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Photo: Valeria Villarroel
Photo: Valeria Villarroel

Instagramming For a Cause: We the Dogs DC

Is there any other city besides the nation’s capital with such a thriving dog culture? The minute the temperatures reach the mid-60s and the sun beats out the clouds, all the dogs suddenly come out of hiding from hibernation and join their owners at every patio and park throughout the area. Each moment of puppy play dates, brews and bones, puppies and pints, snuggles and sunbathing, and tongue and tail wags is documented on Instagram thanks to @wethedogsdc.

We The Dogs DC was born like many modern connections: on Instagram. A DM slide here, a DM slide there, and suddenly, five local women and their beloved pups found themselves members of a brand new pack. Renee Arellano is dog mom to Kingston; Kat Calvitti hangs out with her pup Stella; Marissa Dimino enjoys yappy hours with Teddy; Shannon DiMartino snuggles up with Ruby; and Amber Duggan gets mani-pedis with Izzy.

Locals following @wethedogsdc get to catch a glimpse at a day in the life of a local pup (much in the same vein of the @wethepeopledc Instagram account), where DC area dog owners get to hold the handle for a day and take photos of their canine companions at Fido-friendly spots around the city. We The Dogs’ Insta also features local rescue pups up for adoption. The cuteness factor is off the charts, and it’s all for a good cause.

More than just an Instagram handle, We The Dogs DC connects local dog lovers to help support animal rescue organizations and local dog-friendly businesses.

“With every dog story comes a human story, and it’s a great way to connect with people,” DiMartino says. “I think by having the handle and showing people who have pit bulls and other dogs that are often times restricted from apartments and other areas, people get to see they are really sweet dogs and just want to be loved.”

Last spring, the ladies of We The Dogs had an idea to bring together people from different political and ideological backgrounds to march for a common cause: their pets. What started as an idea for a small gathering of several dozen people swiftly became the Bipawtisan March; the June 4 event raised more than $10,000 for the Humane Rescue Alliance and Rural Dog Rescue.

“People were just really excited about coming together,” says Duggan, the organization’s executive director.

Since the march, We The Dogs’ Instagram account has grown to over 6,000 followers. Over 1,600 toys, leashes, beds, food and other essential pet items have been donated to help out rescue organizations such as Rural Dog Rescue, the Puppy Rescue Mission and Worthy Dog Rescue. An additional $2,000 was raised for local dog charities at smaller events, and plans are already underway for a second Bipawtisan March in September – an impressive feat for an organization that’s only been around for less than a year.

The pack is also working on a photobook, set to come out this fall. All proceeds from the sale of book will benefit four local animal rescue organizations: OBG Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, K-9 Lifesavers and Operation Paws for Homes. Nearly 30 charities were nominated, and the local community took a vote to whittle the list down to four. Ruby the Bulldog selected the final charity.

“Ruby has a hide-and-seek toy, so we taped the charity names underneath the little cups on the toys and put treats in all of those cups, and let her pick the fourth charity,” DiMartino says.

The book will highlight different dog breeds visiting iconic DC locations and dog-friendly neighborhood gems around the DMV, and will be available on the organization’s website, via Amazon, and at local booksellers and dog-friendly publishing sponsors.

We The Dogs also hosts dog-friendly social gatherings on a regular basis. Thanks to their Instagram community of dog lovers and their social events, dog owners throughout the area have formed local pack walk groups (you can catch Calvitti and Stella at the Meridian Hill one). Pup parents have a place to turn to for advice and support whenever a furry loved one gets sick or injured, and a sympathetic ear when they need to vent about the pitfalls of dog ownership in the DMV, such as breed restrictions in housing and the fact that dogs aren’t allowed on the Metro (take note, WMATA!)

While We The Dogs DC isn’t an advocacy organization, just by virtue of highlighting dogs of different breeds and sizes throughout the area – including those looking for their forever homes – the 501(c)(3) manages to bring visibility and awareness about maligned dog breeds by letting followers glimpse at life through literal puppy dog eyes.

