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Trend Spotting: Communal Dogs (With Editor’s Note Added 4/4)

An animal behaviorist is concerned by a new DC apartment building’s unique amenity.

This place has everything: gym, rooftop pool, shared dog. No, it's not a "Stefon" sketch. Rendering courtesy W.C. Smith.

With so many new, high-end apartment buildings dotting Washington, prospective tenants have plenty of options to choose from. And building owners are responding by upping their amenities. Twenty-four-hour gyms, heated bike rooms, and rooftop pools are so standard that new developments need too get creative.

W.C. Smith’s 2M, a 314-unit building opening this summer in the NoMa neighborhood, features all that, and is possibly inventing a brand-new amenity in Emmy, a six-month-old English bulldog that will be shared by tenants. Yes, really. A communal dog for residents to borrow in chunks of time like a Zipcar.

“I was sitting at a cafe one day, and we saw a puppy come in and everyone just stopped in their tracks and came alive,” W.C. Smith vice president Holli Beckman tells the Washington Post. “And it just dawned on me that everyone loves doggies and babies, right?”

But as much as a cute, playful creature like Emmy—who has a dedicated Instagram account (obviously)—can melt hearts, experts on dog care are concerned for the pup.

“It’s a cute idea, but oh, no,” says Mary Huntsberry, an animal behavior specialist in Montgomery County. “Not a good idea at all.”

Huntsberry says that offering up a dog like a time-share could have severe effects on its mental and physical health as Emmy is moved from apartment to apartment and cared for by so many different people.

“Certain people think you need to be harsh, that’s not true with another person,” she says. “Dogs can be easily traumatized.”

W.C. Smith’s advertising for 2M says the building is pet-friendly for people who actually own their own dogs, but Huntsberry worries that Emmy is being dumped into a uncertain situation.

“They’re animals, they’re not purses you just lend out to people,” she says. “That’s just nutty.”

Editor’s Note (added 4/4/2014): In response to this article, Anne Marie Bairstow, vice president of marketing and communications at W.C. Smith, writes: “We appreciate Washingtonian’s interest in our 2M Street pet ambassador, Emmy. However, the story had several inaccuracies. The article says that Emmy will be rented out like ‘Zipcar for dogs or like a ‘purse,’ which is, of course, not the case. Emmy will live with the 2M property manager and come to work with him in the leasing office. Residents will be allowed to walk Emmy in the building’s private dog park, but all visits will be closely monitored.” Washingtonian thanks WC Smith for this clarification.

  • 2M

    Hi there-the management here at 2M want to assure you that Emmy is indeed primarily cared for by our property manager, Doug. She will spend most of the day lounging in the leasing office with our team, returning home with Doug in the evenings. Residents are encouraged to come and say hello, and they will certainly see her out in the private dog park, playing with her fellow dog residents. Those who cannot or do not have their own pets may be able to take her for a walks around the property.

    We like to think of Emmy as the resident pup and pet ambassador here at 2M. She adores people and pets alike and is an important part of our pet-friendly community.

    Once the building is open, we are hoping to collaborate with local shelters to host “yappy hours” where resident can interact with adoptable dogs. We would like to help these shelter animals find forever homes.

  • aaron

    I love the idea of providing "yappy hours"! What a great idea for a dog friendly building. I agree that it is probably a bad idea to have the dog taken into many apartments (where she could be fed an uncertain number of times), but if I had the opportunity to take a dog for a walk or play with her in a communal environment I would absolutely.

  • Ashley

    From the apartment website, it just looks like residents can take Emmy out for short walks in their dog park. If this is done in a controlled and supervised fashion, I have no problem with it, as long as someone is ensuring Emmy is not being fatigued and interactions with other dogs are closely monitored. Maybe the owner or a staff member will accompany residents on their walks? Who knows how they are designing it, there are no specifics yet!

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