Housing Complex

Shelter Studios Fit for a Dog

Pearl, a silky soft 3-year-old whippet mix, used to live outside as an abandoned stray. Now her home is a 4-by-9-foot kennel at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. And you thought your studio was small.

Inside Pearl's house is a tennis ball, a few toys, and a Kuranda dog bed, which is special a chewproof, easy-to-clean cot you could, if you were feeling bad for Pearl and her brethren, purchase for the shelter off Arlington Mill Road. They run about $50.

As housing for dogs goes, the kennels at this shelter are bigger than some and certainly clean—even the one with the three puppies, which gets scrubbed down several times a day because, you know, puppies don't wait until they get out to the exercise yard. Pearl's neighbors are happy enough, but this isn't their real home. It's temporary and some of them are stressed out. They bark. They are a little skinny. They would like for you to pet them and walk them and take them home.

Volunteer Beth Burrous, a 49-year-old retired patent attorney who lives in Lyon Park, takes Pearl for a walk after cleaning a few of the kennels. Dogless and married to someone who may be allergic (he definitely is to cats), she's been getting her fix at the shelter for about two-and-a-half years.

When she started coming, "my husband was worried I'd come home depressed" after seeing the cooped-up pups. "But I'm not. I think because I know we're caring for them." There are more than 200 volunteers at the shelter, but more are always needed, especially during weekdays.

Before taking Pearl outside to the leafy, condo-filled surrounds of Shirlington, she straps an orange vest to her that says "Adopt Me." 

"It's good advertising," she says. She'll take dogs dressed this way through the shopping district where, she recalls, one family with three dogs fell in love with two attached to a dogwalker and promptly adopted them. Another time a woman saw Burrous walking a big, old basset, stopped, and had to have him.

Behatted and hot, when Burrous returns with Pearl, a woman dressed in an Arlington police uniform stops to inspect and seems smitten. Her beefy husband? Less so. He wants to know just how big Max, the puppy inside—a perfect 2-month-old catahoula with blue, blue eyes—will get. Pretty big, says Burrous. The beefy man is pleased.

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