By Meryl Feiner

Corneel Meets the Kids

  |  Theater & Performances  

Move over Eloise, Corneel is now at The Plaza. While Eloise is often naughty, Corneel is mostly nice. Eloise’s claim to fame is her knack for getting into trouble; Corneel is the perfect gentlemen. (Well, not quite a gentleman, but he’s definitely gentle). Eloise may come from a well-heeled family, but Corneel comes from a family that heels well. And the biggest difference, Eloise lives in the imaginations of children, but Corneel is a real live children’s book character. On a recent Saturday at the landmark Manhattan hotel, young fans got to brush his coat, walk him on a leash and watch him do tricks as part of The Plaza's Young Ambassador program's new Junior Vets clinic. If you haven’t guessed, Corneel is a dog and the title character of Corneel at the Plaza, by Janet York and Rosemary Carroll. Carroll led the Junior Vets workshop, and introduced the children to the famous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and two of his siblings, Patrick and Cecile. The kids quickly warmed up to the dogs and were soon able to tell the three Cavaliers apart. “Paddy is the one that licks you all the time,” observed one youngster. After giving the participants a chance to pet and play with the dogs, Carroll went on to give them advice on grooming and training canines. “Every day you have to brush these dogs,” Carroll explained, demonstrating by having one of the dogs lay on its side. Each of the 20 children got a chance to brush one of the dogs, while Carroll fielded questions from the group. Although most already had dogs of their own, there were a few prospective future pet owners in the crowd. “How do you know what kind of dog to get?” asked one 7-year-old. Carroll recommended getting an encyclopedia of dogs to research different breeds, and attending dog shows to find out which breeds are suitable for children. “There are seven main groups of dogs. Look for a gentle and smart dog,” Carroll advised, adding that a lot of the communication that goes on between a dog and its owner goes beyond talking. “You have to think like a dog sometimes to figure out what they want,” she explained. As each child got a chance to walk a Cavalier and make it heel, Carroll gave some tips on training. “Train your dog every single day for short periods of time. Start with little commands, then give bigger and harder commands,” she urged. “If you are going to reward with treats, make sure you train before meal time." She suggested that the treats be very tiny because if the dog is chewing a big piece, it makes it more difficult for it to concentrate. Carroll also recommended that when training a dog, everyone in the household should use the same command. Total eye contact with the dog is essential to make them understand, she said. “Start by training on a lead and, little by little, take the lead off. Then lengthen time between treats.” Most importantly, Carroll said, dogs like to be played with every day and should have plenty of toys for chewing. So just how did this adorable canine come to be an honorary Young Ambassador at The Plaza? “I wanted to give him a really posh place to live,” says Carroll of the choice of homes for Corneel in the second book of the series. She says she was a little intimidated about approaching The Plaza with her idea because “Eloise is so big.” But, she says, Plaza management was “captivated by the pictures — and Corneel is so well-mannered.” Lyudmila Bloch, director of the Young Ambassador program, says she would like to make the Junior Vet clinic a series every month — focusing on training, grooming, general dog care and nutrition. Other Young Ambassador workshops include cooking and etiquette. For more information, call (212) 546-5377, or access: Carroll, who has been photographing canine celebrities and their famous owners for more than 15 years, says there may be more books about Corneel in the future. As for Corneel and his siblings, when they are not entertaining children at The Plaza, they work as therapy dogs for children in local hospitals. The dogs live with owner, trainer and author, Janet York, in Manhattan.