National Howl-iday Scene: Part I

Tavish with the 2012 Capitol tree


GO FIGURE:  Intrepid Pup particularly liked the theme for the 2012 Capitol tree: “The Great Outdoors”! Culled from the White River National Forest in Colorado, this 74-year-old Engelmann spruce made stops in 30 different towns en route to Washington, DC. The tour was sponsored in part by Choose Outdoors, an organization dedicated to connecting Americans to public lands through outdoor recreation. The tree stands 73 feet tall and is laden with approximately 3,000 ornaments, most of which were handmade by Colorado schoolchildren.

With the holiday season comes an explosion of colorful decorations. Elaborate displays crop up in downtowns across America, and for a few short weeks everything takes on the magical luster that only twinkle lights can impart. The Washington, DC metro area is particularly picturesque in December, and the weather is usually still temperate enough that touring around is not a completely frigid proposition.

Over the next several posts, Tavish the Intrepid Pup will give you an insider’s tour of the national “howl-iday” scene, scoping out what are arguably among the most iconic—and dog-friendly—holiday spots the capital region has to offer.

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Tavish’s first destination is the 2012 Christmas Tree on the grounds of the United States Capitol.

The original Capitol Christmas tree was a Douglas fir specifically planted on the property in 1964 to fulfill that role. When it eventually succumbed to storm damage, the Architect of the Capitol enlisted the help of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to sustain the holiday tradition. Every year since 1970, the trees destined for Capitol Hill have been cut and harvested from various national forests. Citizens from the home state supply thousands of handcrafted ornaments showcasing aspects of their state’s heritage, earning the Capitol tree the apt designation as the “People’s Tree.”

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

38°53′23.24″N, 77°0′40.19″W
United States Capitol Christmas Tree, Washington, DC

The 2012 tree is on view December 4 – 26, 2012.

While the Capitol tree is one of Team Tavish‘s favorites in the metro DC region, it’s also the most fleeting. The cut tree arrives shortly after Thanksgiving and takes a little more than a week to be secured and decorated before a public tree-lighting ceremony with the Architect of the Capitol and the Speaker of the House in early December.  Thereafter, the tree is illuminated nightly from dusk to 11 pm until shortly after Christmas.

Timed parking on the street and in nearby surface lots makes the Capitol tree readily accessible during the evening hours. The large West Lawn can accommodate a LOT of people before ever seeming crowded, and that truly distinguishes this setting from some of the others on the “howl-iday scene.”  You can get right up close to the tree without being rushed or jostled, and that makes it great for checking out the diversity and creativity of the decorations. This year’s tree is an Engelmann spruce from Colorado, so many of the ornaments depict Colorado wildlife, mining and skiing-related imagery, and symbols from Native American tribes.

On the evening of our visit, construction related to President Obama’s upcoming second inaugural was well underway on the Capitol portico and lawn. . . perhaps explaining why this year’s tree will only be on view through December 26. The 7,000 LED bulbs produce a riot of color, with the luminous dome of the Capitol providing a signature backdrop for photographs.

Tavish was the only dog in sight when we arrived, although a couple more arrived as we were leaving.  Tavish seemed more than content to pose with the tree and sniff at the low-hanging boughs. Remember to keep your dog on-leash (the area is patrolled by Capitol Police) and bring bags to clean up; trash receptacles are located by the gateways on First Street, S.W.

The comparative lack of crowds makes this outing a pleasant one for dogs and humans alike. Combine that with the ability to capture some great holiday photos at a truly unique venue, and this excursion gets a “3” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter.

Four Ways to Savor the End of Summer with your Dog

Lounging

Don’t throw in the towel on summer just yet: Tavish the Intrepid Pup has—count ’em—FOUR great ideas for eking out the last bits of summer fun.

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, officially signaling that summer is drawing to a close. But just because the sun is setting earlier and the number of BBQs is dwindling doesn’t mean there isn’t still fun to be had. To that end, Tavish the Intrepid Pup has picked four can’t-miss activities to help you and your dog savor these last days of summer and tide you over ’til next year.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansEach of these tops out the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter at a “3” not only for being canine-specific but also for being fun for dogs and people alike. While they all happen to take place within the greater metropolitan DC area, Team Tavish suspects that there are similar events elsewhere in the country…let us know in the comments section below!

 

Canine Cruise

Ahoy! Tavish spent the whole Canine Cruise facing into the breeze.

