Down a Garden Path

Tavish in the garden

A public garden for every season!  Top left:  Spring’s peak azalea bloom at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Top right: Summertime Lily Fest at Kenilworth Aquatic Park & Gardens in Washington, DC. Bottom left: Autumn splendor in the Prairie at the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Bottom right: Winter at the Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce.


“In the marvelous month of May when all the buds were bursting,
then in my heart did love arise . . . .” — Heinrich Heine


Tavish at River Farm

Tavish at River Farm, home to the American Horticultural Society and–you guessed it–some pretty spiffy gardens!

April showers bring May flowers, and what better time to head into the garden? If not your own, then how about one of the hundreds of botanical gardens and arboreta throughout the country? Truth be told, public gardens are there for you year-round providing a feast for the senses, a tonic for the soul . . . and a great place to go for a long walk with your intrepid pup!

To celebrate public gardens, we’re providing a stroll down a virtual garden path, starting with a horticultural grande dame and then continuing on to a public garden for each of the four seasons, “hand-picked” from Intrepid Pup’s travels over the past year.

Our first stop is River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia. The grounds were once among George Washington’s extensive land holdings, later given to his wife’s niece as a wedding present. Although the property has changed hands many times over the centuries, since 1973 the historic and picturesque 25 acres along the banks of the Potomac River have been the national headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. Leashed dogs are welcome, and during our visit to River Farm, Intrepid Pup Tavish strolled through the same gates as did 28 U.S. presidents! The circa 1819 northeast ceremonial gates to the White House were relocated here in the late 1930s after a renovation project. Tavish explored the meadow and gazed out over the river. He also sized up the largest Osage-orange tree in the United States; at nearly 200 years of age, the famous tree is believed to be a gift from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington. Finally, while we will neither confirm nor deny, it’s highly probable that Tavish photo-bombed some newlyweds’ formal pictures—the Estate House on the grounds is a popular wedding venue.

Onward to our seasonal picks . . .

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

These excursions register as a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter, because they’re as easy as a walk in the park!

Just get up and go.



Tavish at the U.S. National Arboretum

U.S. National Arboretum: Tavish stands sentinel in the Grove of State Trees (top) with the closest one being Vermont’s sugar maple. (Below) Giving a “stump speech” along the azalea walk.

38°54′30.65″ N,  76°58′18.95″ W
U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Go for the azaleas, but stay (and plan your return trips) for everything else. Intrepid Pup has previously chronicled the National Arboretum’s iconic azalea bloom—a riot of color which traditionally reaches peak in late April/early May—but spring is many-splendored here. There are bulbs and flowering cherries. Dogwoods and lilacs. Herbs and bonsai trees.

Intrepid Pup Tavish is particularly a sucker for the 30-acre expanse that is the National Grove of State Trees. Because of the District of Columbia’s relatively temperate climes, almost all the official state trees thrive here, even though they were acquired directly from their representative states. Seemingly no trip to the arboretum is complete for Tavish without rolling around in the grove’s long, cool grass.

On our most recent visit, a section of the arboretum was temporarily cordoned off but for the best of reasons:  for the first time in nearly 70 years, a pair of bald eagles had built a nest! There were bird watchers galore craning to get a glimpse so instead we headed up onto the hillside paths that meander through the azalea collection. We took lots of photos, and Tavish’s aptitude for posing drew lots of bemused smiles and questions, not to mention people taking pictures of us taking pictures!

Tavish at Lilyfest

Like stepping into a real-life Monet canvas: Tavish at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens’ annual Lily Fest

38°54′45.50″N,  76°56′31.24″W
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Tell folks you’re heading into these sultry gardens in the middle of a humid Washington, DC summer, and people are bound to think you’re already suffering from heatstroke. But . . . the rewards are the magnificent lotus flowers and water lilies. Kenilworth is the only National Park Service site devoted to the cultivation of aquatic plants—you’ll want to read our earlier post about the site’s unique history.

