Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan


For this issue, I interview Sumo, the dog who lives with Margaret Fabiszak (Freiwald Lab, The Rockefeller University) and her husband, James.


Photos courtesy of Fabiszak & Co.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you?

S: Roughly in my 60s. We don’t know exactly! If anyone at the Tri-I can give me an estimate based on my DNA methylation, let me know. I lick everything and shed constantly. It’s very easy to get my DNA.

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

S: I’m told I have a reddish-orange coat (although if you ask me, I’d say brownish-brown) so my humans had the idea of naming me after an orange fruit in what is apparently a long held tradition of naming pets based on their color scheme. I’m skeptical at the novelty, but I’ll still go with it. The first contender for a name was Kumquat, but that ran the risk of being confused with a word I’d later become acquainted with, “Come.” Let’s all agree that the resulting name Quat isn’t particularly flattering. After a bit more thought, Sumo Citrus stuck! You can all call me Sumo.

PV: How did you first meet your humans?

S: They came to meet me in a great shelter called Animal Lighthouse Rescue. We went for a walk in Central Park and I knew I had them hooked. 

PV: What is your first memory?

S: I grew up in Puerto Rico and was a stray most of my life. Given the lengths to which I’ll go for them now, I have to imagine that chicken bones had a strong impression on me as a pup. A big chicken bone on a long, warm day–that’s my ideal picture of my youth.

PV: Where do you live?

S: Harlem with my humans.

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

S: Chicken bones are high up there, but they’re a rare find on a walk here. I smell A LOT of urine in this city and I appear to love it. My humans support my interests though. They’re even working on making an app called PupPee Value to reveal a social network of neighborhood dogs!

PV: What are your favorite neighborhoods in NYC?

S: Harlem, Jamaica, and Park Slope–anywhere I know humans who will give me lots of treats.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

S: A place with chicken bones, beds I’m always allowed on, and humans who know exactly how I like my belly rubbed.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

S: Chicken bones! But since I’m not allowed chicken bones, I’ll settle for any treat with meat in it. If it’s human-grade beef jerky, I’ll often run through all the tricks I know on repeat until my humans stop laughing and give me the jerky.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

S: Going for a hike followed by a long nap in the sun coming through the windows …and then eating.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

S: Most any treat giver! Lots of Tri-I humans have even looked after me for a weekend! I haven’t found one yet who will give me chicken bones. They will be my favorite.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

S: NYC is a wild and magical city. I love chasing squirrels and even get to chase a few rats! One time I thought I was chasing a squirrel but it turned into the tail of our neighborhood cat. I was so surprised at this transfiguration I jumped into a somersault and ran to my humans! I’m still not sure why they found this so funny, but they laughed for a long time and gave me extra head scratches. The cat was unfazed.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

S: Unfortunately, I don’t have thumbs so I can’t make an Instagram yet, or for that matter, I can’t even open the door to the closet with treats!

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

S: Thumbs.