Canine Cruise with Potomac Riverboat Company, Alexandria, Virginia
38°48′18.40″N,  77°2′22.99″W

Only two more cruise dates remain in the 2012 season: Thursday 9/6/12 and Thursday 9/13/12 at 7PM and 8PM, weather permitting

Here’s your chance to get out on the water! The Potomac Riverboat Company offers a whole host of water taxi services and scenic tours along the Potomac, but this one is billed especially for dogs. Board the double-decked, open-air Admiral Tilp from the Alexandria Dock at the base of Cameron Street; look for the dog-friendly drinking fountain near the gangplank! Though you’ll have to purchase a ticket ($15/adult; $9/child, reservations are suggested), your dog rides for free and usually even receives a complimentary dog biscuit from the crew!

There were approximately six other dogs sharing the upper deck with us on the evening of our 40-minute excursion. It was typical, sultry end-of-summer weather, so the light breeze off the water was welcome. The captain pointed out the highlights and shared a few pieces of trivia, but otherwise this was not a highly narrated affair. You’ll head as far south as the impressive Woodrow Wilson Bridge and as far upriver as Bolling Air Force Base. Along the way there are lovely views of Old Town and National Airport on the Virginia shore and National Harbor and the Naval Research Laboratory on the Maryland side.

Dogs are required to be on 6-foot flat leashes.

Dog Swim

Tavish prefers wading and splashing to actual swimming but had an absolute blast at last year’s Dog Swim at NVRPA’s Great Waves Waterpark.

Dog Swim at NVRPA Waterparks
38°48′18.04″N,  77°6′1.56″W
Saturday 9/8/12 – Noon to 4PM

On the final day of the season before the pools get drained, all five of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s waterparks go to the dogs! Although the “rides” and slides are off limits, there’s plenty of action to be found in the wave pool, play areas, giant bubblers, and waterfalls. Come prepared to fill out a waiver/registration form and to pay the entry fee of $5 per dog. Once you pass through the security gates you can let your dog off leash, but be sure to keep your dog in view. Remember to bring a towel, doggie bags, fresh water for your dog to drink…and a camera! The sight of all those dogs racing around and grinning away (easily 50 at any given time) was priceless!

Though you may be tempted to join in the frolicking, only dogs are allowed in the water on the Dog Swim afternoon. And one final tip, shared from personal experience:  As your dog careens through the pools, be mindful of his toenails and paw pads, since the concrete decking can rapidly wear them to the quick or cause a tear. If your dog is due for a nail trim, don’t do it right before the Dog Swim.

NPS tour

Fala, you sly dog, you! Tavish poses with the bronze statue of Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed Scottish terrier and confidante, at the FDR Memorial. It’s the only presidential memorial to include a pet.

Presidential Dogs and Four-Legged American Heroes Tour, beginning at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

Upcoming dates are Sunday 9/9/12, Sunday 9/16/12, and Saturday 9/29/12, beginning at 5PM…plus a couple dates in October TBA, beginning at 4PM.

How better to explore man’s best friends’ contributions to our nation than via DC’s national memorials? Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome on this innovative (and free!) walking tour led by a National Park Service ranger. This particular tour is a relatively new offering—the first one was a month ago— and is rapidly growing in popularity. The tour convenes at the bookstore at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and, fortunately, finding late-afternoon weekend parking nearby on Ohio Drive isn’t impossible. In about 90 minutes’ time, you’ll cover approximately 1.5 miles at a leisurely pace, with built-in stops for water breaks and dog treats. Ranger Eddy Kahle readily held the attention of our multi-generational group consisting of 10 people and 5 dogs. Brimming with anecdotes and a dog-owner himself, Kahle is clearly passionate about the important role pets play in our lives. You’ll learn which president had the most pets in the White House (hint: one was a pygmy hippo!), who had a pair of beagles named “Him” and “Her”, and what dog joined the president on his morning jogs. As the tour moves away from the Tidal Basin and toward the war memorials, the focus shifts to the role of dogs in wartime and their value to returning veterans.

For your dog, bring along doggie bags, fresh water and a 6-foot leash. For you? Don’t forget a camera. After all, how else are you going to get that requisite photo of your dog alongside a super-sized Fala immortalized in bronze?

Yappy Hour

Tavish discovered that the Hotel Monaco’s open-air courtyard is a pretty happenin’ place.

Doggie Yappy Hour at the Hotel Monaco, Alexandria, Virginia
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

5PM on Tuesday and Thursday evenings through October, weather permitting

One of the very first dog owners we met the winter we moved to northern Virginia told us point blank, “Come April, you must go to the Hotel Monaco.” That’s when the boutique hotel opens its brick courtyard for the much-anticipated Doggie Yappy Hours that take place every Tuesday and Thursday evenings all the way through October.