The freshwater plants bloom in late June and July, and when they do, it’s like being immersed in a Claude Monet painting with sun-dappled greens and bursts of white and pale pink. But a word to the wise: go before the heat of the day, because as soon as the temperatures hit the high 80s/low 90s, the delicate blossoms shut until the next morning. Be sure to bring along plenty of water for you and your pup so you both don’t wilt!

We timed our visit with the park’s annual Lily Fest cultural event in mid July. As bands played, we wandered the boardwalks. The lotus flowers towered over us, and dragonflies zoomed by in their herky-jerky version of floral connect-the-dots. A pretty surreal way to enjoy this urban oasis!


Nichols Arboretum

(Top) At the Arb’s Washington Heights entrance with the Urban Environmental Education Center in the background. (Bottom) A warm autumn afternoon along the Huron River.

42°16’50.07″N,  83°43’36.55″W
Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free admission; leash required

Affectionately known as “the Arb,” Nichols Arboretum is managed by the University of Michigan, its undeniable main draw since 1927 being its world-famous peonies. When they peak in late May/early June, there can be as many as 10,000 flowers in 270 varieties—the largest collection in North America. Sadly, we missed this spectacle by about five months, but we discovered that the Arb is beautiful in October, too. We visited on a weekday afternoon when university classes were in session and didn’t have too much difficulty finding free parking near the Washington Heights entrance. Team Tavish had been on the road and visiting with relatives for a couple of days, so this stopover was a chance for Tavish to really stretch his legs and burn off some energy. We passed the dormant peony beds and a whimsical Faerie Garden, heading gently downhill. The trail entered woodland and then skirted the Huron River. Tavish dipped his paws in and was fixated on a large crayfish chilling out in the shallows. Reluctantly Tavish left the river’s edge only to be equally fascinated by the open Prairie section that followed. The tall grasses had turned golden with autumn, and it was hard to believe we were so close to a bustling college campus. We circled back through the shaded Hawthorn Valley, ultimately covering about three miles.

Tavish at Virginia State Arboretum

Tavish exploring the State Arboretum of Virginia.

39° 3’51.72″N,  78° 3’51.67″W
Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia, Boyce, Virginia
Free admission; leash required within 200 yards of parking areas and/or any of the public buildings

The University of Virginia manages this 172-acre arboretum as part of the larger, 712-acre Blandy Experimental Farm. Located in the northern Shenandoah Valley, the arboretum is only 60 miles west of the nation’s capital but feels a world away for as little as it resembles metro Washington’s urban sprawl. The gardens originated in 1927 but weren’t dubbed the State Arboretum until 1986.

Four walking loop trails originate from the main parking lot and range in length from 0.75 to 2 miles. Longer still is a 7.5-mile bridle trail that winds throughout Blandy. Unlike many public gardens, dogs are allowed off leash throughout most of the site, provided that they don’t disrupt wildlife or the plantings. Additional caveats are that your dog must be under immediate voice control and be put on a leash when within 200 yards of the parking areas or any of the public buildings. As a dog-friendly locale, pet waste stations are provided.

We visited on a sunny February afternoon just ahead of a stormy cold front. Nothing was in bloom, but the vast grounds still exuded a stark and vaguely haunting beauty. We encountered a few other hearty walkers and dogs as we made our way around. Birds scrabbled over winter berries, and evidence of deer was in abundance. In addition to manicured landscapes were test plots where various studies were underway, including research to create a more disease-resistant chestnut tree. The highlight for Tavish was the open landscape flanking the Wilkins Lane Loop Drive. The scrub grasses—bleached and brittle from winter—put Tavish on high alert, and he bounded in, picking up on scents of upland game that only his nose could.

Lucky Dogs All

Tavish at Shenandoah National Park

Tavish at Shenandoah National Park with his 2014 award for “Best Dog Blog.”

