From state exams to college-prep tests, James Madison High School 11th-grader Aidan Jones knows how stressful it can be as a student.
With the pandemic adding to concerns about students’ mental health, Jones is working to turn therapy dog visits into a regular occurrence and possibly have one pet make its second home in Madison’s counseling office.
“My goal is to try to get a therapy dog as an extension to the counseling staff,” Jones said, noting that ideally, a teacher would take care of the dog and bring it to school during the day.
Jones developed the idea of a permanent therapy dog program while taking an interdisciplinary course last year, where one assignment had students come up with plans to improve people’s circumstances.
Students shared their ideas in “Shark Tank“-like online presentations, and 1970 Madison graduate Ted Dintersmith, a filmmaker and author who advocates for education reform, agreed to fund some projects, including Jones’s, according to Madison High School Principal Greg Hood.
In the cross-curricular program, Jones met and spoke with Melanie Meren, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the Fairfax County School Board. He says working with her allowed the idea to morph into an actual thing.
Meren said in a statement that she’d like to see therapy dogs serving in more schools.
“This is something close to my heart — as a dog owner, I’ve experienced the calm and reassurance that a trained dog can bring to humans with its unconditional love,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “As a parent, I’ve seen how dogs trained for reading therapy support can encourage reluctant readers to read aloud to gain confidence in their abilities.”
Research has shown that even petting a dog can help relax people, one of numerous mental health benefits.
“Therapy dogs are nonjudgmental, and that really lowers the anxiety,” Jones said.
However, Jones says he would like Madison to have a dog as part of its counseling staff, or at least make the outreach more regular. He noticed that having a therapy dog at the school made a difference not just for students, but also for teachers.
Jones has been working with school leaders to move the project forward. He suggested that the school target particularly stressful periods for a group to bring in a trained dog to help students.
“I think this would be really beneficial to just help…the Fairfax County Public School system in general, starting with Madison High School,” he said.
Dogtopia will salute its first year in Falls Church by helping bring comfort to a veteran in need.
After opening its doors on Oct. 14, 2020 despite the challenges of starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the dog daycare has now achieved its goal of raising $6,000 — enough money to help cover the cost of training a service dog for a military veteran.
Dogtopia of Falls Church (108 W Jefferson Street) will officially announce the news tomorrow (Thursday) to coincide with Veterans Day.
“We’re hoping that this announcement will be powerful enough to help us accelerate our intended support of a second dog funded in much less time,” said Jim Hannesschlager, who owns the franchise with his wife Allie.
The fundraising effort was part of the franchise’s work with the nonprofit Dogtopia Foundation, which helps close funding gaps for community partners that focus on three main causes: service dogs for veterans, youth literacy programs, and employment for adults with autism.
To support the first cause, the Dogtopia Foundation is currently partnered with K9s for Warriors, a Florida-based organization that trains and provides service dogs to veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, sexual assault, and other challenges.
K9s for Warriors covers the costs of its training programs, which can run up to $30,000 to $40,000, but as a nonprofit, it relies on donations for at least some of that funding, according to Hannesschlager. The Dogtopia Foundation assists in filling that gap.
Hannesschlager and his wife, who both have family members that have served in the military, started working to raise money for a service dog even before their Dogtopia franchise opened, as he told Tysons Reporter in August 2020.
They found an eager supporter in Idylwood-based Settle Down Easy Brewing, which offered to contribute a portion of its sales from the September leading up to Dogtopia of Falls Church’s debut.
For Settle Down Easy owner Frank Kuhns, helping veterans is a personal mission. His father served during the Vietnam War, and his brother Bryan worked as a bartender at the Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost in Brockway, Pennsylvania.
The brewery’s name is a tribute to Bryan, who died in 2015, just two days shy of his 36th birthday. It comes from a lyric in the Grateful Dead song “Ramble on Rose,” which Bryan played at the bar at the end of every night.
