Cara Gabriel, a theater professor at American University, walks her beagle, Pelo, about eight times a day. Finding a place friendly to Pelo was a top factor when she and her boyfriend were searching for an apartment last year.
"Our list was first, pets; second, Metro accessibility, and third, it couldn't be disgusting," said Gabriel, 27, who now lives in a $1,095-a-month one-bedroom at Tysons Glen in Falls Church. She said she appreciates having a swimming pool at the complex and a washer and dryer in her unit. But in her opinion, the best feature of Tysons Glen is the dog culture.
"It's a good way to meet people. Unfortunately, it's easier to remember their dogs' names," Gabriel said. "Don't move here if you don't like dogs."
Tysons Glenn, in a quiet area off Route 7 bordered by a stream bed and George C. Marshall High School, is made up of 18 two- and three-story apartment buildings and 344 townhouses. The complex, built in 1962 and managed by A.J. Dwoskin & Associates Inc., is three traffic lights from Tysons Corner Center and a quarter-mile from a Trader Joe's. Amenities include the outdoor pool, an exercise room, complimentary fax and photocopying, and shuttle service to the West Falls Church Metro station. But the complex's biggest draw is the pet policy, established about five years ago.
Property manager Sara Meador said all cats and most dogs are accepted, up to 100 pounds. Rottweilers, pit bulls, Canary dogs, snakes and other exotic pets are not. There is a two-pet maximum, and owners pay as much as $800 upfront to put their pets on their leases.
In return, pet lovers live in an animal-friendly community where dog treats are offered in the leasing office. There are 25 dog stations -- trash cans and a supply of plastic bags -- on the grounds and a new fenced-in dog exercise area.
"People were asking where a dog run was, and the closest ones were in Alexandria and Arlington. So we decided to make one," Meador said.
The dog run, which opened in October, is 130 feet long and 12 feet wide, with a double gate and a four-foot-tall fence. "The dog owners really appreciate it," Meador said. This spring, the dog run will be improved by adding a bench and a toy basket. Other planned upgrades to the property include the small playground in the back of the lot, which will be redone next year, but, Meador said, "We have more pets than children."
From 70 to 75 percent of residents own cats or dogs, she said. That's a lot of dog walking.
For Gabriel, walking Pelo led to her meeting Suzie Lancaster and Lee Tarnay, who moved to Tysons Glen from Lake Tahoe, Calif., last year. Lancaster, 32, an environmental engineering student, and Tarnay, 31, a resource specialist for the National Park Service, pay $1,049 a month for a one-bedroom unit with den.
They do not regularly go to the dog run with Bailey, a black lab who is pushing the 100-pound weight limit, because they like to run with him. Instead, they take him on out-of-town trips and on long walks to the grocery store. Although they were a bit dismayed at the steep large-breed fee at the complex and the fact that their den is really an old washer-and-dryer area, they are happy with their choice to live at Tysons Glen.
"They keep the dog stations stocked pretty well," Tarnay said.
The couple also said that they have not been asked to keep Bailey's weight down to stay under 100 pounds. "The complex goes by vet records -- they don't weigh him on a scale," said Tarnay.
Rob Clark also owns a black lab. The 28-year-old guidance counselor moved to his $1,300-a-month two-bedroom townhouse from Philadelphia in July with his 90-pound dog, Apache. He said he has used the dog run and says of the complex, "It's safe and clean."
Residents who do not own dogs have few complaints, if any, about the canine orientation of the complex. Pankaj Bhatia, 25, a software engineer, said his only concern is that people pick up after their dogs on the sidewalks. "I go running a lot," he said. In the two years he has lived in his two-bedroom apartment, Bhatia said, he has gotten to know most of his neighbors.
"My neighbor has a dog, and she's pretty happy about the dog run," he said.