2014:  A good year to be Tavish the Intrepid Pup! Back in May, his website ( took top honors for “Best Dog Blog” in the BlogPaws 2014 Pet Blogging and Social Media Awards. The announcement came during an exclusive red carpet, “Oscar style” awards ceremony presented by Pet360, Inc. in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada.

Guided by a strict set of criteria, a distinguished panel of industry experts had judged more than 1,200 entries and selected finalists across 12 distinct categories. BlogPaws’ co-founder Yvonne DiVita remarked, “These are among the highest honors in the pet social media world. We’re very proud of the Intrepid Pup for this achievement.” BlogPaws first began hosting its pet-friendly social media and marketing conference in 2010, and it has grown annually into the biggest event of its kind with literally hundreds of bloggers, brands and media professionals attending from around the world.

As for us with Team Tavish, we couldn’t be happier for the Pup and feel pretty humbled not only to have been nominated by great fans but also to actually win. After all, BlogPaws is internationally known as a premier networking and influence group, and to be recognized for excellence as the result of its thoughtful peer review process is really gratifying and validates what is all about.

In conjunction with the honor, Tavish received a personalized trophy from BlogPaws (see photo above), and on behalf of all twelve category winners, BlogPaws gave back to the conference’s host community by presenting canine body armor to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and pet oxygen masks to the Henderson Fire Department.  As an incredible bonus, sponsor Only Natural Pet committed to providing the non-profit animal rescue organization or shelter of our choice with 400 pounds of its newly-released Canine PowerFood™ Red Meat Feast Formula. This premium quality kibble is the latest in the company’s line of holistic pet food. Made in the USA with fresh pork and lamb, locally-sourced fruits and vegetables, and PowerBoost—a blend of probiotics, digestive enzymes, pumpkin, green-lipped mussels and sea cucumber—it’s formulated to provide optimal health benefits.

So…who did the Intrepid Pup designate as the recipient of the 400 pounds of food?

Lucky Dog color logo Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (LDAR) was our charity of choice, and in coordinating with LDAR’s founder, Mirah Horowitz, Intrepid Pup earmarked the food delivery for one of LDAR’s partner shelters: the Florence Area Humane Society (FAHS) in South Carolina. At least once a month, FAHS sends anywhere between 25 and 35 dogs to Washington, DC, via its relationship with Lucky Dog. Once the dogs are confirmed for rescue, FAHS’s amazing volunteers frequently foster them in their own homes until the transport departs for DC.


About Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (LDAR)

Tavish with Lucky Dog Sasha

Tavish knows about Lucky Dog Animal Rescue because his neighbors are frequent fosters, and he gets to “chat” over the backyard fence with many of the pups. Here’s Tavish getting acquainted with the beautiful and very sweet Sasha. Lucky Dog had worked with a rescue group in Puerto Rico to transport her to Washington, DC. This is one of countless Lucky Dog tails/tales with a happy ending; Sasha found her “forever home” at a Lucky Dog adoption event just two days after this photo was taken!

LDAR is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless and abandoned animals, primarily dogs from high-kill shelters where there are few resources and even fewer adoptions. Most Lucky Dog rescues come from Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas and Puerto Rico. LDAR doesn’t operate a shelter of its own, but by working with volunteers, foster homes, local veterinarians, trainers and boarding facilities, LDAR is able to rescue hundreds of animals every year, providing loving temporary care and matching animals with carefully-screened forever homes. LDAR is equally committed to ending pet abandonment and therefore provides resources and education on responsible pet ownership, healthy nutrition, positive behavior training, and the importance of spay/neuter.

LDAR reaches potential adopters with a large online and community presence, as well as through weekly adoption events held throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia. With a base of more than 1,000 volunteers working tirelessly to find permanent homes for these animals, LDAR has saved more than 6,700 animals since its founding in May 2009.

