Dog Walking To Be Banned at Rock Creek Church Cemetery

by Prince Of Petworth May 17, 2011 at 10:00 am 84 Comments

“Dear PoP,

A “No Dog Walking” sign went up in Rock Creek Cemetery sometime in the past week (I noticed it on Saturday). I fear that folks may have been taking advantage of the cemetery – allowing their dogs to go off leash or not cleaning up after them, but I’m really sad to lose my favorite dog walking locale. I wonder if you knew any more about it, or who I could email at the church to politely request that they rethink their decision.”

Another reader wonders if the ban might be related to the recent theft of bronze sculptures or a school coming to the grounds.

I know it may sound strange to people not familiar with the cemetery but this has long been a spot for people to take their dogs. Anyone know if folks take dogs to Congressional Cemetery?

Rock Creek Church Cemetery is located at Rock Creek Church Rd and Webster St, NW, near the Old Soldiers Home grounds.

  • GROSS!

    There is just something not right about Dogs doing their business in cememtaries – whether the owners scoop or not.

    Show a little respect for the dead and for the mourners.

    Go find another place.

    • Anony


      Seriously, have some respect people.

    • Melissa Gilbert

      There is something not right about Frankie James being always so overly opinionated. There is nothing right about the name “Frankie James”.

      • Divine


    • PetHeights

      +10,OOO. I just don’t think that’s right. If a cemetery became a human rest area, w/ port-a-potties scattered amongst the graves, people would think it was weird. But somehow it’s ok b/c it’s dogs. I like dogs a lot, but I think sometimes dog owners go too far.

      • Emmaleigh504


      • me

        Yup. I wouldn’t be happy if I were to visit a grave and saw a dog taking a crap on it, even if the owner picked it up. There are plenty of other places to walk your pet around the city.

      • inwdc


      • inwdc


      • Anonymous

        its kinda like how smokers are allowed to litter.

        • Kalorini

          + another million. SO TRUE

        • anon


      • spookiness

        Glad to finally see some pushback about dogs in public space.

    • Justine

      I agree with you Frankie. I grew up in the neighborhood back in the 70’s. I never seen anyone walking dogs in Rock Creek Cemetery back in the day. What’s up with people and their dogs today?

      • CREEPY and RUDE if you ask me. I have a little dog I walk all over – but not in a cemetary.

        I guess I just feel for the mourner mostly. It must be kinda like that idiot Phelps and his church people.

        There are just some things you should not do in a cemetery.

        • Carrie

          There are almost never mourners in the cemetery – and it’s really big, so it’s easy to give someone a really wide berth. I think people are respectful of other folks space. Also, I have seen mourners who brought their dogs. Not for funerals, but to visit the grave. To some folks, dogs are part of the family.

          • So I guess you “almost never” insult someone there.

            Dogs family who have pasted with their owner is twisted difference.

            You will not win me over with this one.


          • Carrie

            Well, I would certainly have insulted you, and for that I apologize. But I don’t find dog walking in cemetery offensive, and I didn’t before I owned a dog either. And lots of other folks don’t either. It may be a “that’s just how I was raised” thing, but we weren’t all raised the same way.

            And I can’t believe that the cemetery is banning dog walking now, because they find it “offensive”, because it was specifically allowed before (with signs that asked you to keep your pet on a leash, and clean up after them). I feel like something must have happened to make the church change it’s policy and my personal belief is that that change was more likely because something happened than because there was some sudden philosophical change in the way the church views dogs.) And THAT is what I am interested in knowing – did something happen? If so, is there anything that the folks who walk dogs in the cemetery can do to make it better?

            I’m not trying to “win anyone over”. We feel differently. That’s okay. I was really trying to get more information about the decision.

          • So what about at Arlington Cemetery – should it be allowed there?

          • the totten.

            Don’t waste your breath, Carrie. Trying to reason with someone who seems to have the sole desire to add ire to this thread is really a futile cause.

            Whether or not cemeteries, in general, should allow dogs is not the point of the post. The point of the note was to inquire about the *change in policy* of this particular cemetery.

            The question is a good one and is completely unrelated to Frankie James’s response and his/her anger issues. Too bad the thread got hijacked. :(

    • Public good

      Never been to Rock Creek Cemetary, but I’ll need to be sure to bring my dog before June 1. We go to the Congressional Cemetary regularly and he loves it. Also I feel that we are doing a public service by being a customer of the cemetary.

      Before they allowed dog walkers into the cemetary the place was a hotspot for dealers and other criminal activity. Now that several people frequent the spot it has a self policing effect. Also my dues helps with the maintanance of the historic cemetary.

  • rockcreek

    Anyone know if folks take dogs to Congressional Cemetery?

