Intrepid Pup

Ahhh-zaleas!

Azaleas

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.

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 – 1889 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″

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Championing the “Underdogs”: Intrepid Pup Bracketology 2013

Tavish with a basketball

Tavish takes his basketball very seriously. Unfortunately, he’s consistently inconsistent.

67 pieces of kibble were sacrificed in the making of this article.

Yes, it’s once again time for the Intrepid Pup to release his bracket picks for the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.  If you recall…with food (and an affinity for basketball?) as motivation, Tavish forayed into March Madness last year, enthusiastically indicating his picks by tipping Planet Dog™ bowls.

Lessons learned:

1.  Tavish likes underdogs. In the Land of Intrepid Pup, Detroit would have gone to the Sweet 16, and Southern Mississippi was headed for the Final Four.

2.  Unfortunately, Tavish lacks the accuracy of international sensation Paul the Octopus, who made a pretty impressive run in picking European soccer matches in his short but brilliant career as an oracle from 2008 to 2010. So, Vegas bookies, listen up:  let the exact opposite of the Pup’s picks be your true guide!

But all in all, the 2012 edition of Intrepid Pup Bracketology was such fun that Team Tavish decided to resurrect it for 2013.  We kept the same technique as last year—a choice between two identical treats each representing a team—but sped up the process.  What originally involved three separate bracketology sessions last year (which also incorporated filming the YouTube video) we were now able to accomplish in a single lightning round this year lasting about an hour. What can we say? Tavish was focused!

Once again, Tavish reveals his one consistency:  championing the underdogs and thus picking some wild Cinderella teams.  For example, in rapid succession Tavish has #16 North Carolina A&T ousting #1 Louisville and Harvard beating New Mexico. Oh, and news flash: LIU-Brooklyn is marching all the way to the Final Four!  Seriously, pup, what’s with the fascination with LIU?  You’d also picked them to upend Michigan State in the first round last year…do you think their mascot is a vizsla or something?  We’re beginning to think this is more about what Tavish would like to see than what will actually happen.

Without further ado, here are the Pup’s complete picks. Spoiler alert:  as this post goes to press, we’re mere hours into the tournament and already large chunks of Tavish’s brackets are blown to smithereens:

Tavish's picks for the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball tournament

On a final note, we should mention the cat.  He doesn’t often appear in the annals of the Intrepid Pup, but he was watching with cool disinterest from afar while Tavish careened all over the living room, merrily advancing LaSalle and Iona in the “big dance.”  While the cat is also extremely food-driven, there was simply no way he was going to sit there and make 67 picks.  Leave that to the dog. But, once Tavish had come up with his Final Four, we couldn’t resist—in true Deus Ex Machina fashion—reeling in the cat to pick a champion: Southern University. Oh, brother.

National Howl-iday Scene: Part IV

montage of Christmas at Mount Vernon images

Tavish revels in “Christmas at Mount Vernon.” From the greenery adorning the entrance gates to the themed decorations within, George Washington’s estate is a festive place to be all the way through the holiday season. The Intrepid Pup posed in front of the one of several lavish Christmas trees and drooled (literally) at seeing the elaborate display of gingerbread houses. He even had a few friendly licks for Mount Vernon’s dog-loving plantation manager whom he met on the grounds!

If you’ve been a longtime follower of the Intrepid Pup, you might recall that Tavish originally introduced you to dog-friendly Mount Vernon in IntrepidPup.com’s first-ever blog post.  Now, Tavish returns to George Washington’s historic home on the banks of the Potomac River for Part IV in his round-up of the best of the DC metro area’s national “howl-iday” scene. (Visit the index to find the other spots that made the list)

“Christmas at Mount Vernon”  is celebrated annually at the estate from late November through the first week of January. To the authentic artifacts and educational experiences that already draw nearly 1 million visitors a year, Mount Vernon adds special activities for the holidays. You can watch costumed interpreters explore historical foodways by making chocolate, view a gingerbread display depicting a half dozen of Mount Vernon’s buildings, and find richly decorated Christmas trees throughout the orientation center and museum.  The rarely-seen third floor of the main house is open to visitors, and there are designated evenings prior to Christmas for candlelight tours.

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

38°42′29.65″ N,  77°05′07.67″ W
Christmas at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, Alexandria, Virginia

Christmas at Mount Vernon runs from late November through early January; check website for exact dates each year.

Tavish with Aladdin the Christmas Camel at Mount Vernon

“So, how long are you here?” Tavish shares a moment with Aladdin, the five-year old camel who puts in a guest appearance each year especially for “Christmas at Mount Vernon.”

 

As we’ve noted earlier, Mount Vernon does permit leashed dogs. While dogs do need to enter and exit via two public buildings, they’re otherwise instructed not to linger inside and understandably are not allowed at all in any of the historical structures.