“The community that we’ve built and encountered through our dogs is absolutely amazing,” Calvitti says. “My life revolves around Stella’s plans now. I don’t have a social life – my dog does.”

Don’t miss We The Dogs’ next Yappy Hour on Sunday, May 13. Learn more about We The Dogs DC at www.wethedogsdc.org and follow them on Instagram at @wethedogsdc.


DC Dog Rescues

Animal Welfare Institute
www.awionline.org
“Since its founding in 1951, AWI has sought to alleviate the suffering inflicted on animals by people. Today, one of our greatest areas of emphasis is cruel animal factories, which raise and slaughter pigs, cows, chickens and other animals.”

DC PAWS Rescue
www.dcpawsrescue.org
“DC PAWS Rescue is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in DC, committed to rescuing homeless animals from high-kill animal control facilities that are often under-resourced and underfunded.”

Howl to the Chief
www.howltothechief.com
“The place to pamper Capitol Hill pets: premium pet foods for all budgets, delivery, grooming, dog walking, dog wash and adoption events.”

Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation
www.lostdogrescue.org
“Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation helps homeless pets find their way to loving homes through rescue and adoption.”

Mutts Matter Rescue
www.muttsmatterrescue.org
“We work in conjunction with shelters and other organizations to help save animals on death row, the strays on the streets or ones in unsafe living conditions.”

Operation Paws for Homes
www.ophrescue.org
“Operation Paws for Homes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of dogs who have overcome great odds and deserve wonderful, caring forever homes.”

Worthy Dog Rescue
www.worthydog.org
“Worthy Dog Rescue is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping dogs in distress, especially those living on chains, in pens, or in neglectful and abusive situations.”

Doggie

Year of the Dog

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. But based on the plethora of pup-friendly happenings in the DC area, the dog days are here to stay. We’ve hunted high and low for everything you and your four-legged friend can do together now and well into the year. From events and fundraisers to parks and places to adopt a new companion, we’ve got your definitive guide to DC dog life below.

Off-Leash Areas + Summer Spots

There are lots of places around town that are dog-friendly, but not as many where pups can legally roam free from the tether of a leash. The 35-plus fenced acres of Congressional Cemetery are a favorite, but membership is required and there is a yearly waitlist. If you’re not a part of the in-crowd, try Shirlington Dog Park or Glencarlyn Park, both in Arlington with access to creek areas for canine cool-off sessions. In the District, Yards Park has a small off-leash area, which is a decent option for letting the pup run off some steam if you plan to bring him along to an outdoor concert or al fresco dinner.

While Kingman Island, Theodore Roosevelt Island and the wooded area along the Potomac from Fletcher’s Cove toward Chain Bridge are not designated as off-leash grounds, they provide new scents and stimulation for a good trail walk or run. The nearby water and tree canopy provide ways to cool off in the hot summer months, making this a great set of locations for dogs and their humans alike. The canoe, kayak and boat rentals at Fletcher’s boathouse are pet-friendly too!

If you and your pup want to skip town altogether, head to one of the dog-friendly Virginia wineries like Three Fox Vineyards or to Delaware’s Dewey Beach where dogs are welcome to bask in the sun and play in the sand year-round. Learn more about these spots below.

Congressional Cemetery: www.congressionalcemetery.org

Dewey Beach: www.townofdeweybeach.com

Fletcher’s Cove: www.boatingindc.com

Glencarlyn Dog Park: parks.arlingtonva.us

Kingman Island: www.kingmanisland.org

Shirlington Dog Park: parks.arlingtonva.us

Theodore Roosevelt Island: www.nps.gov

Three Fox Vineyards: www.threefoxvineyards.com

Yards Park: www.capitolriverfront.org

Local Rescues + Adoption Organizations

City Dogs Rescue
City Dogs (and City Kitties) is a foster- and volunteer-based organization that helps place animals from shelters with loving human companions. The organization sponsors adoption events with local businesses like Dogma Bakery and Logan Hardware, and volunteers periodically host Yappy Hours at local bars to raise funds for the puppies and kittens. www.citydogsrescuedc.org

