While many return-to-office plans have been put on hold, companies seeking to bring workers back in person might face a challenge of an unexpectedly furry nature: employees reluctant to leave the pets they acquired during the pandemic.
A new business, Connected Canine, aims to help businesses alleviate that potential conflict. It operates out of the coworking space Industrious (1660 International Drive, Suite 600) in Tysons as well as out of Boulder, Colorado.
“We provide an HR toolkit with resources such as a health and behavior assessment used to understand a dog’s history before inviting them into the office and hands-on support to make the process of establishing a dog friendly office as simple as possible,” Jeff Skalka, founder and CEO of Connected Canine, said in an email.
Skalka said the company provides largely free resources and employs a team of veterinarians, an architect, and human resources professionals who have found ways to ease the process.
“Once a company establishes their dog friendly office, we charge a low, variable fee based on the number of participating employees and dogs to provide software and other services,” he wrote. “For example, our software allows employees to schedule time to bring in their dog, take pictures of their dog’s vaccination records to ensure offices remain healthy and safe for everyone, and gives employers the ability to track who is bringing in a dog and how often and ensure only approved dogs are allowed onsite.”
Skalka formed Connected Canine in December after talking with friends and fellow dog owners who shared concerns about leaving their pets back at home when they returned to the office.
Over 11 million households acquired a pet during the pandemic, The Guardian reported, citing a survey by the American Pet Products Association.
“One thing companies really like is that our solutions are customized to their exact needs which we uncover through employee surveys and conversations with senior leaders,” Skalka wrote.
The surge in pet ownership coincided with the pandemic-prompted shift to remote work for office-based employees across the U.S., many of whom say they would quit rather than go back to the office.
Though some companies have shifted back to in-person work, telecommuting may continue to prevail, with research and consulting firm Gartner projecting that over half of U.S. workers will be remote in 2022.
Photo via Google Maps
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 (Oct. 5)
- “UNKNOWN” at Wolf Trap — 7:30 p.m. at The Barns (1635 Trap Road) — The opera company UrbanArias has prepared this collection of songs reflecting on military themes and honoring Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial that turns 100 years old this Veterans Day. Tickets start at $44 plus fees. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Wednesday (Oct. 6)
- “From the Heart: A Transgender Virginia’s Story” — 6:30 p.m. at McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — Ann Murdoch from Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau tells her story as a transgender woman and participates in a conversation with the audience. The event is free, but registration is required.
- Jim Messina with Wesley Dean at Wolf Trap — 8 p.m. at The Barns (1635 Trap Road) — The musician from supergroups like Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and Loggins & Messina will perform at the park Wednesday and Thursday, honoring previous purchases from showings that were canceled in January. Tickets start at $47 plus fees. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday (Oct. 7)
- “The Book of Mamaw” — 7:30 p.m. at The Boro (8350 Broad St.) in Tysons — 1st Stage kicks off a one-man show about an individual’s experiences growing up with his devout Church of Christ grandmother. Performances occur throughout October.
Friday (Oct. 8)
- New Legacy Blues: Outdoor Concert — 7 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. East) in Vienna — This D.C. band covers the greats from Cream to Elvis and more. Tickets are free, but Jammin Java asks guests seated at tables to adhere to its policy of purchasing at least two items.
Saturday (Oct. 9)
- Farm Day — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cherry Hill Park (312 Park Ave.) in Falls Church — Enjoy pony rides, pumpkin painting, live music, and more. Free to attend. Some activities require cash.
- Fairfax Symphony Orchestra presents Saint-Saëns & Beethoven — 8 p.m. at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons — Experience Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Cello Concerto No. 1” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7” at the FSO’s season-opening concert. Tickets start at $25 plus fee, and seating will be socially distanced.
- McLean Pet Fest — 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd.) — Have your pet or pets participate in a parade, check out an agility course and enjoy the other festivities.
