For 200 years, Washington, DC’s, 32-acre Congressional Cemetery—privately owned by the Episcopal church—has provided a resting place for many Americans, from notables such as Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover to the laborers who helped construct the nearby Capitol, as well as lawmakers who served there.
By the early 20th century, Congressional’s popularity was eclipsed by that of the national cemetery at Arlington (built on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s estate in 1883). Sadly, “Congressional was forgotten,” according to John Philip Sousa Pugh, great-grandnephew of the composer, and it suffered from neglect and vandalism. Then, about 20 years ago, dogs (and their people) “rescued” it. What makes this cemetery and its arrangement with an OLA group so unique and worthy of our highest praise is how well this partnership works. A third of the cemetery’s annual operating income is generated by the fees that the off-leash recreationists pay for access privileges: $125 a year, plus $40 per dog.
Appropriately, this covers the costs for all the lawn maintenance! Besides the annual dues, members of this K-9 Corps must agree to follow simple rules, which include use restrictions during burials and funerals. The dog people also help with conservation and preservation efforts, and have proven to be not only great fundraisers, but effective vandalism deterrents too. Recently, 100 dogs dressed as historic characters helped celebrate the cemetery’s bicentennial, and their people carried signs with slogans such as “Abraham Lincoln Liked Mutts.” We salute them!
Photograph by Stew Harris and Karen Currie