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue
Like the other great organizations in this list, Homeward Trails makes it their mission to find homes for abandoned, abused and high-kill shelter animals. Homeward Trails also wants to inspire kids to take the lead when it comes to rescue. During the organization’s Camp Waggin’ Tails summer camp in Fairfax, kids ages eight to 13 can “learn all about animal rescue, responsible pet ownership, positive dog training, hear from a variety of pet professionals, and work hands on with carefully selected adoptable dogs while engaging in fun games and projects.” www.homewardtrails.org

Humane Rescue Alliance
Two years ago, the Washington Animal Rescue League and Washington Humane Society merged to create a mega resource for bringing people and animals together. In addition to adoption services, HRA also provides affordable veterinary care, free pet food for those in need, behavior and training classes, and education and outreach opportunities.  www.humanerescuealliance.org

K-9 Lifesavers
Located in Stafford, Virginia, “K-9 Lifesavers save lives ‘Four Paws at a Time.’” With volunteer drivers and boarding partners, K-9 Lifesavers rescues dogs from low-income rural areas throughout Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Dedicated volunteers drive the pups to the DMV where boarding partners help host the pups until they can be adopted. K-9 Lifesavers also strives to be a support group for adopters and all dog owners. www.k-9lifesavers.org

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
Founded in 2009, Lucky Dog saves an average of 100-125 homeless and abandoned animals every month. And while based in DC, Lucky Dog’s outreach goes far beyond the DMV. This past January, Lucky Dog partnered with Southwest Airlines to deliver more than 14,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to animal rescuers in Puerto Rico and came home to DC with more than 60 dogs and cats who survived Hurricane Maria and were ready to be adopted. www.luckydoganimalrescue.org

Rural Dog Rescue
Rural Dog Rescue (RDR) is completely foster-based and run entirely by volunteers. The rescue works predominantly with several rural, high-kill shelters that euthanize over 70 percent of dogs, or euthanize within 72 hours in Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. When RDR finds dogs that are ready for their forever homes, they provide each pet with up-to-date vaccinations and a microchip. Forever true to “The Underdog”, RDR is dedicated to saving the lives of high risk dogs in economically challenged high kills shelters who are often overlooked for adoption or rescue. This organization saves the dogs who are at most risk of being euthanized: the hounds, the black dogs, the seniors, the sick, the handicapped and the broken. RDR makes a commitment to reserve a minimum of 50% of the dogs they save to these underdogs.  www.ruraldogrescue.com

Dog Days of Summer: Wag-worthy Events

Congressional Cemetery’s Day of the Dog
Though the venue may seem morbid, it’s way more fun that one might think! This annual festival is a chance for all dogs, not just those who are members of the cemetery’s K-9 Corps, to join in a day of fun and games and romping around the cemetery’s 35-plus acres. Activities include contests, raffles, demonstrations, food trucks and local adoptions. Check out the Day of the Dog on Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Historic Congressional Cemetery: 1801 E St. SE, DC; www.congressionalcemetery.org

Humane Rescue Alliance’s Fashion for Paws Runway Show
Few things could be cuter than a poodle strutting her stuff down the catwalk. For the 11th year running, Fashion for Paws’ Annual Runway Show will couple the glitz and glam of the fashion world with a great charitable cause. “Participants are Humane Rescue Alliance ambassadors who raise a minimum of $4,000 to benefit HRA for the honor of escorting their fashionably dressed dog down the runway,” according to the HRA website. Complete with celebrity host Carson Kressley from Queer Eye, cocktail attire and a glamorous afterparty, the event sells out every year. Dogs not participating in the runway show are not permitted to attend. Don’t miss Fashion for Paws on Saturday, May 5 from 7 p.m. – 12 a.m. Omni Shoreham Hotel: 2500 Calvert St. NW, DC; fashionforpaws.org