“When Jim approached me asking for support to help raise funds for a service dog, we were honored and so proud of our customers who purchased beer with $1 going to Dogtopia’s Fundraiser,” Kuhns said by email.
Settle Down Easy, which announced expansion plans over the weekend, donated a total of $1,000 at the grand opening of the Falls Church Dogtopia, which matched those funds.
Dogtopia contributed another $1,000 to match the money raised by its customers over the past year, and the Hannesschlagers decided to personally give the remaining $2,000.
The money will go to the Dogtopia Foundation, which will then pass it onto K9s for Warriors.
While the dog and the veteran with whom it will be placed haven’t been identified yet, Hannesschalger says he is excited to receive updates over the next few months. He hopes raising awareness of Dogtopia’s effort will boost its next fundraising campaign for a second service dog.
“[Dogs] can — and many times do — perform an incredible service to people, whether it’s just companionship in the house or it’s all the way up on the other end of the scale being a service dog,” Hannesschalger said. “So, the fact that we can marry that with those who have served and protected our country is extremely important to my wife and I.”
Photo via Jeremy Bezanger/Unsplash
Virginia Redistricting Commission Splits on Map — The commission will submit two possible maps for new congressional and legislative districts to the General Assembly in October after its Democratic and Republican members couldn’t agree on who will draw the maps. Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd), who called the commission flawed when it went on the ballot last November, was not impressed. [WTOP]
Virginia Tech Expert Backs Mite Theory for Bug Bites — An entomologist with the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab says oak itch mites are likely behind the mysterious, itchy bug bites that many D.C. area residents have reported in recent weeks, possibly linked to the cicada emergence. A Fairfax County environmental health official told Tysons Reporter last week that the mites were a suspected cause but had not been confirmed. [ARLnow]
County to Hold Meeting on Pickleball Study — “The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) seeks the public’s input on the emerging sport of pickleball and invites the community to attend a virtual meeting to introduce its draft Pickleball Study…The event will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at 7 p.m. and will be available online afterward for those unable to attend live.” [FCPA]
Vienna Dog Park Closed This Morning — The Vienna Dog Park at the corner of Courthouse Road and Moorefield Road SW will be closed for maintenance from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (Thursday). It is the only publicly owned dog park in the Tysons area. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Fairfax County’s final Dog Park Park Study calls for the construction of one new dog park, a timeline to build six more, and a better maintenance plan for existing parks.
After a nearly two-year long process full of surveys, drafts, and feedback, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board of Directors endorsed the final report at a meeting late last month.
The park authority initiated the study in 2019 due to the “abundance” of questions about county dog park operations and expansion, including the “perceived demand” for more parks. Feedback was gathered by surveying more than 4,600 residents.
According to a county press release, the final report will act as a “guiding document” for the county as it plans, designs, maintains, and operates dog parks going forward.
Recommendations in the final report include building at least one new dog park by 2025, though an exact location isn’t specified.
Currently, the county has 13 public dog parks, 11 of which are owned and operated by FCPA. An additional one would meet the needs of the county’s projected population in 2025, according to the park authority’s data.
Although the report doesn’t say exactly where the new park should be built, it suggests that McLean or Lake Fairfax in Reston would be good options due to demand and a lack of existing dog parks.
Park bond funding should be used for the building of the park, the report proposes.
After that dog park is completed, the report says the county should establish a schedule for constructing six more dog parks, which should meet and, even, exceed demand over the next two decades.
It recommends Baileys, Jefferson, and Bull Run planning districts as options for locations.
In terms of what those new dog parks should include, survey respondents noted that room for dogs to run, adequate number of trash cans, shade, water spickets, and parking were features most requested by residents.
The report also recommends developing a more thorough plan for park upkeep, including additional and better placement of trash cans, more frequent refilling of waste bag dispensers, and better signage. It says FCPA should encourage volunteer dog park teams to help with this upkeep.