It’s true what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words. And it just so happens that a film about Lucky Dog premiered in January 2014 entitled, The Lucky Ones. It sums up just what Lucky Dog  is all about—a journey intertwining the lives of homeless animals with rescuers devoted to making certain they’re homeless no more. Give it a watch, and see for yourself (if you’re prone to happy tears, keep a Kleenex handy):

Lucky Pups of Florence County with food donation

A couple of the lucky (and highly adoptable!) dogs from Florence, South Carolina, pose with some of the food donated in November 2014 by Only Natural Pet via Intrepid Pup’s award. Many thanks to Stephanie of FAHS for the photo!

In mid November, we were delighted to hear from Stephanie with FAHS that the shipment of food had arrived! It’s heartwarming to know that the food not only helps minimize the financial burden on FAHS foster families but is also part of the considerable arsenal of TLC these rescuers provide in the days leading up to a Lucky Dog transport to a promising, certain future.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansAs many faithful followers of the Intrepid Pup know, one hallmark of Tavish’s adventure-related articles is an Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter reading…and as a salute to the Lucky Dogs everywhere, this one’s  a “3”!

National Howl-iday Scene, Part VI: President’s Park

Pathway of Peace 2013

Tavish beholds the National Christmas Tree from the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park. The national tree has been illuminated by GE since 1963–originally with thousands of incandescent bulbs and now entirely by eco-friendly LEDs. The lighting design changes each year.

Intrepid Pup Tavish has been in dogged pursuit of the best of the national howl-iday scene. In Christmases past and present, he’s sniffed out “Season’s Greenings” activities at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, yuletide preparations at The Biltmore, and much more (see the blog index for the others).  His next stop? The National Christmas Tree!

The tree lives year-round on the grounds of President’s Park, 82 acres maintained by the National Park Service and encompassing the White House itself. For much of the year visitors take little note of the evergreen on the Ellipse, but come December, it becomes the focal point of the park. Fitted with a mantel of LED lights, the tree is officially turned on by the President during a televised ceremony complete with a concert.

Tavish in President's Park with the 2012 National Menorah

Lighting of a national menorah was a tradition begun by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in nearby Lafayette Park. The 30-foot menorah was incorporated into the President’s Park festivities in 1987. Here’s Tavish in 2012 on the final night of Hanukkah.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with putting up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that President Calvin Coolidge lit a national tree outside for the benefit of the American people. For more than 90 years, the storied tradition of a national Christmas tree has continued. Early on, the ceremony took place either on the White House lawn or in nearby Lafayette Park, and various trees were designated as the “national community Christmas tree.” During WWII a national tree was decorated but never illuminated. When the ceremony permanently moved to its existing location on the Ellipse in 1954 to better accommodate crowds, the National Park Service began annually cutting and transporting a tree to the site. By the early 1970s, however, they returned to having a planted tree, and there have been 5 since. The long standing 1978-2011 tree was removed after irreparable storm damage. Its replacement lasted only a year before succumbing to transplant shock. The current National Christmas Tree—a 28-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce—was planted in October 2012.

Just as the trees have changed, so too has the pageantry at President’s Park evolved. Various elements have been added, such as a menorah (1987), a model railroad (1993), and Santa’s Workshop (2008); others have fallen by the wayside like the Yule Log (2012) and live reindeer. Performances by local choirs and musical groups occur nightly (except Mondays) following the initial tree lighting ceremony and continue all the way up until Christmas Eve. What has remained a constant since first introduced on the Ellipse in 1954 is the Pathway of Peace, a walkway lined by cut Fraser Firs to flank the National Christmas Tree each December. The Pathway now contains 56 tree representing all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each is decorated with distinctive ornaments handmade by schoolchildren and artisans from that region.

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansDogging the Details

38°53′41.57N,  77° 2′10.98W
The National Christmas Tree
, President’s Park, Washington, DC
Annually, early December to January 1 ( site is accessible 10 AM – 10 PM)

National Tree 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree with the White House in the background.