The holiday season is here, but it will look a little different this year as communities try to create a festive environment while following public health guidelines for reducing the possible spread of COVID-19.
Starting this week, The Boro in Tysons (8350 Broad St.) will celebrate the holidays throughout December with a series of public events for all ages:
- Festive Art Installation (Dec. 1-27) — The Boro Park will feature a variety of art, including gift boxes, festive cutouts, and holiday lights. Guests are encouraged to post their photos on social media and tag @theborotysons to be entered in a weekly raffle for a swag bag with items from local retailers.
- Elves at The Boro Scavenger Hunt (Dec. 1-28) — Hidden elves will be spread out across The Boro all month long. People who find a hidden elf and post a photo of the elf on social media while tagging @theborotysons will automatically win a $5 Flower Child gift card. They will also be entered into a weekly raffle.
- Make & Take Holiday Crafting with Paper Source (Dec. 2-16, 5-7 p.m.) — For $10, guests can obtain kits for seasonal crafts kits such as paper wreaths and 2D globes. The kits include all required materials as well as a $10 gift card to Paper Source. Those who wish to participate can sign up through this link.
- The Boro Howliday Series (Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. and Dec. 12 at 11 a.m.) — Guests and their pets can visit The Boro Park’s pop-up dog zone for fun events and treats for both humans and pets. This event is free, but preregistration is required. To register, use this link.
All events will practice social distancing, and guests 5 or older are required to wear a face covering. The Boro says there will also be sanitation measures taken at each event.
For more information about The Boro’s schedule for this holiday season, visit the company’s website.
Photo via The Boro Tysons/Facebook
Updated at 9:30 a.m. on 11/4/2020 — 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 (Nov. 3)
- Election Day — 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — A seat on the Falls Church City Council is being contested, along with the U.S. presidential and Congressional races. To find your polling location, use this link. Voters must be in line by 7 p.m. to vote. Voters must also wear a face covering inside the polling locations.
Wednesday (Nov. 4)
- Basket Weaving Crafternoon (Online) — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will go live on its Facebook page to discuss basketry from cultures around the world, the website said. Participants can pick up Grab and Go Kits until Tuesday (Nov. 3) while supplies last at the library at 120 N. Virginia Ave.
Thursday (Nov. 5)
- The New Yorker Book Discussion Group (Online) — 2-3 p.m. — Falls Church’s The New Yorker Discussion Group meets on the first Thursday of every month. This month, the group will meet via Zoom to discuss The Political Scene: The After Party by Nicholas Leamann. Email Pete Sullivan, [email protected], to request the Zoom link.
- Author Book Discussion (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — Falls Church City is also hosting an online talk with author Ilya Sharpio, who will discuss his recent book Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court via Zoom. Email Marshall Webster, [email protected], to request the Zoom link.
Friday (Nov. 6)
- Meet the Mayor — Meet and chat with Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert on a topic of your choosing on the first Friday each month at various times and locations around Town, the website said. This month’s meeting will take place at Meadow Lane Park from 9-10:30 a.m.
Sunday (Nov. 8)
- Pet Adoption Event — 12-3 p.m. at Chico’s Natural Pet Market (6349 A Columbia Pike) — The store will host an adoption event for its pets. Potential adopters can meet dogs who are searching for their new families, hear their stories, and talk with our volunteers who will be happy to answer your questions, the website said.
Photo via Chico’s Natural Pet Market/Facebook
Two weeks into Northern Virginia’s reopening under Phase 2, veterinary offices are still seeing a steady stream of the new pets in need of routine care.
“We’ve definitely noticed a lot of people adopting pets,” said Sarah Angermeier, a veterinary assistant and receptionist at the Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital. “It’s a blessing. We have so many puppies right now.”
Angermeier mentioned that appointments are filling up to a week-and-a-half in advance.
“We book up so fast now,” she said, adding that the dogs are more rambunctious after being stuck at home for weeks.