The ground rules are simple: no more than 2 dogs per handler, no paws on the tables, and dogs must be on 6-foot leashes and have current rabies tags. There’s a good vibe, and the people/canine-watching is pretty sublime. It’s not uncommon for the café tables and cushioned wicker sofas to be filled to capacity, with close to 25 dogs of all breed and sizes (plus a few adoptable dogs from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria) lounging alongside. Hotel Monaco staffers are quick to accommodate with water bowls and complimentary dog treats. There’s no cover charge, but don’t think you won’t need a wallet. There’s an eclectic mix of non-draft craft beers available from the outdoor bartender. Wait staff will help you choose from a tasty selection of small plate “new American tavern” dishes from the hotel’s Jackson 20 menu. (Think fried green tomatoes, BBQ sliders, shrimp fritters, waffle fries with pulled pork and smoked gouda…yum!)

If you time it right on a Thursday, you can have drinks and appetizers at the Yappy Hour and then walk the three blocks down to the waterfront to catch the Canine Cruise described above.

A Rewarding Moment

One excited Intrepid Pup

What’s Tavish all excited about? Intrepid Pup is now an AWARD-WINNING blog!

There’s rarely a dull moment where Tavish is involved. The latest case in point: Intrepid Pup has been honored by BlogPaws as Best New Blog. Wow!

BlogPaws was founded in 2009 by Caroline Golon, Yvonne DiVita, and Tom Collins. It’s the go-to resource for pet enthusiasts, pet bloggers, shelters, rescues, and the brands who serve them. BlogPaws offers online and offline opportunities to partner on projects and campaigns, be educated on social media, and meet people all over the country. Its annual conference unites hundreds of attendees from around the globe for professional development, networking, and cause marketing. Introduced with this year’s BlogPaws conference was the first annual Nose-to-Nose Pet Blogging and Social Media Awards, officially sponsored by Halo, Purely for Pets and Freekibble.com.

As BlogPaws states, “This is the only awards program where pet bloggers (and pet people who “microblog” on Twitter and Facebook) are being judged by a panel of distinguished professionals on their expertise, creativity, and performance.” Team Tavish was notified back in mid-May that the Intrepid Pup had been nominated and was among the finalists for 2 of the 12 possible awards! Intrepid Pup was humbled to be with such talented company in the categories of Best Blog Writing (“judged on overall writing skill”) and Best New Blog (for blogs “less than one year old, with good content and engagement”).

Then came the waiting.

Unfortunately we couldn’t make it out to Salt Lake City to be on hand for the red carpet gala on June 23, 2012, so we were really grateful that BlogPaws was live-streaming the awards ceremony on UStream. Leading pet lifestyle expert, endangered animal and rescue advocate, best-selling author, and TV personality Wendy Diamond was the emcee, and the ballroom was filled with two- and four-footed guests!

We had just returned from an exhaustingly fun Conestoga Vizsla Club event, and Tavish was getting  comfy on the living room sofa while we were frantically tuning in to the live video feed and concurrent “BlogPawty” on Twitter…all seamlessly orchestrated.  And shortly after 8PM EST, here’s what we saw:

Amazing. When we first launched the Intrepid Pup’s interactive website at the end of January 2012 and then the blog—a mere 5 months ago…what a blur!—we were prepared for the journey but uncertain where it would lead. In inviting you to “Come! Adventures Await”, we combine imagery and narrative to promote lifelong learning and an active lifestyle with one’s pet by chronicling Tavish’s own adventures at national parks, natural wonders, museums, historical sites, events, and attractions throughout the country. From time to time, the blog also reflects upon Tavish’s inspirational experiences as a certified therapy dog working with children and the elderly in a variety of settings. It’s pure enjoyment: part wonderment, part educational, and all about being out and about in the world with one intrepid pup.

So, it’s an extremely special combination to be new to the pet blogging community and to be recognized in BlogPaws’ inaugural awards as the “Best New Blog.” Making it all the sweeter is the fact that the award comes with an opportunity to give back. Sponsors Freekibble.com and Halo, Purely for Pets have teamed up to allow the BlogPaws award winners to donate 5,000-meals apiece to the organizations of our choice.

