Love Your Pet: You Can Bring Your Dog

Baseball games, happy hours, and other doggone fun

By: Julie Lawson

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Bark in the Park

Sunday, April 9 and May 21

Prince George's Stadium, Bowie

Dogs enjoy baseball as much as anyone. Bring your pooch for an afternoon of sun, Cracker Jack, and doggie activities while you watch the Bowie Baysox in minor-league action, your dog at your side in or near the bleachers. Tickets are $9 to $15 a person; pets free (call ahead to register). Call 301-464-4880 or see baysox.com.

Bark Ball

Saturday, June 17

Marriott Renaissance, Northwest DC

Dogs about town are the stars at the annual Bark Ball, a fundraiser for the Washington Humane Society. Officials expect 700 humans and 400 canines. Dogs enjoy appetizers and treats. Tickets are $225; pets free. See barkball.com or call 202-332-3556.

Doggie Dip Day

Saturday, September 9, noon to 4

Each year more than 400 dogs celebrate summer's end with a swim at Rockville Municipal Swim Center. Five dollars and proof of rabies vaccination gets you in. Proceeds usually benefit the Montgomery County Humane Society. See rockvillemd.gov/swimcenter or call 240-314-8750.

Blessing of the Animals

Wednesday, October 4

On the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Washington National Cathedral, as well as other local churches, hosts this annual event. On the front steps, pets of all kinds receive an individual blessing, including holy water. Free. See cathedral.org or call 202-537-6200.

Canine Games

Early October, Alexandria

Watch more than 600 dogs show off their athletic skills at the Animal Rescue League's annual event. Besides events like Frisbee catch, the festival features an obstacle course, relay races, and vendors. Early registration for competition is $20 a dog ($25 on site); other visitors free. See alexandriaanimals.org or call 703-838-4774.

Howl-o-ween

Late October, Clarendon

The pet shop A.k.a. Spot hosts a costume contest, parade, and trick-or-treating. More than 60 dogs joined the fun last year. See akaspot.com or call 703-248-0093.

YEAR-ROUND

K9 Trailblazers

Monthly; locations vary

Take your dog hiking, on leash. K9 organizes hikes in parks, including some generally off-limits to dogs. Hikes are usually limited to 12 people. Difficulty and length vary. See k9trailblazers.org.

Doggie Happy Hour

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 8

Old Town Holiday Inn Select, Alexandria

The place to sniff and be sniffed. While humans do the singles scene with free appetizers and drink specials, dogs partake of gourmet biscuits and water. See doggiehappyhour.com or call 703-549-6080.

We All Bark for Ice Cream

The Dairy Godmother in Alexandria (2310 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-683-7767) makes up batches of dog-friendly frozen yogurt alongside the human flavors. Or get a cup of Paww-nut Carob Swirl Mutt Licks from Doggie Style Bakery in DC (1825 18th St., NW; 202-667-0595).

That Wet-Dog Smell

The standard dog park: a small, fenced lot with dirt or mulch. For a better park experience, just add water.

Readers love the Shirlington dog park (2601 S. Arlington Mill Dr.) because it includes a stretch of Four Mile Run. You'll also find dogs all over Roosevelt Island, especially at the small beach on the north side. Manassas Battlefield Park is popular for long walks, with both Young's Branch and Bull Run available for swims.

The South River in Quiet Waters Dog Park (Annapolis; quietwatersdogpark.org) is open to swimming only for dogs. Quiet Waters also has a 1.3-acre fenced park, divided for large and small dogs.

Lose the Leash

Allowing dogs space to run lets them burn off energy and, well, be dogs. In the past few years, Montgomery County has had three off-leash parks open; Alexandria has new parks as well. You'll find information on Web sites run by Montgomery County Dog Owners (mc-dog.org) and DCDOG (groups.yahoo.com/group/DCDOG).

Congressional Cemetery in Southeast DC was a haven for drug dealers and homeless people until dog owners began frequenting it in the 1990s. Now more than 250 owners pay $125 a year, plus $40 a dog, for off-leash access to the fenced, 33-acre site.

Until this past fall, the cemetery was the only place for dogs to run off-leash legally in DC. Following the successful trial of an off-leash park in Adams Morgan, Walter Pierce Park, the DC Council passed legislation allowing off-leash parks.

Doing Good With Your Pet

Animals--mostly dogs but also cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs--are welcome in many hospitals and nursing homes, where their visits are a pleasant distraction for those who are lonely or in pain.

Pets and owners must be trained first and then can visit patients at places like Inova Fairfax and Mount Vernon hospitals. For more information, visit deltasociety.org and tdi-dog.org or call Leslie Horton, director of Assisted-Animal Therapy at Inova Fairfax, at 703-776-3536.