In addition to addressing the state of dog parks countywide, the report makes recommendations for improvements to each individual dog park in that the park authority operates.
Suggested alterations range from converting a hose bib at the Baron Cameron dog park in Reston into a drinking fountain and installing a structure or planting trees to provide shade at Blake Lane in Oakton to redesigning Grist Mill Park in Alexandria to have a separate section for smaller and older dogs.
FCPA estimates that it costs just under $10,000 a year to maintain each dog park.
A draft of the report was first released in early March, which was followed by another public comment period that led the park authority to refine some of its recommendations.
The Tysons area is currently low on public dog parks. The Blake Lane park (10033 Blake Lane) is the closest one owned by the FCPA, and pups can also romp in an off-leash area at Moorefield Park in the Town of Vienna.
A dog park is being considered as part of the McLean Central Park redesign, but the proposal got some pushback after the park authority’s concept plan suggested it would require eliminating an existing tennis court.
The final dog park study report will be posted on the county’s website in September.
Photo via The Boro/Twitter
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Tuesday (June 1)
- McLean Community Center LGBTQ+ Pride Month Exhibition — at the McLean Community Center Plaza (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — The McLean Community Center will display a Progress Pride flag and a rainbow light display throughout the month to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Take photos with the exhibit and post them using the hashtag #McLeanCenterPRIDE.
- Duck Harbor (Online) — 8-10 p.m. — A heartwarming web series about a bi-coastal love story written by E.M. Lewis and Bob Bartlett, this online, live theatrical performance from 1st Stage will air for free every Tuesday at 8 p.m. for 12 weeks. All aired episodes and bonus content will also be available through Duck Harbor ALL ACCESS for $15.
Wednesday (June 2)
- Wine Down Wednesday — 4-9 p.m. at Tysons Social Tavern (1960 Chain Bridge Rd.) — Tysons Social Tavern kicks off its Wine Down Wednesdays series this month. Each week brings live music and special prices on wines and appetizers. Specials are available for dine-in only with no substitutions.
Thursday (June 3)
- Local Poet Talk: Sandra Beasley (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — Local author Sandra Beasley, a Vienna native and current DC resident, will talk about her new book, “Made to Explode.” Registration is required to receive the Zoom link.
- Live Music at The Boro — 5:30-8 p.m. at The Boro (8350 Broad St.) — The Boro will host a free outdoor music series every Thursday night this summer . This first event will feature the David Thong Band. RSVP on Eventbrite for updates.
Friday (June 4)
- LGBTQ+ Pride Month Teen Open Mic — 7 p.m. at MCC Plaza (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — The McLean Community Center is hosting an open mic for LGBTQ+ teens, allies, and families. Sign-ups begin at 7 p.m., and the open mic starts at 7:30 p.m. Performances should be kept between four and six minutes. If there are specific performance or access needs, contact Jeff Virchow at [email protected]. Refreshments and dance music will be available.
- Old Firehouse Luau Party — 4-7 p.m. at Old Firehouse Center (1440 Chain Bridge Rd.) — The Old Firehouse is combining its After 7 Dance Party with the 5th/6th Grader Luau Party. It will be a socially distanced start to summer with food, drinks, giveaways, prizes, and a DJ. Reservations are required, and tickets cost $10 for MCC District residents or $15 for non-district residents.
Saturday (June 5)
- Puppuccinos and Pawpurrazzi — 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Boro Park (8350 Broad St.) — Enjoy a cup of Allegro Coffee and a Curiosity Doughnut while your dog chows down on a treat while getting their caricature done. Post a picture of your pup on social media with the hashtag #TheBoroTysons for a chance to win two ShowPlace ICON Theatre tickets. Register for doggie playdate passes and caricature sessions.
Sunday (June 6)
- Master Class: Coaching the Shakespearean Monologue (Online) — 2-4 p.m. — From 1st Stage, award-winning performer Craig Wallace will host a Masters’ Class on how to finely home a Shakespearean monologue. Registration is required, and tickets are $35 per person.