If you’re not already familiar with these two companies, you should be! Since 2008 Freekibble has donated more than 7.7 million meals to dogs and cats at shelters, rescues, and foodbanks by featuring  daily trivia questions on its websites Freekibble.com and Freekibblekat.com. Visitors to the sites submit their online answers and—right or wrong!—automatically contribute 10 pieces of kibble to homeless pets. Halo, Purely for Pets has been Freekibble’s official pet food sponsor since 2010 and annually donates upwards of one million meals of Halo Spot’s Stew that Freekibble then distributes to shelters and rescues throughout the United States. What a winning combination! Halo, co-owned by animal advocate (and comedian/television host/actress) Ellen DeGeneres, has been making all-natural pet food since 1986.

So, what is the Intrepid Pup’s charity of choice to receive the 5,000 meals?

AWS logoThe Animal Welfare Society (AWS) – West Kennebunk, Maine.
Although Tavish didn’t come from a shelter, we at Team Tavish truly believe that Tavish owes a good deal of his sociability, confidence, and training to the many classes— puppy, obedience, agility, rally—that we took at AWS, our local shelter while we were living in Maine. It’s for this reason that we want to award 5,000 meals to AWS and give a special shout-out and thank-you to our former AWS trainers Kim, Amy, Maryjane, and SaShell. It’s especially important for folks to realize that through various outreach programs, quality shelters like AWS can and do play a vital, continuing role in fostering a positive human-pet bond beyond initial adoption services.

About AWS
AWS is a private, non-profit humane society. Begun in the early 1960s by a group of caring individuals, the AWS incorporated in 1967 and today is a vibrant 13,000 s.f. facility which in 2011 added its own in-house spay and neuter clinic. AWS currently provides municipal shelter services to 21 contracted towns representing a population of nearly 150,000 people throughout southern Maine. AWS is an open-admission facility and accepts every animal—strays, transfers, and surrenders—regardless of health, age, or perceived “adoptability.” Through its day camps, school and museum visits, classes, presentations and other community-based initiatives, AWS actively promotes kindness, the elimination of cruelty to and neglect of all animals, and the lifelong commitment of people to their pets.

As Nose-to-Nose winners, we were given one final opportunity to “pay it forward.”  Collectively the awardees from all 12 categories were asked to vote on which pet-related organization should receive one of BlogPaws’ traditional closing ceremony donations. Happily, a $2,000 donation is going to World Vets, a non-government organization founded in 2006, which provides veterinary aid in developing countries and veterinary disaster relief worldwide. Its primary focus is to make veterinary care accessible to the 99 percent of animals in developing countries that never see a veterinarian. This North Dakota-based non-profit has deployed more than 3,600 volunteers to 36 countries on six continents and collaborates with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, US and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansMany thanks to BlogPaws, Freekibble, and Halo for their generosity and support of these awards and animals the world over. We’re truly honored. And finally, thanks to the Intrepid Pup’s friends old and new. As many faithful followers of the Intrepid Pup already know, one hallmark of Tavish’s adventure-related blog posts is a “Dogging the Details” section with a Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter reading…and this one definitely tops out at a 3!

Save

Play Ball!

 

Pups in the Park 2011It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball 2012! For many, it signals a prelude to summer with baseball being the quintessential pastime, as American as Mom and apple pie. But did you know your dog can get a piece of the action, too? For the 2012 season, a record 16 MLB  franchises are welcoming dogs to their ballparks as part of regular season, individual game promotions. Kudos to the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Pirates, Rangers, Reds, Royals, and White Sox for embracing dogs and dog lovers among their fan bases!

Depending upon the stadium, the concept of ballparks going to the dogs gets billed under various monikers (Bark in the Park, Dog Days, Puppypalooza…you get the idea), but since Tavish the Intrepid Pup‘s home team is the Washington Nationals, we’re featuring Pups in the Park.

This is the Nationals’ fourth year catering to dogs, and the club has increased its number of Pups in the Park games to four for the 2012 season. Although all of Outfield Reserved sections 140-143 are designated for dogs and their human companions, don’t delay in securing your seats as they do tend to sell out quickly. It’s no wonder. It’s a great event in a classy stadium—the first major pro stadium LEED Silver Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council—where cherry trees line the concourse, President mascots race, and the left field backdrop is the U.S. Capitol dome.