The Vienna Animal Hospital has also noticed similar trends. They reported that the number of appointments and the number of people adopting pets have “skyrocketed.”
In the spring during the strictest point of the coronavirus stay-at-home order, pets were the big winners as people rushed to get stay-at-home companions. Places like Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church have seen a large increase in cat and dog adoptions — compared to April 2019, adoptions went up about 60% in late April of this year, according to Lost Dog.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, one of the leading organizations providing guidance to veterinarian practices, precautionary strategies — like the ones in Northern Virginia — are making visits safer.
“Veterinary practices have made tremendous changes to ensure patients continue to receive essential veterinary care and new safety measures are implemented to protect team members and clients,” said the AVMA in an April 2020 survey of U. S. veterinarians.
The Vienna Animal Hospital, for example, has taken added precautionary measures such as increased sanitation; requiring masks and gloves; and making a switch to curbside appointments to decrease contact. Currently, owners are not allowed in the building.
Similarly, the Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital has been using teleconferencing to hold appointments. Owners drive their pets to the practice and wait in their cars, talking on the phone with doctors while the pets are cared for inside.
However, as of a week ago at Oakton-Vienna, one owner at a time is allowed inside the building with their pet. In addition, the practice has crews deep-cleaning the hospital.
According to the AVMA survey, other adjustments include contactless payment processing, taking patient history by phone or virtually and drive-thru pick up and drop off. About 30% of veterinary practices are using telemedicine and close to 20% of practices were only seeing emergency-related cases at the time of the survey.
The Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital began using teleconferencing on March 2. “It was definitely an adapting period,” said Angermeier.
Cristal Wheeler, the office manager of the Animal Dental Clinic in Vienna, says that their office is also following a variety of new protocols.
“We’ve extended our cleanup after every patient to include where clients are sitting and touching,” said Wheeler. She mentioned handles and doors are high contact surfaces that are receiving extra sanitation.
As practices continue to pivot with the changing coronavirus pandemic, offices like Oakton-Vienna are staying focused on the mission — serving customers and taking care of pets.
“We’ve gotten thank-you notes for staying open during COVID. We’ve had a lot of really really grateful people.”
Photos via Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital/Facebook
Once a week, Jayesh Edwards, a high school student in McLean, lathers up his pet hedgehog with unscented soap for babies. He uses a toothbrush to clean her quills, bathing her in lukewarm water in a sink.
“Her stomach is like fur, and you brush it all over. She really likes it,” Edwards told Tysons Reporter. “It’s like she’s getting massaged.”
Outside of bath time, Serena Quilliams — a twist on the famous tennis player’s name — can be found munching on her favorite treat of carrots or sleeping in Edwards’ sweatshirt pocket.
“Hedgehogs are normally [the size of] a soda can,” Edwards said. “She’s like 1.5 soda cans. She’s pretty big.”
She is now one of several pet hedgehogs in Fairfax County after the Board of Supervisors approved legalizing them — along with chinchillas and hermit crabs — as pets in January 2019. The City of Falls Church followed shortly after, allowing pet hedgehogs as of last June.
Hedgehog legalization in both the county and the city followed prickly debates focused on their high levels of maintenance as nocturnal animals — like requiring a room temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent hibernation, according to the Hedgehog Welfare Society.
Members of the county’s Animal Services Advisory Commission and Humane Society, along with Falls Church’s animal warden and police chief, argued against pet hedgehogs, calling them expensive pets that are challenging to care for and expressing concern that legalization could fuel the exotic pet trade.
“We’re going to open up our city to invasive species again,” Rebecca Keenan, the animal warden for the city, told city officials last June.
There’s also the health concern: hedgehogs can spread salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pet hedgehog advocates were quick to point out that cats, dogs, frogs, hamsters and many other animals can also carry the bacteria.
The salmonella concerns weren’t a surprise to Edwards, because he’s had a monitor lizard for nearly a decade and a turtle for the last three years. “My mom is allergic to dogs,” he said. “Hedgehogs don’t shed.”
