For Windsor Terrace residents and their furry canine companions, the sense of community is nothing to bark at. Indeed, patches of green grass galore and endless belly rubs have made this family-centric neighborhood a paradise for its four-legged friends.
The Brooklyn neighborhood has emerged as a more affordable alternative to nearby Park Slope, with a small-town charm and tight-knit sense of camaraderie among its 20,000 residents. It turns out that this neighborly kinship is drawn from the common bond between dog owners who live in the area.
There are several places that bring dog lovers together in Windsor Terrace, but the central player, of course, is Brooklyn’s beloved backyard: Prospect Park.
Mervin Weekes walks his two dogs at the park three times a day. For him, weekends are the best time to meet other owners and their dogs. Weekes, who has lived in Windsor Terrace for ten years, says that dogs are what bind residents together.
“It forces you to meet new people,” he said. “Before I had dogs, I didn’t know anyone.”
Lynn Cho moved to Windsor Terrace only recently, but she agrees that dogs in the neighborhood tend to act as a magnet between their humans. “There’s some kind of natural bond between dog owners,” she says.
The proximity to Prospect Park is what brought Cho to Windsor Terrace. Cho was looking for a place where her two-year-old Golden Retriever, Ray, would still have access to the off-leash hours she grew used to in Central Park.
The park is just one example of the many open spaces available for dogs in need of a morning stroll. Lars Engstrom has lived in the area since the early 2000s and highlights the many parks, and low-traffic streets as perfect dog walking spots for his Golden Retriever-Chow mix, Honey Bear.
Along these paths, he’s become close with many fellow dog owners. “It’s a small enough neighborhood that people get to know you,” he says. “It’s rare that she sees a dog she doesn’t already know.”
The opportunity to socialize with people and other dogs is part of what keeps Windsor Terrace dogs happy and healthy. At the Greenwood Dog Run, neighbors mingled as Ziggy, Champ, June, and Rocky gathered for a day of play. The owners knew each other’s dogs by name and laughed along as Champ led an intense game of fetch.
“Dogs are pack animals,” explained Noam Landor, the Practice Manager at Alison Animal Hospital. “The opportunity to have other pet friends nearby that they can go on a walk with, or play with is important for their quality of life.”
The socialization is important for pet owners as well. “It’s not just the dogs that socialize at the dog runs,” said District Manager Jeremy Laufer, who’s Pitbull mix, Orson, often joins him in the office. “While the dogs are playing, people will talk about their dogs or about anything else.”
The close-knit community allows the animal hospital to better serve the pets they care for. “The dogs are happy and comfortable to come in here. They don’t see it as a bad place to be,” said Landor. This allows veterinarians to offer better care for the animals they serve. “When a pet is happy to come in, and the owner is happy to come in, it’s easier to do preventative care.”
Even if they aren’t a client, animal lovers can swing by to ask questions, learn about events, or just grab a treat for their pets. The animal hospital puts together local events for pet owners, working closely with local organizations, including Sean Casey Animal Rescue.
Many of the dogs in the area were adopted from Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Even if you don’t have a pet of your own, “everybody in the neighborhood knows Sean Casey,” said Landor.
The no-kill animal shelter opened on Fort Hamilton Parkway in 2008 and has since woven itself into the very fabric of the Windsor Terrace community. Casey thought a residential neighborhood like Windsor Terrace would be the perfect fit for the shelter’s critical care and foster care services.
“We’ve done our best to help the community,” says Casey, who emphasizes his commitment to the people as well as the animals. “Our place is not just an adoption center,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s a community center.”
For Susan Slovak, a nearby Kensington resident, adopting from Sean Casey’s was her ticket to becoming more involved in the neighborhood. Casey handpicked Slovak’s Pitbull-Basset mix for her. Since then, Slovak says she continues to meet new people through her dog, Daphne. “She got me into the neighborhood,” she said.
The animal rescue plays a large role for the volunteers as well. Stephen Appell visits to walk Bailey, a six-year-old Beagle who loves to howl and be petted. Appell lost his own Beagle in 2012. Since then, he’s been spending his time helping other dogs in need.
“It’s very rewarding to come here and give friendship to other dogs that are sometimes abused and abandoned,” he said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment when they get adopted.”
Indeed, the shelter provides a home for animals in need, but throughout Windsor Terrace, dogs continue to provide a distinctive bond for its many residents.