DC dog owners are rethinking walks and dog park visits during a brutal summer


Nigel hasn’t been up for his late morning walks recently. The golden-brown basset hound generally loves routine as much as the following pup: walking around mealtimes and playing as much as he can ask for in between. But on a recent DC party, when the mercury was still hovering in the 90s but the humidity made hell feel like a place on Earth, Nigel didn’t have it.

“I brought him to the door early,” said Mike Lawrence, Nigel’s human, who had taken refuge on a shaded bench at S Street Dog Park in northwest Washington. “But he just turned around.”

In a summer that scorched all species, breaking national records in July, dog owners across the district are adjusting to a dip in the once limitless energy of their pets.

Fetch games have moved to the kitchen. Dog park tours have become pit stops. Rides, for the good of everyone involved, are moved up or down.

Puppies don’t always understand the changes. Sonia Memberno tried to reason with Bernie, her black labradoodle, without much success.

“I usually warn him, ‘Hey man, it’s really hot out there. Are you sure you want to do this?’ “But he absolutely insists on getting out, so we go for a little walk around the block, and even then he’s sweating, I’m sweating, we’re both tired.”

“When we finally got in I take off his leash and he runs straight to the bowl of water and drinks it all up. And then two seconds later he’s on the floor panting and trying to cool off – I give him some ice cubes and I tell him, ‘I’m really sorry, but I told you this was going to happen.’ ”

Ashburn behavioral vet Leslie Sinn said: “People need to be aware that dogs don’t always make the best choice.”

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Sinn suggested owners limit dogs’ time outdoors during this part of the summer, although some is unavoidable. (“Go take a pee break, obviously,” she said.) And freshening up like Bernie is essential. Sinn’s own border collie, a breed known for its active lifestyle, raised him towards the end of walks, eager for the restorative breeze of central air.

Alex Lim, who walks and guards his dog through Rover, recently had to cut his dog park hours into strict 10-minute blocks. This was a drag on Brad the Black Lab, who kept going back and forth for an orange ball at S Street Park. “It’s tough,” Lim said. “He’s a working dog and he’ll always want to be outside.”

Junie, a 2-year-old chocolate lab, usually gets restless in the later parts of the day, owner Hannah Mills said. “I hope her energy drops as she gets older,” she said between dog park throws. “But I kind of let her run my day.”

Junie’s reign can be more demanding in the heat, when Mills and her partner don’t really want to go out themselves. The two began to negotiate.

“Sometimes I offer to do the dishes instead of taking it out in the morning,” said Mills, who works at a local nonprofit.

A dog had disappeared. The cavers found it two months later 500 feet underground.

This summer, their 30-40 minute slots with Junie to, in and from the dog park turned into regimented 10-15 minute boulders like Lim’s. But Mills can tell when Junie is done with it herself: her tongue rolls further into the hollow of her mouth, dashes turn to trots, trots turn to steps, steps turn to sit. It’s time to go.

At Swampoodle Dog Park in northeastern Washington, the scorching sun on a recent weekday didn’t seem to sap 12-week-old Yeezy from his youthful spirit. Too.

The American pit bull terrier, rushing and trying his hand at tricks, was exactly what Nicole Ellis and Dr. Bates were looking for, they said. He has already nailed “sitting”.

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“She’s the animal whisperer,” Bates said of Ellis.

“It wasn’t too difficult to train him,” Ellis said. “It’s like he knows what to do.

When his puppy energy ran out at the park, Yeezy knew what to do again. Bates kept a stream of water flowing from a standing fountain, and Yeezy waited as she collected in the metal basin. He looked until it was just deep enough to fit his front legs inside. He started paddling the crisp water all over his stomach.

He was cooling.

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