Pups in the Park
Summer in America means baseball, and at Nats Park, that includes all-American dogs! Throughout the season, you can purchase tickets to reserve a seat for your dog in the pet-friendly outfield section of the park. As a bonus, the June 23 game will feature a special pregame pup parade around the warning track. Proceeds from dog tickets benefit the Humane Rescue Alliance. Check out Pups in the Park on May 19, June 23 and on multiple dates in September. Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC;
www.mlb.com/nationals

We The Dogs DC’s Bipawtisan March
You wouldn’t be a DC dog if you didn’t participate in political activism. You and your pup can make friends across party lines while supporting a great cause at We The Dogs DC’s Bipawtisan March on September 23, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. with 100 percent of the event’s proceeds donated to local dog rescues. Bipawtisan March: Location TBD; www.wethedogsdc.org

Home Sweet Home: DC’s Dog-Friendly Digs

Let’s face it, even in a town as dog-friendly as DC, the traditional rental market offers slim pickings when it comes to finding a place that allows four-legged friends. But the recent uptick in development has also brought an influx of property managers who see this plight as a niche market opportunity, offering amenities specifically targeted at residents with dogs – granted you can afford the perks.

2M Street

Neighborhood: NoMa
Petmenities: Private dog park, grooming station, community yappy hours and a resident bulldog, Emmy
www.2mstreet.com

City Market at O
Neighborhood: Shaw
Petmenities: Rooftop dog park, dog washing stations, pet walking and grooming referrals, and quarterly yappy hours
www.citymarketato.com

The Hepburn
Neighborhood: Kalorama
Petmenities: Onsite pet spa and a pet wash station
www.thehepburndc.com

Park Chelsea at The Collective
Neighborhood: Capitol Riverfront
Petmenities: Dog wash station, rooftop dog run, and easy access to Garfield, Canal and Yards Parks
www.thecollectivedc.com

Pro Tip: Pup-Friendly Hotels

Friends and family heading to town with Fido? There are lots of great pet-friendly lodging and hotel options, including Hotel Monaco, Hotel Palomar, Hotel Madera, Liaison Capitol Hill, The Carlyle and many others!


Illustration: Haley McKey

Illustration: Haley McKey

Telltale Tails What’s in a Wag?

When many people see a dog wagging his or her tail, they immediately think that dog is happy. But that is not always the case. Dogs use a different language to express how they’re feeling than people do, and their tails can really talk. What’s most important for humans to know is that not all wags mean the same thing. Here are five common wags and what they can indicate.

1. Broad-sweeping, loose and generally side-to-side at a moderate speed: This is the one we like to see! It means, “I’m pleased,” or that there is no sense of threat or challenge.

2. Tight, circular motion at moderate to high speed: This is generally an indicator that the dog is uncomfortable in the situation, unsure how he/she should act or may be a bit high-strung. This wag should be taken as a sign of caution, though not necessarily aggression.

3. Low, tucked and slow to moderate speed with half of the tail in motion: This wag is a classic sign of submissiveness. If your dog is using this wag, he or she isn’t necessarily having the best time, but may just be trying to signal that she “comes in peace.”

4. High, stiff, and fast-paced or vibrating: This is usually a sign of an active challenge. Pay close attention to the situation and extract your dog if necessary.

5. Half tail at a moderate speed: This one is a little vague. It means, “I’m a little tentative here, so not going to put on the full-works display.” It can be a warm up to a hello, or a show of a bit of insecurity.

Common wag facts were originally sourced from Psychology Today here.

Photo: Lindsay Galatro
Photo: Lindsay Galatro

A Day in the Life: Instafamous Navy the Corgi

Imagine creating a social media account for your pet just for fun, and having it attract almost 40,000 followers within the first year. Your pup’s Instagram is swarmed by likes and comments from dog lovers, brands and fellow Instafamous canines in the District and across the nation. For couple Alex Hibbs and Zach Hopf, posting photos of their pup quickly led to Navy the Corgi’s resounding online success. Now Hibbs, a Department of Defense employee, and Hopf, an IT consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, devote most of their free time to one-year-old Navy and her booming Instagram account, @navycorgi. We caught up with the Insta celebrity and her parents in Capitol Riverfront’s Yards Park after her photo shoot for our May cover.