Photo via David Thong Music/Facebook
Dog owners in McLean will soon have a new option for places to take care of their pets during the work day or while they’re on vacation.
The dog daycare and boarding facility Playful Pack announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will open its second location on Monday (May 10) at McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center at 6224 Old Dominion Drive.
The original Playful Pack opened in November 2019 in the Shoppes at Fairfax Station.
In addition to providing daycare and boarding services, the center works with the nonprofits Homeless Animals Rescue Team (HART) and Mutt Love Rescue to help find new homes for their foster dogs, according to the Playful Pack website.
Playful Pack co-owner Tyler Parker says he is eager to expand into McLean, where he and his family live and his daughters attend school.
“We are incredibly excited to open a location right here at home,” Parker said. “We want to be the best place for your dog to play and stay…We provide tours to prospective customers and DoggyCams which allow our customers to check in on their dogs and watch them play and interact with our awesome staff.”
Ahead of its official opening next week, Playful Pack McLean will host an open house on Saturday (May 8) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees can purchase a promotional package that will give them unlimited daycare for the first two weeks at $99.
The new facility will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week and will be staffed by 10 full and part-time employees.
Several positions are still available, according to a press release, which directs interested applicants to email [email protected].
Capital One Center opened registration this morning (Tuesday) for its upcoming “Pups & Pints” event, which will transform the McLean Metro station parking lot into a pop-up dog park with a beer garden, food trucks, and live music — amenities that will all be included in the sky park.
Pups & Pints will take place from noon to 7 p.m. on May 1, 2, 8, and 9. While the event is free, attendees are required to register in advance for two-hour time slots so organizers can control the site’s capacity, which will be limited based on Virginia’s COVID-19 public health guidelines.
Capital One Center Manager of Marketing and Community Affairs Meghan Trossen says the development decided to bring another pop-up event to the McLean Metro parking lot, which it owns, after the success of the drive-in movie series that it hosted last summer to support the nonprofit Second Story.
“I think a lot of people are looking at pop-ups or repurposing of parking lots as different ways to elevate and build a sense of place,” Trossen told Tysons Reporter. “I think Tysons has struggled with creating a brand and identity…and we really want to help with that mission and ensure that Tysons develops in a way that has a sense of community.”
According to Trossen, about 5,000 people attended the 12 drive-in movie screenings at Capital One Center. The development is expecting over 1,000 attendees over the four planned Pups & Pints days in May.
Like it did with the drive-in movies, Capital One Center is encouraging Pups & Pints visitors to donate to a nonprofit that it has partnered with for the event. In this case, proceeds will go to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, a nonprofit based in Arlington that rescues abandoned and neglected pets and helps them find new homes.
The event will also showcase local businesses that offer dog-related products or services, such as training schools, dog daycares, and stores that make dog treats or toys. There will be between four and six vendors each day, Trossen says.
“We’re really trying to focus on local small businesses or local nonprofits to try to elevate those,” Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said.
The emphasis on the local community will extend to the three food trucks that will change each day as well as the musical acts, which will all come from the D.C. area.
Pups & Pints will also feature a “Mutt Strutt” contest where dogs will compete on stage in front of a panel of judges. The first panel will consist of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, former Chairman Sharon Bulova, and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.
“I am honored and excited to serve as one of the “Mutt Strutt” Judges for Capital One Center’s Pups & Pints Program,” Palchik said by email. “…This is a perfect opportunity to bring our community together safely, to create active spaces, and to highlight the work of a non-profit in the greater Tysons community.”
As for the “pints” aspect of the event, the beer garden will be run by the same brewery that will operate The Perch Biergarten when it opens in July, though Griffith told Tysons Reporter last week that Capital One Center is not yet ready to announce who that tenant will be.
