CHB Interviews: Kath Hansen of Fort Greene PUPS

The Great PUPkin had an enormous turnout this year -- 50 dogs! Since one of the founders, Kath Hansen, is a neighbor of mine, I thought I'd ask her a few things about the group's history and more about what they do:

1. How long have you lived in Clinton Hill, and what brought you here? I've been in Clinton Hill for 9 years. My husband and I moved here from Nashville, Tennessee, because I landed a dream job with the Modern Language Association.

2. Tell us about how Fort Greene PUPS got started, and what your role was? I started PUPS in 1999, as a reaction to the threat that off-leash hours might be ended in city parks. We had just moved here with our dog, and learned that for twenty plus years there had been a courtesy rule to let dog owners run their dogs off-leash in parks that have no dog runs, from 9 pm to 9 am. I also heard there were mumblings the Parks Dept. might have to discontinue the courtesy off-leash hours. I thought dog owners in Fort Greene Park should get organized to protect this great policy, and basically copied the setup that FIDO in Prospect Park has. I made friends with the founder of FIDO and she was really helpful. I literally walked around the park with a clipboard for people to sign up; I'm sure lots of folks thought I was nuts. I guess I am nuts, because I'm still doing this 8 years later. And unfortunately, we are still fighting to keep off-leash, with the Juniper Park lawsuit that came up this year. You can go to to learn more about this.

3. Aside from the Great PUPkin, what other events does PUPS sponsor? We do a couple of coffee and doughnut gatherings a year to sign up new members and sell calendars. We used to do a dogwash in the summer, but it got hard to find volunteers. Who wants to wash dirty dogs?

4. You obviously have a dog. Tell us about him! Bobby is our new dog; we've had him three months. He is more like a drunken frat boy than a dog. The fine folks at Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital found him tied to their front door last summer and took him in. He was terribly emaciated but had a friendly personality. I was at the vet one day with one of the cats, and saw their sign looking for a home for him. We think he's part bloodhound, part shepherd, maybe a little great dane in there. I would give anything to see his parents. Before Bobby, we had a hundred pound mutt named Cameron for 9 wonderful years. Lost him to cancer in January 2006.

5. The dog owners in the park can be transient (as people move in and move out). How do you get the word out about PUPS? Events like the Pupkin and the coffee gatherings help, where we get new names to add to the email list. We have a few regular volunteers who help with these things, but for the amount of members we have (over 300), it is sad how few people ever volunteer even once to help out with the Pupkin or the calendar. Maybe that can be chalked up to the transient nature of dog ownership. I worry that too many take off-leash for granted.

6. How should a dog owner deal with an aggressive dog in the park causing problems? Any tips on that? Look for signs of an aggressive dog and keep your dog far away! Signs can be things like mounting behavior, some unfixed males, growling, a tail held too high, showing of teeth. I am no dog trainer, but you do learn to spot the aggressive dogs if you are observant. Just be really observant if you're going to go off-leash and you will probably be able to avoid 99% of any problems. Some people say big and small dogs don't mix, but I don't buy into that. Some small dogs are way more aggressive than big dogs.

7. What makes our area so dog-friendly, aside from the park and its off-leash hours? I think of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene as a pretty laid back mix of races and cultures, and I believe that laid back vibe sort of rubs off on the dogs. Plus, there are a few nice restaurants that will let you eat al fresco with your pal. Tillie's is famously dog friendly; they even have biscuits inside donated by a certain PUPS member who is an absolute angel.

8. I know that you, like myself, own both a cat AND a dog. Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person? Oh man. Cats for the times you want to be introverted, and dogs for when you want to be extroverted. I think everyone should have at least one of each. They teach you things you can't learn anywhere else.

9. Favorite dog breed: 100% mutt, baby!

10. Favorite place to dine in the neighborhood: Red Bamboo

11. What would most like to see come to the Ft. Greene/ CH area? PUPS anxiously awaits the arrival of the dog fountain and drainage system we got funding and approval for a few years back. The Parks Dept. works on their own schedule! Personally, I'm waiting for a greengrocer, and how about a bakery?

12. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why? Honey, you're killing me here.

Interested in getting more involved? Check out the PUPS website, or email

Want to support the group with the purchase of a PUPS calendar?

now on sale at the following convenient locations: -Tillie's (DeKalb Avenue at Vanderbilt) -Who's Your Doggy (197 Adelphi, at Willoughby) -Kiki's (DeKalb Avenue location) -Woofs 'n' Whiskers (59 Summit Street)

The calendar will be available in the park during morning off leash hours from time to time (watch your email) and at the Annual Holiday Coffee, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, December 9th. We also hope to have the calendar for sale in the park's Visitors Center Gift Shop soon.

If you want to purchase three or more calendars you may also contact Nancy Peterson ( to arrange for a drop-off/pick-up.

In addition, orders can also be placed online via PayPal at, however there's an additional per calendar shipping and handling charge of $2.50. (On the home page, click the donate button to get to PUPS' donate page on PayPal and indicate as the donation amount $12.50 PER CALENDAR and be sure to include your mailing address.)