Edwards said he was “really upset” when he found out in sixth grade that the county didn’t allow the exotic animals as pets. Undeterred, he decided to push for legalization by writing to and meeting with Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
“I did so much research. I was kind of prepared for anything,” Edwards said.
In January 2019, Edwards, who was then a Longfellow Middle School student, shared his extensive research by testifying before the Board of Supervisors.
He shared how hedgehogs — like his monitor lizard — require heat lamps and a specific temperature range. They can spread salmonella but the risk isn’t higher than many other pets, he said.
“Another thing is that they fight, but if you had done any research on owning a hedgehog, you would know that you don’t keep them in pairs, because they fight,” Edwards said, adding: “And if you don’t want baby hedgehogs, you would definitely not keep a male and a female hedgehog together.” The board erupted in chuckles.
Later that day, the board approved the legalization.
“As soon they allowed hedgehogs in Fairfax, we sort of jumped on it,” Mindy Thomas, a Fairfax County resident, told Tysons Reporter.
Earlier this spring, her 12-year-old son Rhett finally got his hedgehog, which he named Band-Aid. “He’s a lazy, fat boy,” he said.
Like Edwards, Thomas said he did his research and was prepared for Band-Aid’s night-time activity — “I’m a really sound sleeper [so] he doesn’t bother me too much” — but still had some surprises.
“The thing about hedgehogs is, a lot of videos say that the quills — you get used to them, which you do,” Thomas said. “They are pokey.”
And then there’s Band-Aid’s love of scrambled eggs without salt, in addition to his regular diet of cat food, which his cat Lucy tries to steal, along with mealworms as treats. The food’s exit looks “like little jelly beans,” he added.
The Thomases and Band-Aid inspired another Fairfax County family to become “hedgie” parents, with 17-year-old Steven Eckloff’s detailed 20-page PowerPoint winning his parents over to the idea.
Eckloff got his hedgehog Ollie on March 28 — two days before Gov. Ralph Northam announced the stay-at-home order due the pandemic.
To maximize his time with Ollie, Eckloff has adjusted his hours — waking up around 11 a.m. to stay awake later and then going to bed around 2-3 a.m. “I hear the little pattering of his feet when he’s running on the wheel at night,” he said, adding that Ollie likes to play with toilet paper rolls.
Since a ban was placed in the 1990s on the importation of wild-caught African pygmy hedgehogs — the most common type of hedgehog pet — to the U.S., prospective owners have to find their pets at breeders or shelters.
Many of the websites for hedgehog breeders in Northern Virginia that Tysons Reporter viewed included resources and guides for how to keep the pets safe.
Riddle’s Hedgehogs, a small to mid-scale breeder in Frederick County, asks for people’s addresses when they fill out their online applications and Christie Riddle told Tysons Reporter that she has caught people trying to skirt the law.
“Unfortunately, a couple of times I have had potential adoptees fill in an invalid address and go through the entire adoption process, arrive to pick up the hedgehog, only then to find out that a driver’s license is required to pick up the hedgehog,” Riddle said.
Riddle tells people she cannot sell to them if pet hedgehogs are not legal in their area, noting that appropriate veterinary care is often hard to find in those areas.
Additionally, Riddle screens applicants for certain warning signs.
“As a breeder, I look for red flags such as if it is intended for a young child,” Riddle said. “Hedgehogs are difficult for young children to handle. I look for stable homes that can care for a hedgehog long-term.”
“It is not a starter pet,” Caitlyn Maltese told Tysons Reporter, adding that she’s seen a lot of pet hedgehogs gaining traction on TikTok. “The most important thing for me is that people don’t get them unless they know what they are walking into.”
Maltese shared the less glamorous side of hedgehog ownership: a dirty wheel that she cleans daily, spending at least 30 minutes socializing them every day so they don’t get grumpy and a possible hefty price tag for care.
