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Author Pens Memoir Dedicated to Dogs and New York City

By Emily Frost | December 4, 2012 7:46am

CENTRAL PARK — Alison Pace once lived a life like many New Yorkers — a solitary existence despite being surrounded by crowds on the way to and from work.

Then, she got a dog, and everything changed.

Pace's new memoir, "You Tell Your Dog First," which was released this month by Penguin, chronicles the drastic difference between her life before and after the arrival of her white West Highland terrier, "Carlie." The dog helped her break out of her shell, meet new people and come to appreciate life more in New York.

She adopted Carlie roughly six years ago, and had no idea at the time that it would be such a life-altering decision. It forced her to move apartments to a dog-friendly location, and she went from not knowing even her former neighbors' names, to meeting all the dog owners in her new building.

"After living in New York for 10 years and never really knowing my neighbors, I now know all my neighbors because everyone has a dog," Pace said. "You get to know people through their dogs."

Where riding an elevator with her neighbors was once likely to be a silent, almost uncomfortable experience, Pace now finds that Carlie serves as a conversation opener, breaking the ice for those sharing the elevator with her to ask her all about the dog.

Pace has long been fascinated by dogs and the city. She's written five novels that feature dogs and dog lovers, including Pug Hill, which involves a spot in Central Park where pugs and their owners congregate.

But it wasn't until she had Carlie that Pace got a more complete window into the New York dog scene.

"It was a matter of this whole dog world opening up to me — just noticing the way [dog] people will talk to each other," she said.

Walking with Carlie forced the self-described shy writer out of her apartment and also made her more patient as she stopped for her dog to explore her surroundings.

"The terrier wants to stop and sniff the road," Pace said. "There is something about stopping and moving slowly and taking your time, which in New York we don’t do enough of."

And Carlie made Pace appreciate Central Park more after watching her leap around in the off-leash hours before 9 a.m. 

"I really believe that dogs just bring a lot of happiness and focus to people...[Carlie] makes me friendlier."

Pace said she's made good friends through meeting other dog owners in Central Park, but that Carlie has also helped her sniff out love interests as well.

Carlie has a great gauge for people, Pace said, and in one instance, "she was particularly not fond of [a boyfriend] and she turned out to be right."

Pace added that while she takes Carlie's opinion "under advisement, she doesn’t really get the final say."