For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, a few basic rules apply for Pups in the Park. Dogs must be on leash and can’t outnumber the people in your party, and you’ll be asked to sign a waiver with proof of your dog’s current vaccinations in order to enter the ballpark. Stadium staff and event volunteers really do seem to have anticipated the dogs’ needs. What is usually set up as the Family Picnic Area near Section 143 is converted to a water station and “relief” area for the dogs. Yes indeed, there’s really a giant patch of artificial turf on which your dog can do its business. Sharing an Xtreme Loaded hot dog with your pup is your call, but since your dog can’t accompany you to any of the concessions beyond the Pups sections, you can either leave your dog to enjoy the game in the stands with another member of your group or enlist temporary help from the legions of official Pet Sitters stationed at the landings. You’ll absolutely kick yourself for leaving your camera at home, but if you do happen to forget, FanPhoto photographers roam the stands throughout the game. When they snap your photo for free, they’ll hand you a card with a link to where you can review the photos afterward in an online gallery. Like what you see? With just a few clicks, you can order and pay for prints and other products imprinted with your game day images.

Just being in the stadium with hundreds of dogs is a blast. Given the sheer numbers, they’re surprisingly quiet and well-behaved. They come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. Many sport their “Natitude” with Nats bandannas, jerseys, and other team-inspired red and white gear. As you might expect, there’s  “pup”-ular dog-centric scoreboard entertainment and no shortage of  “Who Let the Dogs Out?” snatches played over the PA system. And you can’t help but smile when you look out and see the backs (okay, and often the fronts) of dog heads intermingled among the rows of fans.

Pups in the Park 2011

Tavish meets Steve Garvey!

The extent of the Nats’ Pups in the Parks promotions varies by game and sponsor, so check the listings to see what might be happening during your game. Our first Pups outing was a Nats-Marlins match-up last May. We were treated to the pre-game antics of Tillman the skateboarding bulldog and Norman the scooter-riding dog. Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods® was a sponsor (yes, the same Dick from Eight is Enough fame), so all the dogs received reusable totes filled with Natural Balance treats and swag. While we were waiting in line to enter, Natural Balance’s spokesman, ten-time All Star and National League MVP Steve Garvey, put in an appearance and made an impromptu call for dogs from the crowd to show off their tricks. Tavish ended up being one of four dogs to perform for the future Hall of Famer (see photo)! Adding to the fun was that this was the one Pups game of the season to include a Pup Parade. There was no additional fee beyond the ticket price to participate; it simply meant getting to the stadium earlier than we would have otherwise. But it was well worth it to be ushered en masse through the tunnel onto the outfield warning track to circle the field before the game. With officials making sure we literally stayed on track (no rogue dogs tearing up the infield, please!), this was a view that relatively few outside baseball ever get to see or experience.

Look for the Intrepid Pup in the stands at one of this season’s games. He’ll be there. Go, Nats!

Pups in the Park 2011

Dogging the Details

38°52’21.57″ N,  77° 0’26.09″ W
Nationals Park, Washington, DC

3 on the Wag-A-Meter Pups  in the Park maxes out the Intrepid Pup’s Wag-A-Meter at a rare “3” for being uniquely fun for canines and humans alike. This is a real treat!

When purchasing tickets online, don’t just navigate to an advertised Pups in the Parks game date, select any seat, and assume you can bring your dog. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. Though it might seem a bit less intuitive for first-time users, Pups tickets are actually sold under the web banner of GROUP tickets/Group Theme Games. In 2012 you’ll be purchasing a $22 ticket for yourself and a reduced-price $8 ticket for your dog, the latter of which benefits the Washington Humane Society. Once you’ve purchased tickets online for one Pups game, chances are you’ll be on the Nats’ email list to receive updates about future ones.

Some extra tips:

  • Pups in the Park 2011Parking is ample, but fees directly correlate to proximity to the ballpark and can get pricey. The clear message here is to walk, bike (yes, there are numerous bike racks outside the stadium!), take Metro to the Navy Yard stop, board a bus, or hop a DC water taxi or one of the special Baseball Boats running a 35-minute cruise from Alexandria, Virginia. But if you’re bringing your dog, you’ll find that many of these either don’t allow pets or require that they be crated, so you pretty much have to find a place to park and then walk. The Nationals website highlights the options, the least expensive of which (for an individual game, i.e. not part of a package deal of games/parking) are $10 and $15 parking lots about a mile away. Note that pre-paying for parking via the website does allow for the convenience of printing out your voucher at home but does carry an additional service fee.
  • Remember that DC summers are hot and, above all, humid. If your dog doesn’t tolerate the heat well, select from the available Pups dates accordingly.
  • If you happen to be attending one of the Pups games that is preceded by a Pup Parade, note that you’ll be lining up outside the stadium well beforehand. Be sure to have poly bags and plenty of water on hand. It can get warm standing in line with tons of other people and dogs.
  • Dogs of all sizes are welcome, but Team Tavish did observe a few of the larger breeds finding it a bit harder to get comfortable in their seats.