’s also obviously very close to the many trains and, on weekdays at least, is never crazy crowded.

Food?: Aside from the farmer’s market, there’s also Num Pang, the excellent Bhan Mi shop, on 12th street, and Vive La Crepe nearby on University, both of which have walk-up windows to meet all your I’m-hungry-but-with-dog needs. There are also lots of food trucks along Union Square, mostly in the warmer weather, including the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck on 17th and Broadway.  

Overall: A decent, if stinky, dog run, that’s crowded and weekends and surrounded by crowds on farmer’s market days. Your dog will probably enjoy it more than you do.

Next time: Madison Square Park!