There’s plenty to do on the 500-acre grounds—even in wintertime—and there are two things in particular to seek out that can only be seen during the six weeks encompassing “Christmas at Mount Vernon.”

The first is the camel. Yes, you read that correctly. George and Martha Washington used to welcome hundreds of people to their estate each year and were purportedly the consummate hosts. Records show that at Christmastime in 1787, Washington paid 18 shillings for the thrill of having a  “Christmas camel” come to Mount Vernon to entertain his holiday guests. This tradition has been kept alive in the present day through Aladdin, a real live camel. Aladdin’s regular home is on a Virginia farm with other exotics, but for six much-anticipated weeks a year he’s the celebrated guest at Mount Vernon. On the morning of our visit, Aladdin was contentedly sitting in his outdoor enclosure. Mount Vernon’s plantation manager was also on hand giving a short spiel. Then a large and very excited group of Cub Scouts arrived and peppered him with questions. What we gathered from this fairly humorous exchange is that Aladdin is five years old—very young in camel years—and quite tame. No, he isn’t the same camel that Washington met(!), nor is he a descendant from that camel. Camels are used to cold nights in their natural desert habitat, so Aladdin is not bothered in the least by December temperatures in Virginia. He doesn’t spit, since apparently that’s a learned behavior. Oh, and his best friend is a zebra. The plantation manager caught sight of Tavish and noted that Aladdin is comfortable around dogs, so he invited the two to make an acquaintance. Tavish was clearly intrigued, and he and Aladdin peered curiously at one another through the fence.

Tavish with Cobbler and Gobbler

Tavish maintains a respectful distance from the presidentially-pardoned turkey, Cobbler and his buddy Gobbler.

The other highlight to find is the turkey. Mind you, this isn’t just any turkey. This year it was Cobbler, who was officially pardoned by President Barack Obama as the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a White House ceremony on November 21, 2012. As part of the deal, Cobbler and his pal Gobbler greet the public throughout “Christmas at Mount Vernon” and then live out their retirement with other heritage breed animals as residents at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility. Tavish wasn’t nearly as keen on checking out the turkeys as he was the camel. Maybe it had something to do with Cobbler and Gobbler being pretty vocal and fanning their plumage, but Tavish elected to give them a very wide berth.

“Christmas at Mount Vernon” earns a “2” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter, because just mentioning a dog, a camel, and a White House turkey in one breath sounds like some comedian’s opening line, right? Seriously, though, how many places can you witness such an unusual and historical combination for the holidays?

National Howl-iday Scene: Part III

Tavish at the LDS Temple's Festival of Lights

Even raindrops can’t keep Tavish from basking in the glow of 600,000 lights at the Washington D.C. Temple.


Tavish the Intrepid Pup
continues on the howl-iday trail throughout the greater Washington metro area.  Stops so far have included the Capitol Christmas Tree and the  U. S. Botanic Garden’s “Season’s Greenings.”  Next on his itinerary:  the annual Festival of Lights at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The site is a study in juxtapositions. Called the Washington D.C. Temple, it’s actually physically located in Kensington, Maryland. The maelstrom that is the Capital Beltway is just a stone’s throw away with more than 250,000 vehicles a day passing in the Temple’s shadow. And yet the Temple sits upon 52 beautifully wooded acres—in the midst of a residential neighborhood, really. The glistening facade of white Alabama marble looks like nothing else in the area, but it still manages to blend in harmoniously.

When it opened in 1974 it was only the 16th operating Temple; today there are  more than 140. Six spires rise to 288 feet, making this Temple the Church’s tallest. While the adjacent Visitors’ Center is free and open year-round, visitation soars during the annual Festival of Lights celebration.

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

39°0′56.07″N, 77°3′56.21″W
Festival of Lights, Washington D.C. Temple – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kensington, Maryland

The 35th Annual Festival of Lights runs  from November 30, 2012 through January 1, 2013 with the lights coming on at dusk. Free concerts are offered nightly in the Visitors’ Center at 7pm and again at 8pm, with tickets available 90 minutes prior to each performance.

Tavish at the LDS Temple's Festival of Lights

Tavish gazes upon the life-sized crèche outside the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.

Team Tavish had the misfortune of timing this visit with a torrential downpour, so we didn’t stay nearly as long as we would have liked. The up-side to the weather, however, was that all 600,000 lights looked extra-spectacular reflecting off the drenched pavement.  Tavish wasn’t too keen about getting rained upon but kept still long enough for a few photos as we gawked at the lights and stopped at the life-sized crèche.

Admission to the grounds is free. Non-Mormons are not permitted in the Temple itself, but all (well, excluding dogs) are welcome in the Visitors’ Center. When we arrived, crowds of people were streaming in to hear the first concert of the evening and see the displays of decorated Christmas trees and more than 100 nativity scenes from around the world. Had the Intrepid Pup not been with us, we would have ventured in as well!

The Festival of Lights earns a “1″ on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for illuminating the joys of the season!

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