President’s Park ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being relatively easy to get to and for providing a unique experience once you’re there. If you’re coming with your dog, plan on doing some walking as you can’t bring your pup on the Metro system. Metered street parking is available, though, and we’ve found that it’s usually a little easier to find a space in the blocks west or north of the White House. Timing your visit for during the week or early in the evenings also helps.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the National Christmas Tree, and admission is free—no tickets or reservations are required. Be forewarned, however, that there are typically large crowds, which aren’t always every pup’s cup of tea. If your dog doesn’t like getting jostled or is otherwise prone to claustrophobia, simply forgo walking along the Pathway of Peace; you can still enjoy the tree lights from afar from various vantage points throughout the Ellipse. It’s also been our experience that visitors are so busy looking at the tree that they’re not necessarily looking down and may even be startled to see a pooch in their midst. For your and your dog’s comfort, we recommend visiting at an off-peak time. If you’re going at night, consider adding something reflective so your pet stands out and is visible to other passersby (Tavish’s Chilly Dog® jacket has reflective piping, and he sometimes wears his Nite Ize® SpotLit blinking LED collar light, too). Your best photo ops will come a bit away from the fray, where the Pathway leads south from the tree and opens up onto the Ellipse. With the tree and the White House as your backdrops in the middle distance, you also won’t be holding up throngs of foot traffic to get that perfect shot!



Tavish smiles at the sight of the Arboretum’s azaleas, spanning the color spectrum from to pale pink to deep purple.

Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms are justifiably famous, but don’t be fooled…there’s a rival bloom in town! By late April the cherry trees’ delicate pink petals have long given way to tender green leaves. But a mere 4 ½ miles from the oft-photographed Tidal Basin, some 15,000 azaleas are just reaching their peak at the U. S. National Arboretum.

Established by Congress in 1927, the National Arboretum’s 446 acres are managed by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). And while there’s admittedly way more to the Arboretum than the Azalea Collection, there’s no denying that it sure makes one heck of a first impression. Visit on a sunny spring afternoon, and you’re in for a retina-jarring display of deep magentas, purples, corals, oranges, and ruby reds.

National Arboretum

Picture perfect: Tavish, boxwood, and vivid azaleas fill the frame in this shot of the Morrison Garden.

The core of the Azalea Collection  is comprised of hybrids that were carefully cultivated at a USDA research facility in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and planted in 1946-47 to blanket the slope of the Arboretum’s Mount Hamilton. Rising just 240 feet, it’s a pretty meager mountain, but as one of the higher elevations in the nation’s capital, Mount Hamilton’s real street cred lies in being a living wall of color. Over the course of more than half a century, the historic Glenn Dale shrubs have matured, sprawling outward and reaching towering heights. A strategic pruning  in 2012-13 has  rid the area of invasive plants and dead branches, improving growing conditions so that this floral legacy will continue to flourish for years to come.

Tavish the Intrepid Pup visibly enjoys romping along the Henry Mitchell Walk in this section. When he’s not literally snuffling the azaleas, he’s absolutely entranced by the bees methodically inventorying the buds. The casual landscaping that otherwise characterizes much of this hillside is punctuated by two garden settings. The Lee Garden features Japanese azaleas set amidst stonework and a pond, and the compact Morrison Garden is even more formal with manicured ornamental hedges interspersed with samples of the Glenn Dale hybrids. The latter was designed by Benjamin Morrison who was not only the Arboretum’s first director but also the USDA plant breeder responsible for creating the Azalea Collection. Take note:  the Morrison Garden seems to be a magnet for folks wanting to take pictures of families, babies, and dogs—and we were no exception!

