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Dog owners wait 2+ years to join cemetery dog program

Dog owners wait 2+ years to join cemetery dog program. (ABC7)

Dog owners are paying about $300 a year to get unlimited access to an exclusive dog park of sorts in D.C. And that's after a $75 fee just to get on the waiting list – which is at least two years long. But this is not your typical dog park.

The leash-free dog program is located inside the gates of Congressional Cemetery in Southeast Washington.

Among the graves of historical figures, like FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, they're able to run and roam without a leash across 35 acres.

The cemetery's K9 Corps program launched in the 1970s. In essence, it was started as a doggy neighborhood watch in what was then an abandoned and dilapidated cemetery.

Members adopted plots and member contributions covered repairs and restoration.

But now very popular, the program is limited to just 600 members and a total 770 dogs, with the waiting list swelling to 500.

“We got a new puppy about 3 months ago and she's got so much energy,” said dog owner John Collins.

Collins will have to use $10 day passes for a couple years. He’s just happy he applied for an annual pass a couple days ago - before the Washington Post reported on the program's popularity.

“When you see a restaurant review the week after you ate there you feel kind of good about it,” he said.

The cemetery hosts all sorts of social events throughout the year, including Halloween "Soul Strolls,” summer movie nights and a 5K race.

“Lots of dogs, lots of socialization. Dog socialization, human socialization,” said program member Cindy Manion.

It might seem slightly odd, but the cemetery said this dog program has also resulted in human romance, relationships, even marriages.

There have been about a dozen marriages of program members in the past five years, according to Historic Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams. A few of the weddings were even held on site - at the cemetery chapel.

“You know the dogs play together and you meet. It's like daycare. Your kids meet and you tend to meet the other parents,” Williams said.

Most plot owners and family members of those buried in the cemetery are attracted to and appreciate Congressional because it is an active and community-oriented space.

However, off camera, they said they don't appreciate the droppings left behind by some less attentive dog owners. But if it means the cemetery is funded into the future they don't seem to mind picking up or overlooking the occasional mess.

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