Going to the dogs used to be a prescription for impending disaster. Now it could be viewed as a political asset.
At least that was the impression one got at Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman's recent Town Meeting. One of the more prominent booths passing out literature and drumming up support for their cause was The Northern Virginia Dog Park Coalition (NVDPC).
A partnership of 15 dog park sponsoring organizations, the coalition released a survey of all the candidates in this past election. "Over half the candidates responded and most had not visited a dog park," according to NVDPC's quarterly publication, "Mount Vernon Area DOG."
"We've done direct mail, community meetings, and some very successful fund-raising events," said Janine Plinsky, NVDPC's marketing and publications officer. "The candidates did have a basic understanding for the recreational needs of humans and their canine companions," the newsletter reported.
"Right now there are no designated dog parks in Mount Vernon District and only one in Lee District," said Mimi Pollow, NVDPC vice president. "We are in the process of trying to raise funds to establish an area at Grist Mill Park."
THERE IS AN ACRE identified for a dog park at that site, according to Pollow. "We have to raise $10,000. If we are successful, the county will provide a matching $10,000. Hopefully, we'll be able to do this by next summer."
If the dog park at Grist Mill becomes a reality, the maintenance will be the responsibility of NVDPC, according to Plinsky. This past August, NVDPC sent a mailing to all businesses in the Mount Vernon and Lee districts requesting contributions.
"Though no business sent us $10,000, we did get contributions from four businesses," NVDPC reported. Those were Globe Travel, Bone Voyage, Fort Hunt Cleaners and Agape Christian Academy.
"We strongly recommend frequenting these contributors as well as Petco and Pretty Pets, who have supported Mount Vernon Area DOG in its early years," they urged.
As evidenced by their presence at the Lee District Town Meeting and their comments in the newsletter, dog owners are a political force to be reckoned with. MVADOG cited the following examples of how the politicos are taking notice of their clout.
It stated, during the campaign, "Some of the candidates proudly displayed their dog park bona fides: I helped to establish the (Herndon) park; I was the first to champion puppy parks in Fairfax County; Helped to lead the effort to amend the County Code to allow dogs off-leash in dog parks."
NVDPC WAS ALSO quick to show its disdain for any candidate who did not display the "proper" concern for dogs and their owners. In the "Snippets" section of their newsletter, which came out prior to the election they printed the following:
"Have you seen the TV ad for Mychele Brickner, candidate for Chair, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors? She complains about funds being spent on trails for dogs. I don't think she is a dog person."
Brickner lost to Gerald Connelly (D-Providence) in last week's election.
NVDPC also pointed out that pet ownership is a big business. "Every year, $1.5 billion is spent on pet food, four times the amount ... spent on baby food. Go ahead, it is okay to buy expensive stuff for Rover, everyone else is doing it," they printed.
Other statistics, according to NVDPC, show "80 percent of dog owners buy their pooches presents for holidays and birthdays. More than half sign letters and cards from themselves and their pets."
Additional information about NVDPC is available at www.pollow.com/dogpark or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their mailing address is P.O.Box 10515, Alexandria, VA, 22309.
Annual membership in Mount Vernon Area DOG is $10.
NVDPC plans to have a booth at Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland's Town Meeting on January 31.