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

Dogging the Details

38°54′30.65″ N,  76°58′18.95″ W
U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC

With free admission, 9.5 miles of roadways and 14 distinct garden “collections,” the Arboretum is ideal for exploring with a canine companion, and you’re bound to see several other dogs during your visit. Just be sure to abide by the rules:  you must keep your dog on leash and out of the plantings. You’re also required to pick up after your pet, so bring those bags along. Finally, no dogs are allowed in either the visitor center pavilion or its adjacent National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

National Arboretum

These koi aren’t coy! Tavish is mesmerized by these guys. And with good reason: the largest are upwards of 18″ in length!  A nearby coin-operated machine dispenses handfuls of pellets for feeding the fish, and boy, do they know it. The koi charge to the surface in a burst of color and nearly launch themselves onto the patio!
Note: The ornamental pond surrounding the Administration Building is being restored in 2013, so the fish aren’t there at the moment. Look for them to return when renovations are complete.

The Arboretum scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter as a truly accessible place for all seasons. Crocus, daffodils, magnolias, redbuds, and flowering cherries greet spring visitors. Summer gives way to water lilies, herbs, crapemyrtle, and wildflowers. Hosta, hibiscus, and ornamental grasses are the stars of autumn, and winter showcases holly and the conifers.

Though trails and roads are well-marked, it’s easy to lose track of time and distance at the Arboretum. Even the most casual of wanderings will quickly add up to a few miles, so be sure to carry water for you and your dog and/or seek out the bubbler by the National Herb Garden—it has a pet-accessible reservoir and a special tap for refilling water bottles. When the capital’s infamous humidity hits, head for the grass and shade of the National Grove of State Trees.  Tavish never fails to take a breather beneath the boughs of the eastern white pine that is the official tree of his home state of Maine. Another refreshingly cool spot just beyond the grove is Fern Valley, a naturally wooded area rife with native plants. A half-mile trail loops through a meadow and past a small pond.

National Arboretum

Veni, vidi, vici! Tavish surveys the National Arboretum’s sweeping landscape from the vantage point of the Capitol Columns.

Bring your camera to zoom in on the blooms, but go for the wide angle shots, too. The Capitol Columns make for a particularly dramatic backdrop. Completed in 1826, these 22 sandstone columns were among the 24 that once supported the east central portico of the U.S. Capitol Building. They’ve witnessed every presidential inauguration from Andrew Jackson’s through Dwight D. Eisenhower’s. Modifications to the Capitol necessitated their removal in 1958. With marble replicas going into the Capitol facade, these columns were subsequently restored and permanently sited at the Arboretum in 1990.

Canine Connections with the Interior

U.S. Department of the Interior

Tavish checks out the view from 1849 C Street, NW. While the U.S. Department of the Interior dates to 1849 (easy to remember because it’s also the street address!), this headquarters building opened in 1937.

Given the Intrepid Pup and Team Tavish‘s affinity for national parks, it should come as no surprise that making a stop at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has been on the “to do” list for awhile now. The Department’s 70,000+ employees are scattered far and wide—all throughout the United States, U.S. territories, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. DOI’s main headquarters building located just north of the National Mall in Washington, DC, contains offices for some 2,000 of them.

Simply put, DOI is a huge agency with huge responsibilities concomitant with being the steward of approximately 20% of U.S. lands. The National Park Service? DOI. Bureau of Land Management? Also DOI. Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Reclamation, Surface Mining, Ocean Energy Management: all DOI.

If you imagine a federal building encompassing two full city blocks to be pretty imposing, you’d be right. Portions of DOI are open to the general public, however, including an extensive research library, a cafeteria, the Indian Craft Shop and the Interior Museum (Note: while the museum’s galleries have been closed since late 2010 as part of building-wide renovations, public programs and work with the collections continue).

