Dancing on the Dead

How pets are bringing a dead landscape back to life.

washington, parks, recreation, landscape, pets, district of columbia, dog park


Brian Michener


Marguerite Anglin


Brittany Coyle

Many dog owners in the city long for a place where their dog can run far and wide. Dog parks are great, but they are often too small for energetic dogs to get the exercise they desperately need. And medium-sized parks in the city are so heavily scheduled that there is rarely a moment when the fields aren’t in use. But in recent years, an otherwise “dead” landscape is coming alive with activity as cemeteries begin opening their gates to dog owners.

The Historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. is a 35+ acre burial ground that has become one of the most successful and popular dog parks in the country. However, before it welcomed dogs, the cemetery was seriously lacking in funds to maintain its historic and expansive grounds. According to the office manager, "Dog walkers really saved this cemetery. Before they came along, it was abandoned and overgrown with some bad people hanging out here."

Today, the presence of 600 dogs and their owners at nearly every hour of the day keeps the cemetery free and clear of vandalism and criminal activity. Owners charge themselves an annual fee that accounts for over a quarter of the cemetery’s operating budget and covers the cost of nearly all maintenance contracts. And dogs have a place to run until their hearts are content.

Let your dog bring a cemetery back to life. Just don’t wake the dead.