Before FBI agent Kevin Kline moved to Virginia, he needed to find an apartment community that would allow his partner, Griff, to move in with him.
That wasn't easy--Griff is an enormous drug-sniffing German shepherd.
The two eventually tracked down Avalon at Cameron Court, a gated community in Alexandria that is one of the few upscale complexes in the area to allow big dogs. It's rare to find any place that allows dogs that weigh more than 40 pounds.
"Griff came to work with me every day for four years," said Kline, who left his post in Connecticut as part of a drug-enforcement team to assume a desk job two months ago at the Justice Department. "I thought this would be a good arrangement for the both of us."
As it turns out, Kline and Griff weren't the only duo with a nose for the canine welcome mat.
Stroll through the community in the early morning or late afternoon and you might feel as though you've stumbled onto an dog obedience school campus, as owners take their pets out for a stroll before heading to work or upon returning home.
Laura Haltzel, 28, said the preponderance of dogs has helped bring the neighborhood closer together socially. Kirby, her 80-pound white Labrador retriever, has made friends all up and down their street.
"A lot of us have the same work patterns and walk our dogs around the same time each day," Haltzel said.
With all those animals in a such a small neighborhood, you'd think there would be an ungodly racket at all hours.
But resident Charles Konigsberg said that even though many of the residents in his building have dogs, the animals are rarely a disturbance.
"The only real noise I ever hear is the Metro and [Norfolk Southern] trains," he said, referring to the train tracks about 100 yards to the north of the community.
Haltzel said she believes the same socialization dynamic that brings the neighbors together seems to work on the dogs as well.
"We haven't seen any mean dogs here," Haltzel said. "A few that have had problems dealing with others have eventually become more social and less aggressive."
Avalon at Cameron Court, just west of Old Town Alexandria and less than a half mile from the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station, offers a host of amenities in addition to being dog-friendly: a heated outdoor swimming pool and spa; an indoor basketball court; a computer center with unlimited Internet access via cable modem; and an impressive fitness center. Cameron Court's apartments and town houses, barely two years old, come with nine foot ceilings, balconies and alarm systems.
The community is in a part of Alexandria that is likely to experience significant retail and commercial growth within the next few years. The complex is across Telegraph Road from the big Carlyle mixed-use development, where the two high-rise Carlyle Towers condominiums and a federal courthouse are the most recent additions to a collection of office buildings. The Patent and Trademark Office has picked a site at Carlyle where it wants to build its huge new headquarters, although that move is tied up in court, partially because of resistance from neighbors.
At first glance, Cameron Court appears to be a collection of town houses. In reality, it is an amalgamation of 83 rental town houses and 376 apartments. A typical facade facing the street looks as if it is six town houses, each with its own garage. This is an architectural illusion--there are just three town homes on each side of the building, two with one-car garages and another accommodating two cars. The remaining two garages belong to a pair of ground-floor apartments on the interior of the building. The arrangement makes sense when seen from the side of each building, which reveals three town houses on each side, with 16 apartments sandwiched in between on four floors.
An access road divides the community into two sections, reachable only through electronic security gates.
Many a dogless resident seen walking on a recent afternoon voiced some variant of the question: "With Cujo next door, who needs security gates?" But apartment resident Kevin Brown said the security gates offer him and his family some peace of mind.
"I work most of the day, while my wife, Kathy, stays home with our 6-year-old son and the cat," said Brown, who decided to move his family into Cameron Court sight unseen after viewing the community's amenities on Avalon's Web site (www.avalonbay.com).
"It's not like [the gates are] incredibly hard to get around, it's just nice to have," he said.
While there's more development planned for the neighborhood, there's still plenty of open space near Cameron Court perfect for dog romping.
Haltzel and her husband, Andy, live in one of the town houses near the dog run and are one of many couples in Cameron Court in a transition stage before making the move to a stand-alone home. Laura Haltzel said she would like to find a place with a yard in the next year or so, but she was concerned that it might mean giving up the close ties the couple has been able to build with their neighbors.
"I'm sort of worried that we might not have the same quality of social interaction that we have here," she said. "And I know Kirby would miss a lot of his friends."
AVALON AT CAMERON COURT
2700 Williamsburg St.
Alexandria, Va. 22314
* Application fee: $35
* Security deposit: $250
* Lease term: One year
* Utilities: None included
* Amenities: Controlled-access gates, heated pool, fitness center, indoor basketball court, volleyball court, picnic areas and grills, business center with Internet access
* Parking: Not reserved
* Pet policy: Pets welcome
APARTMENT SIZE QUANTITY SQUARE FEET MONTHLY RENTAL
1 BR 208 694 to 841 $995 to $1,345
2BR/2BA 168 1,072 to 1,170 $1,405 to $1,570
2BR/2BA TH w/Garage 83 1,244 to 1,287 $1,685 to $1,795