Maltese, who is part of a Facebook support group for hedgehog owners, said she’s “seen some horrific stuff” including rotting feet and stories of abandonment.
“It is not a starter pet,” Maltese said, adding that she researched extensively before deciding to become an owner.
She was living in Maryland when she got Albus, but then moved to the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County right after the legalization, landing a shorter commute to her job in Alexandria.
Albus is “a complete sweetheart” and “very well socialized,” Maltese said. Unfortunately, he’s had a variety of health issues from teeth falling out that required Maltese to grind up his food to heart disease that meant she had to syringe feed him medication.
When she recently took him to the Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services in Fairfax, COVID-19 precautions prompted a new drive-thru service where staff brought Albus into and out of the facility while Maltese waited in the car.
Maltese, who has hedgehog insurance, said that the medical bills have reached hundreds of dollars. Through the highs and lows, she insists Albus is completely worth it.
“He’s like my first child,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of other pets, but he’s the one that has required so much… They are such wonderful creatures to have.”
Maltese added that she loves that he’s nocturnal because he’ll cuddle with her while she works during the day. “He’ll squeak when he’s dreaming.”
Maltese found a community of fellow hedgie parents on Facebook and also through her Instagram account for him. She’s also met people at Hedgie-Con, an annual convention for hedgehog owners in the U.S. and Canada.
“They were amazed by how friendly he was,” Maltese said about her Hedgie-Con 2019 experience. “It’s super nerdy.”
Albus walked away with 1st place in adult standard males and reserve grand champion of adult males. “He’s an award-winning hedgehog,” his proud mom noted.
One of the central arguments against hedgehog ownership was a concern about people struggling to care for their pets, leading to abandonment and surrenders.
Since Fairfax County legalized them, the county’s Animal Protection Police haven’t received any reports of abandonment. The one request to surrender ended up with getting the hedgehog re-homed so it never went to the shelter, according to information provided through Police Spokesperson Erica Webb.
Webb said that the Animal Protection Police did not have information to share regarding whether pet hedgehogs are affecting the exotic pet trade.
Neighboring counties have had similar experiences. “We have not had any hedgehogs come in, nor have we had any calls about them this year,” Talia Czapski with Loudoun County Animal Services told Tysons Reporter.
Chelsea Jones with Animal Welfare League of Arlington said they’ve only taken in one hedgehog during the last five years. “They are not surrendered to us very often at all,” Jones said.
Riddle said that Fairfax County’s legalization has boosted her business as a breeder.
“Demand has been greater in the past year, partly due to more interest from Fairfax County and also partly due to growing interest in general in having hedgehogs as pets,” Riddle wrote in an email. Riddle said the average cost of her hedgehogs, which can vary based on colors and sex, is $250.
Riddle said that the increase caused her to cut off her waiting list, which had 12 people as of late April. “Over the past year, 12.5% of my hedgehog adoptions have been from Fairfax County,” she said.
It’s unclear if hedgehog breeders are seeing the same uptick in adoptions like for cats and dogs due to people wanting furry companionship during the coronavirus pandemic. While the owners Tysons Reporter talked to said they like having hedgehog pets, the hedgehogs seem to have mixed feelings about their owners being home constantly.
“He’s definitely getting annoyed that I’m always around,” Thomas, who is doing online learning at home, said. Now, instead of cuddle time in the evening, he’s taking Band-Aid out of his cage several times a day and for longer periods of time.
Now that Edwards, the McLean student, has Serena Quilliams, she doesn’t socialize with the other pets. “The lizard would definitely attack her and probably get impaled,” Edwards said. “It wouldn’t go well.”
Overall, Edwards thinks pet hedgehogs are ideal pandemic buddies. “I hang out with her a lot,” he said. “She’ll play when you want to play.”
His assessment: “They are good pets.”
A local animal rescue group has turned to online resources and bringing in animals from outside Northern Virginia to keep up with the rising adoption demand.