Pet-friendly walking tours

“Pups and Petals”–especially timed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival– is just one of several pet-friendly ranger talks presented within the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

As you might have guessed, the “general public” gaining admittance to DOI doesn’t include the canine variety, so Tavish the Intrepid Pup had to be content with seeing the exterior of Interior. But just because dogs can’t enter the building doesn’t mean dogs aren’t well represented within its halls and walls. Case in point:  the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service has expanded upon an initiative first piloted in the 1990s by newly training four retrievers—Butter, Lancer, Locket, and Viper—as “wildlife detector dogs” stationed at various ports throughout the country. The dogs can sniff out protected species as well as smuggled wildlife products like ivory, canvassing as many containers in a few minutes as a person working unassisted can inspect in a single workday.

Within the National Park Service, Denali National Park & Preserve is the only national park in America with historic, working kennels. A corps of approximately 30 sled dogs performs an integral role in the ongoing management of the park, especially during Alaska’s winter months. You can even track new litters of pups on the park’s puppy cam. And clear across the country, the National Mall and Memorial Parks has integrated dog-friendly, ranger-led walks into its roster of interpretive programming. What a fun, healthy way for people and their pets to get out and enjoy the parks!

Details from DOI murals with dogs

Finally, there are the DOI building’s murals. With more than 50 of them embedded throughout the 1.3 million square-foot structure, there is more Public Works Administration artwork here than in any other U.S. government building. And the icing on the cake? Four of these murals feature dogs. Let’s take a closer look…

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

Dogging the Details

38°53′36.86″ N,  77°02′33.21″ W
Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building, Washington, DC

Murals tours at the U.S. Department of the Interior are offered to the public free of charge. Check here for times and reservation information. Tours last approximately one hour.

North County by Gifford Beal

North Country by Gifford Beal (1879-1956).Oil on canvas, 1941,
104.5″ h x 224.5″ w

When the current DOI headquarters started being built in 1935, 1% of the construction budget was expressly earmarked for art. Interestingly enough, that concept continues to this day via the  U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Art in Architecture Program, through which GSA “reserves one-half of one percent of the estimated construction cost of each new federal building” for commissioning artwork.

DOI’s murals thus technically belong to GSA, but staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum are the ones who provide murals tours to the public. There’s not enough time to visit every mural in the building, but the guided tour takes you past dozens and gives you a good workout to boot; there are nearly three miles of corridors!

Alaska mural by James Michael Newell

Alaska by James Michael Newell (1900-1985). Fresco, 1939, 114.5″ h x 234.5″ w

Some of the most illustrious artists of the 1930s were commissioned to paint these murals. You’ll find that some are oils on canvas while others are frescoes (painted onto wet plaster) or seccos (painted onto dry plaster). The murals portray the work and salient themes of DOI’s bureaus contemporary to 1935, making them both artistically and historically significant for today’s viewers.

So, it’s a particular delight to discover the dogs in four of the murals. It’s akin to Forrest Gump showing up at seminal moments in American history, except here it’s dogs at the Oklahoma Land Rush,  homesteading, and the opening of Alaska.

The Alaska fresco by James Michael Newell is up on the 6th floor. There are three huskies in a panorama which also contains narrative elements about Eskimos, fishing, and prospecting for gold. The remaining three dog murals are on the 5th floor. Gifford Beal’s North Country is also set in Alaska, with a team of seven sled dogs in the foreground as the focal point.  Finally, both of John Steuart Curry’s massive 19-foot murals (see below) include canines.  In Rush for the Oklahoma Land – 1894, a black whippet races along, caught up in the melee of people, horses, wagons, and even a  train all streaming westward.  Curry’s other painting across the corridor, The Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences, shows a far more tranquil scene. A shepherd-like dog in the background keenly follows along behind two men pounding fence posts into their newly claimed land.

If these works have inspired you to take the murals tour at DOI, tell them the Intrepid Pup sent you! This excursion earns a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for packing art and exercise into the same visit.

Rush for the Oklahoma Land - 1894 by John Steuart Curry

Rush for the Oklahoma Land – 1894 by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946). Oil on canvas, 1939, 109.5″ h x 235″ w

Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences by John Steuart Curry

The Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946). Oil on canvas, 1939,109.5″ h x 235″