On Tap: How would you describe Navy’s personality?
Alex Hibbs: Yap queen, very high energy. She’s a diva. She loves to meet and play with everybody. Her tail wags a mile a minute. People get intimated because she barks a lot but it’s all very playful, like, “I want you to pet me and run around with me.”

OT: When and how did Navy first start to receive social media attention?
AH: I figured making Navy her own account was the easiest way to share photos of her with my friends, family and coworkers. We started posting and didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but it did. She’s a pretty unique puppy, so people definitely caught on. We started [the Instagram account] the day we picked her up. Big corgi accounts on Instagram posted a few puppy photos of her. The American Kennel Club contacted us after we posted a little video – our third post – and asked, “Can we share on our social media?” They have thousands of followers and a huge online presence.

OT: Have most of her photos and videos been easily circulated?
Zach Hopf: Reposts are a big thing. Alex is great at using hashtags depending on the brand and the areas. Through that, reposts happen.
AH: It really comes naturally for us. We try to be strategic with it and use hash tags for big accounts, so they will repost it and tag bigger accounts. Some people use a tactic of direct messaging. But we say if she gets followers, she does and if she doesn’t, she doesn’t. We aren’t going to directly go after people to have them repost our content.

OT: Do you feel pressure to post every single day?
AH: It can be super overwhelming. Instagram is a highlight reel – we’re only showing the best parts. Navy can be a terror. She barks a lot. We also have a lot of fun with her that we don’t really post [about]. Sometimes there’s so much pressure to post every day, and in ways, it can get competitive.

OT: What’s it like as influencers to go out in public where people might recognize Navy?
ZH: It can be so surreal. One time, we were walking through Georgetown and we were walking across the street, and this car slams on the brakes in the middle of traffic. This young girl gets out and starts screaming “Navy, Navy!” And she was like, “I made my mom stop in the middle of traffic to come say hi.”


Navy the Corgi’s Can’t Live Without
Favorite place to nap
Between the pillows and the headboard in Mom and Dad’s bed
Favorite place to play
Dog Run Park at Carlyle in Alexandria, Virginia
Favorite place to shop
Kriser’s Natural Pet
Favorite thing to play with
ZippyPaws Burrow squeaky toy
Favorite thing to eat
Duck
Favorite things to chase
Frenchies, birds, squirrels


OT: Do you ever interact with followers outside of Instagram?
AH: We recently went to Portugal and I had sent a message out. [A few owners and their corgis] came out to meet us and took us on a little tour of their town. They gave us a bandana for Navy. Navy’s not necessarily [always] with us, but the Instagram dog community is so nice – they want to meet you and not just your dog.

OT: Do you guys devote most of your time to Navy when you’re not working?
AH:
Outside of work, we are really big on working out so we’ll go to the gym. But other than that, everything is focused on Navy and we’re like, “Oh, let’s take a trip. Let’s make sure it’s dog-friendly.” Our lives really revolve around her.
ZH:
We have to be at so many events for Navy: birthday parties, guest appearances, photos or other opportunities, or going to the dog park, doggy play dates, or going to dinner and making sure it’s dog accessible.

OT: How does Navy use her platform to support animal rescues and other
pup-focused organizations?

AH: There’s an organization called the East Coast Corgi Rescue. On Sunday, we went to a fundraiser for them and we donated a bunch of the free stuff that Navy gets like extra bags of treats. We told them, “If you want to give it out as a raffle or keep it for the rescue dogs, please go ahead.” And donate money too or let them use Navy as a source to promote it. Then there’s We the Dogs DC – we’ve gone to their events and held the handle on Instagram.
ZH: We did a small thing for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. They had an event where they sold tickets. Three dogs and a cat came, and [their owners] talked about social media influencing. We helped promote that event for them too. If people do have something going on, we’re more than willing to help out in any way we can.

Follow Navy the Corgi on Instagram at @navycorgi, and learn more about her at www.navycorgi.com.