The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church almost closed when the pandemic hit the Northern Virginia area but decided to stay open under the guidance of its co-founder Pam McAlwee, according to Kim Williams, one of the foundation’s volunteers.
Over the last few weeks, the organization saw a large increase in cat and dog adoptions, Williams said, adding that compared to April 2019, adoptions are up about 60%.
“It’s unlike anything anyone could have ever predicted,” she said.
When the pandemic first hit, Williams said she was concerned because “everything came to a screeching halt.”
The local pet supply stores, which usually would co-host adoption events with Lost Dog, halted their events, and people could no longer meet potential fosters in-person due to health concerns.
But that didn’t stop the foundation from continuing to help furry friends find homes.
Through Zoom appointments and phone consultation, three main volunteers ended up “working around the clock” to process roughly 300 pet inquires and match animals with homes in the first few weeks when people started staying home, Williams said.
“All of a sudden they became Match.com overnight,” she said.
In April alone, the organization took in roughly 370 dogs, according to Williams.
When finding homes for the animals, the volunteers consider a variety of factors, including the age of an animal, preexisting medical conditions, the size of the pet and household factors like children or the presence of a yard, Williams said.
Despite the time-consuming process of matching an animal to an owner, Williams said the team created spreadsheets and even worked to find adopters and fosters for animals that require special care and attention — like Grey, a pup who spent more than 500 days in Lost Dog’s shelter and loves to eat everything in his site — including furniture.
One upside to the pandemic is that people are spending extra time with their foster animals and discovering triggers and solutions for misbehavior that would otherwise cause incompatibility issues, Williams said.
Because many of the animals from the Northern Virginia area have either been adopted or placed in a foster home, the shelter is bringing in roughly 70 animals per week from places such as Puerto Rico, Mississippi and Southern Virginia — all areas with a large number of stray animals. Williams said that a local vet in Mississippi told her that the area was a “dumping ground” for animals.
Though adoptions and fosters have increased over the last few weeks, Williams said it isn’t cheap to rescue animals from across state lines.
Before an animal can be sent to foster homes or be adopted, the shelter has to pay somewhere between $125-$170 in fees depending on the size of animals to take them over state lines. That’s on top of all of the medical expenses to ensure they are healthy.
Thanks to thousands of dollars in donations from an anonymous donor and a partnership with a nearby animal hospital, the shelter has managed to keep up with demand, Williams said.
The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation prides itself on its ethics, according to Williams. “We never discriminate based on age, breed or health conditions,” she said, adding that they will take in any dog or cat in need of care.
Anyone interested in fostering an animal or adopting can check out the foundation’s website.
Photos courtesy Kim Williams Photography
Happy Friday! In our last installment this week of reader-submitted pet photos, we have lots of adorable pictures of cozy cats and dogs.
Several people sent in pictures of their pets sleeping or getting comfy in bed.
At least one pooch is eagerly awaiting football season this fall.
Check out the gallery above and revisit the ones from earlier this week. Thank you to everyone who submitted photos!
One more cat photo:
— Cyber Candide (@CyberCandide) April 4, 2020
Local pets are hanging out with their owners more as they follow Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order.
Yesterday, we shared some of the many photos we’ve received from local residents of their pets. We’ll continue to highlight pet photos through Friday.
Several pet parents sent in pictures of their dogs and cats wearing everything from hats to bowties.
Check out the gallery above and come back tomorrow for more photos on our website.
Happy Hump Day! People around Tysons have some adorable furry friends keeping them company while they stay inside to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Tysons Reporter received a ton of submissions after soliciting photos of pets, so we’re publishing some today, more tomorrow and the rest on Friday.
Several dog parents sent in pictures of their pups lounging around and getting fresh air outside.
We also got photo submissions of some feline friends — including one that has decided to be the Easter Bunny.
Check out the gallery above and come back tomorrow for more photos on our website. Have a photo you want to submit? We’re still taking submissions (note: horizontal photos are preferred).