(By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Where we live shapes us, and we shape where we live. Here's what area residents have to say about where they live. An occasional Page Three feature.

A Funny Thing Happens on the Way

We live on a quiet street in the middle of the city only a block from a very pleasant park. Officially, it is known as Marion Park, but as far as most of the neighborhood is concerned, it is known simply as the dog park. I estimate that there is a dog for every three people in the area, and as you might expect, every dog has to visit the park twice a day. Even from casual observation it is easy to conclude that the dog park is also a social park where both dogs and their owners seem to have no difficulty finding compatible companions to play with.

You might well ask: "So what's your problem?" Simply put, the problem is not with the dogs or their owners but with the location of our house.

I have no idea why, but the overwhelming proportion of the dogs residing at least 10 blocks north, east and south of us select our street to get to the dog park. (Are you already ahead of me?)

We all know that after waiting all night or all day for the walker to wake up or return from work, man's best friend is not going to make it all the way to the park for relief. As the daily procession passes our house, the leashed ones see a nicely planted tree box on the road side and some flowers and stuff growing along the iron fence on the house side of the sidewalk.

They seem to prefer corners, as evidenced by expiring plants on both ends of the tree box and on both sides of the gate leading to our house.

Except when snow is on the ground, the nice people who own dogs are quite thoughtful (especially when someone is watching) about major relief locations. They delight in good performances, carry on curiously intimate conversations with their housemates and on occasion proudly twirl their little plastic bags.

Moving, of course, is not an option -- but kvetching is.

-- Leo A. Orleans, Southeast Washington

Admission to the Canine Club

I have lived in my American University Park house for almost 25 years. For the first 18, I knew very few of my neighbors, either by name or sight. And then I got divorced, and my kids and I got a dog. Suddenly, we met lots of neighbors. Early morning and late night walks became chances to bond with fellow dog owners. An afternoon walk around the neighborhood involved numerous stops for chatting and dog-patting.

So many people with dogs in our neighborhood! It's like a big social organization but without dues or minutes. We aren't strict about membership requirements -- even non-dog-owners are welcome to our company. We do have our protocol, however: We might not always remember one another's names, but we never forget the dogs' names.

Oh, and we have one little secret: We sometimes harbor fugitives. Some of our favorite people are Bethesda neighbors who cross Western Avenue to walk their dogs. There are fewer sidewalks on the Maryland side, so the Dog People cross the border into the District. That's fine -- we like diversity, and we are happy to share our sidewalks.

-- Deborah Dupont, Northwest Washington

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