How a Capitol Hill Cemetery Came Back to Life as an Off-leash Dog Park
One historic cemetery in D.C. is full of life — of the canine variety — thanks to its transformation into one of Washington’s largest off-leash dog parks.
Talk about doing double-duty.
Historic Congressional Cemetery in Capitol Hill consists of more than 35 acres of fenced space for member dogs to roam freely.
Although a small group of neighborhood dog owners started contributing to the cemetery in the 1990s to help mow the grass, the K9 Corps became an official organization of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery in 2007.
K9 Corps keeps watch while keeping the fun going
The corps has 12 board members and governs membership, including restricting the number of dogs. It can be tough to join, as all 770 current slots are full.
Membership to the K9 Corps is annual and runs from March to February, with the waitlist opened in mid-January.
The fee is $225 per family, and there's a $50 per dog fee, maximum of three dogs. Members also are asked to volunteer at least eight hours per year to help with a variety of tasks, such as gardening.
“Our wait list has over 400 people on it,” says Lauren Maloy, program director at Historic Congressional Cemetery.
Day passes, though, are available for $10 to nonmembers.
Special events for the dog community
Once a year, usually in late summer, the cemetery hosts the Day of the Dog event. That's when, literally, “everyone and his dog” are welcome to check out the cemetery and get in a little dog exercise.
“It’s a concession we like to make for all the area dogs,” Maloy says.
AtlasVet sent staff to the event to answer veterinary questions, plus offer prizes. Who doesn’t want customized poop bags and a portable pet food bowl?
“The four- and two-legged attendees are wonderful,” says Elizabeth Chaney, trainer director at Perfect Pet Resort, adding that it’s “such a nice outing for everyone.”
Poodles, terriers and more cover cemetery's upkeep
About a quarter of the cemetery's operating income is derived from donations from the K9 Corps, which is roughly equal to the cost of the grounds maintenance contracts.
Dog-walkers play another role, serving as de facto, on-site patrol almost every hour of the day. With a bevy of watchdogs on the job, the historic cemetery remains mostly free of troublemakers and vandals.
The cemetery also hosts more than just the Day of the Dog event. "Yappy Hours" in the spring, photos with Santa at Christmas and the Blessing of the Animals in October are all on the calendar.
Who knew a trip to the cemetery could be such fun?