Where You Can Go When Fido Needs To

Posted June 22, 2009 at 3:15pm

Navigating D.C. can be hard for tourists or recent transplants. It can be even more difficult if a canine companion is part of the equation.

“The Dog Lover’s Companion to Washington DC: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog,— which had a third edition recently released, seeks to help these wanderers and their dogs. Katie Githens, the book’s author, says the premise of the book is simple.

“It’s a handbook for finding new adventures with your dog,— she said.

The book is organized into four main sections, each representing a different geographic area: the District, Virginia, Maryland and Beyond the Beltway. Within each of these, there are chapters for smaller areas. The chapters are further divided into major neighborhoods.

The neighborhood sections offer descriptions and reviews of restaurants, parks and hotels in the area, focusing on their relative dog-friendliness. Each park is rated on a scale of one to four “paws,— rating the good times to be had by dogs there, with a “foot— mark placed next to those that also have a special attractiveness to their human counterparts.

The book reads largely as a narrative, which adds to the experience. Githens personally visited all the locations discussed in the book over a four-month period, along with her “co-author,— her German shepherd-Dalmatian mutt, Denali. She details the good and bad of each excursion and gives tips on how to get the most out of the area for residents and tourists alike.

The book makes a point of acknowledging the District’s reputation as a less-than-dog-friendly city and attempts to show that this is not necessarily true.

“While the District of Columbia ranks lowest in its percentage of dog owners compared to the nation’s 50 states, the 1 in 5 residents who do keep pet companionship are a rambunctious, good-natured bunch,— reads the book’s introduction. This section goes on to detail famous political pets, making special mention of President Barack Obama’s famous promise of a dog in his victory speech.

The changing nature of the D.C. dog owners’ scene was somewhat of an obstacle in researching and writing the book, Githens said.

“D.C. itself is still in the process of creating official dog parks,— she said. “I had to kind of tread lightly.—

She elaborated that she did not want to reveal any of the popular “underground— dog parks for fear of attracting unwanted attention. In addition to detailing the dog digs of the D.C. area, the book also gives a lot of basic information and tips — keeping dogs safe in the heat, traveling safely, and knowing the rules for eating with dogs in local restaurants.

“The Dog Lover’s Companion to Washington DC— provides a well-rounded look at dog-friendly places in the area. It is better for tourists or brand-new transplants but is also full of hidden gems that could surprise even longtime residents.