While Pups & Pints was designed as a sneak peek of The Perch, Griffith says Capital One Center sees events like this and last summer’s drive-in movies as essential to Fairfax County’s long-term goal of turning Tysons into “America’s Next Great City,” a place where people will want to live, not just work or shop.
“The event alone won’t stand on its own and radically transform Tysons overnight,” Griffith said. “But it’s through these types of events, these types of activations that we can show that Tysons is a community, that there is more than those two definitions of the mall and of the office that have historically been defining Tysons.”
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Monday (Mar. 22)
- Cherry Blossoms at The Boro — The cherry blossom installation is opening at The Boro (8350 Broad St). The vignettes will be up from Mar. 22 through Apr. 18. Sit and enjoy the spring weather, and snap a picture to join their social media campaign and a chance to win a gift card.
Wednesday (Mar. 24)
- (The) Unruly Theatre Project’s Virtual Improv Show (Online) — 7 p.m. — The McLean Community Center’s teen improv group is putting on its latest virtual performance. Registration is open up to two hours before the show. The Zoom link and password will be emailed to those who register. For more information, contact [email protected].
- Conversation with Tyler Cowen (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — The Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library hosts a virtual talk with economist Tyler Cowen, who will discuss “the insane stock market, future of jobs, arts going global, favorite books, local ethnic food and more.” Register in advance to receive a Zoom link to the event.
- Mystery Book Club (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library’s monthly mystery book club is meeting to discuss “Mystery in the Channel” by Freeman Wills Crofts. To get the Zoom link for this event email [email protected]
- Student Town Hall (Online) — 6:30-7:30 p.m. — Fairfax County School Board member Melanie Meren is hosting a town hall for students to ask her questions. Meren represents the Hunter Mill District, but the Q & A is open to all FCPS students. The theme of the town hall is “What can FCPS do to help you during these times?” Students are required to register ahead of the event to receive the Zoom link, and questions can be submitted through the registration form.
Thursday (Mar. 25)
- Ask Chair McKay (Online) — 10-11 a.m. — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will answer questions about everything from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to the county budget and Metro during a Twitter town hall. Questions can be submitted by using the hashtag #askChairMcKay.
- Falls Church Writers Group (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — This online group is for writers to share their work and receive constructive criticism. For more information or to request the Zoom link, email Pete Sullivan at [email protected].
Friday (Mar. 26)
- Family Fun Trivia Night (Online) — 7-9 p.m. — The McLean Community Center is hosting a family-friendly, virtual trivia night. Registration is required, and the price is $5 per team. There will be prizes for the winning teams.
- Vienna Theatre Company Production: Dear Elizabeth (Online) — 7:30 p.m. — Dear Elizabeth is the story of the famed correspondence between two of the 20th century’s top poets, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Live, virtual performances will also be available to view on Saturday (March 27) and April 2 and 3, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sunday (March 28) and April 3. Tickets are on sale now for $15. Questions call Lily Widman at 703-255-5738 or email [email protected]
- Mayor’s Walk — 9:30 a.m. at Vienna Town Hall (127 Center St S) — Meet Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert in front of Town Hall and take a walk through town. This is an opportunity to chat with Mayor Colbert or voice questions and concerns.
Saturday (Mar. 27)
- Doggie Playdate at The Boro — 11 a.m.-noon at The Boro Park (8350 Broad Street) — A pop-up springtime doggie playdate is happening at The Boro Park. Register for your pet to receive a floral bandana, doggie biscuits, and cherry blossom treats. If there is rain, the make-up day is March 28.
Photo via The Boro/Twitter
A house fire on Baton Drive in Vienna yesterday afternoon (Monday) might have turned into a tragedy, if not for the intervention of a few quick-thinking, canine-loving neighbors.
The blaze occurred between 4:30 and 5 p.m. on the 1900 block of Baton Drive, according to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Vienna Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Morrison confirmed to Tysons Reporter that units from his department also responded to the incident.
