Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Out and About in the East Village

In this ongoing feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village or Lower East Side.

By James Maher
Name: Holly DeRito and Tulip
Occupation: Owner, Waggytail Rescue
Location: Avenue B between 10th and 11th
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 28

I’m originally from the sticks of Pennsylvania. I grew up with horses on a small farm next to Allentown. I came here for the music scene. One of my friends was a roadie for a band, and I started seeing shows. I just became addicted to New York. I’ve been here for 24 years. I was into hardcore punk, alternative. The first show that I drove up to myself was Bad Brains at the Wetlands.

I was bold but I probably should have been more scared than I was. I was always a little bit fearless. I’ve always been a little bit shy but then I’ve been bold. I like challenges — so one of my friends dared me to go into one of those S&M places and try out to be a dominatrix.

I was going to school and working two jobs. I just did it for shits and giggles, and they were like, ‘Oh, you’re blond, you’re hired.’ So I ended up doing that and that’s how I put myself through college with no debt. And then I did a dominatrix workout program that was on HBO and VH1 Real Sex — it was called Slaversize.

I got really sick with Lyme disease, so I didn’t start that again, but I adopted my dog Taco, and he was just magical. The day that I adopted him, two of my friends died in a murder-suicide, and I just remember he was so scared and I just clung to him. He was my soulmate dog.

Then I fostered a dog for another group, and the second that dog was adopted, Taco just looked so sad. So I road my bike up to the city pound to jailbreak him a friend. There I ran into a girl I had worked with as a dominatrix. She was running a pug rescue.

She pulled me into the back to where all of the dogs were on death row that the public didn’t see. She was like, ‘These are the ones that aren’t going to get out, who can you take? Can you help me?’ And I went home with seven dogs that night. I couldn’t leave any of them. So I went home and called my friends and said, ‘Hey can you watch a dog for a few days?

I had no idea what I was doing — and that’s kind of how I started. It became like — I can save more. I was so passionate, and it was a challenge. I officially formed a rescue in 2004 and it’s just grown from there. The city has changed a lot in that there are almost no small dogs or family friendly dogs in the city shelters, which is great because people have started spaying and neutering. They have started taking better care of their pets. The city has become really pro-dog and dog friendly in comparison to what it used to be. Here for dogs to breed and have puppies, you almost have to make a conscious effort. They have to be in heat and find each other down the hallway and down the stairs. In Los Angeles, Dallas, and elsewhere in the south, they don’t spay/neuter and the dogs are just running in yards. They’re just completely overwhelmed with dogs.

We had a waiting list of people who wanted to adopt dogs. I went to Los Angeles to dogsit for one of my friends and saw the shelters there. I decided to form a program called One-by-One. We supply the carriers, we pay for the ticket for the dog as well as the leashes, the harnesses — everything. We drop off the dog at the airport, pick it up on the other side and a person just flies with the dog. Everybody said it couldn’t be done, and it seemed like it was impossible, but people love it. Everybody who’s done it has done it again. We’ve gotten about 500 dogs that way — one by one.

I have a little bit more faith in humanity. We get adoption donations. The dogs that are coming in tonight on American Airlines are from the highest kill shelter in Dallas, and then all the fosters are going to pick them up. I’m going to microchip them myself. I have my own little branch in Los Angeles with my system and my setup with the shelters and the veterinarians and we also partner up with a few groups. We take in dogs about every two weeks. I formed a buddy system where people who have fostered help the new [dog owners].

I really like anything hands-on. My mom was a nurse and my grandmother was a lab tech. I grew up going into the lab, visiting my grandmother and being fascinated by tumors when I was 6 years old. That stuff is kind of normal to me. I grew up next to a wildlife sanctuary, and because my mom is a nurse, we used to take in all types of orphaned animals and birds with broken wings. It’s an addiction, and it’s also a little bit of a gamble because I agree to a certain amount of dogs. If I don’t find fosters, then I’m out on the street with the dog. Hasn’t happened yet but I’m at the max amount allowed in my building – so yeah, I’d be sleeping at Remedy diner.

If people want to help we have a little fostering section on For support we have trainers who we work with. A lot of the fosters end up adopting. A lot of people are considering adopting a dog and they’re not sure it’s the right time, so they’ll foster for a week or two and see if they’re ready for the commitment. If they’re not ready, they’ll maybe foster again until the right time or the right dog, so it’s a good system.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.


Anonymous said...

I want to marry this woman - she's awesome!

NYC needs massive dog and cat adoption conventions at Jacob Javits Center, I'm not kidding. One for dogs and one for cats. Feature every single pet online and ideally get pre-adoptions i.e. people saying I want that dog/cat. You screen all prospective adopters and get everything done at the convention. Don't have too many pets, that way everyone is adopted. Whoever isn't, all good, set up adoption events strictly for them until everyone finds a home.

Anonymous said...

Cheers. My boy is a rescue from South Carolina, can't imagine life without him.

Donnie Moder said...

Suggestion - interview a homeless on the street person. Just curious what they would say. You may have done someone before, like when the fire wiped out a corner on 2nd Ave. If you can find a person who has lived in the EV for awhile before becoming homeless, even better.

Eden Bee said...

So glad this is up! I volunteer for Waggytail and the best days are when the rescued dogs fly in from where they were on death row. They are so sweet and happy you can't believe they were going to be put down.

Anonymous said...

Did Holly live at 153 Ave C around 1999 or 2000? I once knew another girl named Holly that had a dog named taco living at that address and I fell out of touch with her by 2001. Interested to know if this is the same person and if so, good to see she's doing well. Hard to tell from picture in the article and close to twenty years has passed, so my visual memory of someone might be different.

Anonymous said...


Jose Garcia said...

Miss Kita the Wonder Dog approves highly needless to say. xo

Al Cabal said...

What a wonderful human being! Thanks for providing a light in the darkness, Holly! Live long and prosper!