I’m not a dog owner – at least not yet. But my family and I plan on adding a four-legged friend to our home in the very near future. Dogs take a ton of care, time and attention – just like children – so in the interim, I’ve been studying up. Doing my homework. Preparing for the incredible commitment a dog requires. I’m not 100% we’re ready for it, but then again, who is? Take a stroll through the streets of Arlington, or a late-day weekend cruise through Alexandria’s neighborhoods and one thing is clear: dogs are as much a part of the fabric of these communities as the George Washington Masonic Temple, Clarendon Farmers Market, and the King Street Trolley; and both communities embrace its canine residents with an abundance of pet-friendly offerings.
If you’re like me and don’t have a dog (at least not yet), animal shelters are a great place to start, and the Animal Welfare League’s of Arlington and Alexandria are great examples. Located on South Arlington Mill Drive just off Four Mile Run near bustling Shirlington Village and the Shirlington Dog Park, The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is an accredited humane society that, among other animals, serves as a temporary home for abused, unwanted, or otherwise neglected dogs. At any given time among the 20 dogs they house, are many that have been voluntarily given up (as opposed to rescued or found wandering the streets). A great thing, in my opinion, as their owners cared to enough to try and ensure the dog finds a stable home. Like Arlington, Alexandria’s facility is clean, staffed by friendly, knowledgeable pet-lovers as well, and offers an ample variety of adoptable dogs. From “Delilah“, a black and white Pit Bull Terrier, to “Tanner,” an American Foxhound mix, prospective dog owners may find just what they’re looking for here. The Vola Lawson Animal Shelter is located at 4101 Eisenhower Avenue, just outside Old Town.
Once a particular pet finds your fancy, there is no shortage of places in Alexandria and Arlington to take them for some exercise and socialization. Both communities offer clean, fenced, leash-required and off-leash dog parks where Rover can roam free if he’s feeling a little stir-crazy after a full day in the house. In Alexandria, Dog Run Park serves the new Carlyle complex near the patent and trademark office, offers a fenced, off-leash area, with a separate zone for smaller dogs. Chinquapin Park, behind T.C. Williams High School off King Street near 395, has a designated off-leash dog run area as part of a larger family park. And for Southern Alexandria residents in the Mt Vernon and Ft. Hunt neighborhoods, Grist Mill is a 1-acre puppy playland, featuring benches and shade trees for owners weary of chasing their dogs around all day. It even features a high-tech blue landscaping dust to reduce mud and keep fido from looking like he just got into a tangle with a rabid pig
.Arlington features eight parks throughout the county, including one currently under renovation, so there may be one near your home. Five of the eight parks are located south of Arlington Boulevard, so South Arlington residents have far more options. Shirlington and Fort Barnard parks are close to me, the former located beside a stream to help your dog cool off on hot days. Benjamin Banneker Park on the county’s northwest end, includes a designated dog area, and hosts “invasive plant removal events” that, among other environmental benefits, ensure the area is safe for dogs with adventurous appetites. And Glencarlyn Park near route 50 and Carlin Springs Road, provides a non-fenced play area easily accessible to north and south county residents alike. In all of these area, most dog owners respect the expectation to clean up after their dogs, so you can avoid wading through a sea of poop when you take your dogs there.
Finally, dogs get sick. Its inevitable. As an Alexandria or Arlington resident, where do you go? Veterinary Clinics of America (VCA), the Wal-Mart of veterinary service, has a location in Alexandria; and Arlington’s wide selection of independent vets can take care of you as well.
Whatever your need as a dog owner, Arlington and Alexandria can meet them.