James Madison High School student Peyton Van Stone had just returned home from walking his family’s dog and was chatting outside with Ann Haines, a neighbor from across the street, when they noticed smoke issuing from a house a few doors down the road.
From there, Peyton says he stopped thinking and just acted.
“Me and [Haines] just ran up to the house to check it out and see what was happening, because it looked like there was a fire, or at least there was a lot of black smoke coming out,” he told Tysons Reporter this morning during a break in his online classes.
After another passerby called 9-1-1, Haines called the house’s resident, who is a friend since they often take their dogs on walks around the same time. She learned that no people were home, but their dog — a Rottweiler named Daisy — was inside in a crate.
Upon finding that the front door was locked, Peyton asked the next-door neighbors if they had a key before going around the back of the house and finding a way inside.
The fire had started outside the house near a detached garage, but it was spreading to the main structure by the time Peyton and Haines dashed upstairs to let Daisy out of her crate. Haines had a leash and was able to lead the dog outside, a feat made easier by Daisy’s familiarity with her.
After that, Peyton says fire trucks arrived to put out the blaze, and they later reunited Daisy with her owners.
“I’m glad everyone was okay,” Peyton said. “…I mean, I would hope someone would do the same for my dog, so I was just looking out for another neighbor, because that’s man’s best friend, a dog.”
While Peyton says he was too caught up in the moment to feel scared, his mother, Rebecca Van Stone, describes the ordeal as “surreal” and “very scary” to watch unfold. She recalls that the fire initially looked small, like smoke from a fire pit, before rapidly growing to the point where she worried it would spread to nearby trees and other houses.
“I just had thoughts of California, of these whole neighborhoods going up in smoke, and you could hear the crackling of fire,” Van Stone said.
Van Stone added that she’s proud of her son and Haines for acting quickly to help their neighbors. She was also impressed by the fire department’s response.
“They were very quick and efficient, I have to say, to save this woman’s house,” she said. “If it wasn’t for how quick they responded, the whole house would’ve been up in flames.”
According to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt, investigators determined that the fire was accidental in nature, sparked by spontaneous combustion from recently added mulch.
After starting in a mulch bed, the fire spread to the detached garage and the main house but was largely confined to the exterior of the building. It caused $25,000 in damages, but people and animals all got through the incident unscathed.
“We all made sure the owners weren’t home. To know they were safe was the biggest thing,” Haines said. “Then, we knew we could focus on Daisy.”
Photos by Rebecca Van Stone
The Fairfax County Park Authority is one step closer to planning for more dog parks in the county due to an increase in demand and the authority’s currently limited offerings.
The county recently completed a draft report of a dog park study that was initiated in 2019 and conducted by the FCPA and Fairfax County Park Foundation. A survey soliciting feedback for the study attracted more than 4,600 respondents.
“The purpose of the study was to assess needs and priorities for dog parks throughout the county, and to adopt strategies for long-term planning, development and management of dog parks,” FCPA wrote in a statement.
The report calls on FCPA to construct at least one dog park by 2025 to meet service needs in the area and to implement revised guidelines and standards for future dog parks. Survey respondents most sought a new dog park in the planning districts of Upper Potomac and Bull Run.
The study recommends creating future parks based on geographic distribution and the overall goal of 20-minute drive access throughout the county and 10-minute walking access in densely populated areas. The density of licensed dogs in a given area would also be considered.
The study does not recommend any changes to existing dog park rules or operating hours.
Volunteering could also become a stronger component of managing dog parks. The report suggests using volunteers to manage existing and future programs more efficiently.
A virtual meeting on the draft report is set for Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. A staff presentation on the findings and recommendations of the report will be followed by a public comment period.
Other recommendations related to operations and maintenance. While the county found that maintenance standards and practices are consistent with other jurisdictions, there is a need for more regular maintenance, particularly waste management.
The report also cites a need for more water sources, rule enforcement, and shade.