Happy Hogmanay (that's New Year's Eve, for those of you not fluent in Scots). As we raise a glass tonight to say goodbye to 2021, we'll mainly be thankful for you, for keeping us sane in what turned out to be a crazy old 12 months.
We're unbelievably lucky to be surrounded by such a loving, supportive, creative community and, occasionally, we like to celebrate them. So, without further ado, please meet Carlos Rodriguez. An in-demand dog walker, animal lover, and much-loved member of the MAISON 10 family, he's rescued wild birds, injured dogs, and even saved Kong, our gorilla mascot, from the back of a truck. This is his story.
Here's to 2022 – to making memories with old friends and meeting many new ones. Cheers! Sláinte! To health and happiness.
You might recognize me because …
I walk some of the most unique dogs in the area: two miniature Dalmatians – the only ones in New York City, a Swedish Vallhund, and I used to walk a humungous Great Dane, but he’s moved away now because he's 250 pounds and didn’t fit in the apartment.
I became a dog walker by default …
I worked with Getty Images for 20 years, but left that job when my dog Cliff got sick. I was walking him on the street one day and we ended up in a commercial. I was in another commercial with Guillermo, my parrot. Then I got the cover of AARP magazine when I turned 50, so that gave me a little bit of fame in the neighborhood. All of a sudden I was being interviewed on television with these dogs, and appearing in The Dogist blog. Even my cat is in The Dogist! I can be up on 70th Street and waiting for the light and the person next to me will be like: “So, how's your cat doing? And your bird?”
When Cliff passed away …
I decided I wasn't going to have any more dogs. What I was going to do was work with rescue dogs in Guatemala. Right now, I'm saving a dog with a tumor on his face. He couldn't even breathe, but after only three chemotherapy sessions he’s doing great.
I’m always rescuing pigeons too, and migrating birds are a big issue for me – they come all the way from Central America and unfortunately end up striking windows around the city. So I’ve given my number to the maintenance people who work in those buildings, and when a bird is injured, they call me, I go pick them up and take them to the Wild Bird Fund.
And Madison Square Park calls me about any animal that needs help there, whether it’s abandoned or is sick. I’ve picked up hawks, possums, squirrels …
The day I discovered MAISON 10
I used to pass by but always had dogs with me, so wasn’t really comfortable coming in. Then one day Tom was standing outside and said: “Come in, come in.” So I did, and became friends with them.
I’ve bought a cat lamp there – you touch its balls and the eyes light up. I buy my toilet paper from there, Christmas presents for my family, and beauty supplies. I also got my sunglasses from there.
And I don’t just rescue dogs – I rescued Kong the gorilla. He was cut in half, on the back of a truck, and I was like: “Get him down!” I called Tom and Henri and said: “Hey, I’ve just rescued the gorilla. I don’t want him, but I think he should go back to you guys.”
My proudest moment?
Having the balls to come to New York when I was 18, going to school, working full-time, and being able to bring my family – the ones that wanted to come – to the country. By the time I was 19, I was watching my twin brother get out of the airplane. I did that in just a year.
The quality I value most in people
Honesty. And you know what? It's such a lonely word …
What I’m excited about right now
Surviving! I have a very simple life, you know? I'm excited about just being here, seeing my family, my nieces and my nephews grow up.
Perks of the job
People who would never talk to me come up to speak when I’m with a dog. A dog in New York City gives you a face. Otherwise, you're just another faceless human walking down the street. When you have a dog, it's more like: “Hi, what's your name?” So you have more opportunities to meet somebody that might be a love interest than you would by going into a bar. And you don't end up with an ugly guy, because you're not drunk!
I think that if people knew how good it feels to be a good person, to not think of yourself, to stop and rescue an animal on the street instead of stepping over them; if people knew how good it feels to help without getting anything in return, more of us would do it. When I help an animal I get this tingling feeling, like every cell of my body is on fire. I wish more people could experience that joy.