    This falls under “common local knowledge that a blogger paying his bills with a DC blog should know”, but yes:


    • Steve

      Yo, Pretty harsh rockcreek, note this is a Dear POP note not POP himself. I am prettys ure he knows Congressional Cemetary is open to dog walkers and has posted about it in the past (http://www.princeofpetworth.com/2009/11/very-delayed-photo-contest-entry/). Was he remiss in not ansering the reader’s question? Perhaps, but your pompus critism is off base.

      • textdoc

        Rockcreek’s response did seem a bit harsh to me… but the query about Congressional Cemetery came _after_ the quotation marks. So it did come from PoP, not from the reader.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Thanks Steve. Though, I did ask the question about Congressional. I was 90% sure that folks could walk their dogs but I knew somebody would know for sure pretty quickly. (I forgot about that caption contest!) It’s actually one of the blog’s greatest strengths – collective knowledge.

        I don’t mind getting lectured a few times by folks if it makes them feel better.

        Thanks for having my back though!

      • GDopplerXT

        I believe the question about Congressional Cemetery was from PoP, not the letter writer.

        Still, a bit harsh from rockcreek, but at least they answered the question too.

      • TaylorStreetMan

        Actually, it was not part of the Dear PoP post. PoP asked it.

        But, yes, no need to be so harsh, rockcreek.

        I also agree that there are better places to have your dog poop than on graves or near mourners. I personally don’t care if you dance on my grave, stomping in your dog’s poop for the whole jig, but out of respect for people who care about these things, maybe it’s best to find some place else?

        • rockcreek

          OK – duly noted … and yeah, it was a little smug: I apologize.

          I do think PoP would be more useful if answers to basic questions were either taken care of pre-post w/a little research, though – whether it is or not, the # of basic
          facts that get teased out of readers here comes across as click trolling.

          Everybody is awash in info – making the posts here authoritative and well-researched from the get go makes them more useful to everyone.

  • mca

    Tons of people take their dogs to Cong Cem. They have a website: http://www.cemeterydogs.org/about-us.

    however, it is a haul from NW to get there.

    I am saddened to see them close the cemetery to dogs, I go there frequently. And yes I am one of those people who let them of their leash, but she never strayed far from me and I always picked up after her.

    • greent


      me too. It was a wonderful place to walk, and give her a bit of space off leash. Oh well.

      It’s bad for people to walk dogs in a cemetary? Why? The dead don’t seem to mind.

      • inwdc

        I think common-sense (or in this case, uncommon) might suggest allowing your dog to piss and defecate on someone’s grave is pretty tasteless. How would you feel if I took my big dog and let it take a big ol’ dump right on your grandma’s grave? I’d surely scoop it up, but I bet your wouldn’t feel too thrilled at the sight of my big dog essentially taking a crap on your grandma’s face (unless she was into that sorta thing).

        • Anonymous

          I, for one, really wouldn’t care. Honestly. It’s a stone with a name on it above a wooden box that I never, ever plan to dig up and open. (And everybody in my family is buried on the same plot, so the dog really would be pissing on my entire family, which still doesn’t change my calculus.)

      • me

        But just because you have a certain view about the dead not knowing about what goes on around their grave doesn’t mean that while they were alive, they or their families held the belief that they DO know what happens after they’ve passed. It’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people, and while I even agree that I think once you’re gone, you’re gone, I think that people should respect what others may think about it.

      • Carrie

        I’m sort of surprised that commenters seem to assume that walking your dog in a cemetery = “taking a crap” on someone’s grave. Perhaps folks haven’t been to Rock Creek Cemetery, but it’s very big and includes a good amount of green space without graves. I have walked my dog in the cemetery most weekends since I moved to the neighborhood and never once has he done his business one or near anyone’s grave.

        One of the things that I really always liked about Rock Creek cemetery is that it is really quiet, reflective, but living community space – folks jogging, walking dogs, learning to drive, being “tourists” (I’ve been stopped a few times for directions to the Clover Adams memorial). The Victorians had a notion of cemeteries being like parks – a place to go and spend time outdoors, a place to have a picnic, and I like that notion. I like the idea that when I am gone there could be a space that I am providing that is enjoyed by people I don’t even know. But perhaps that’s a romantic notion of a cemetery.

        • Anonymous


        • caballero

          I agree. I was going to start taking my dog there on the weekends, and I didn’t intend for him to start making a mess on the graves.

          That said, an inner-city cemetary (or any cemetary, for that matter) is going to have human and non-human visitors who don’t treat the space like a morgue or a mausoleum. Are you going to prevent the wind from blowing and the sun from shining on the graves? Life goes on, a cemetary is a fine space for humans and their animal companions to walk and even socialize.

          If the dead can’t handle all that activity six feet above them, their family should have put them elsewhere.

          • inwdc

            A cemetery does not equal a park. And as another commenter said, this is private land so they have every right to implement any restrictions they want. That being said, I feel it should be visited and used as a space for all. Sadly though, there are a lot of people who won’t respect the space properly — they may at first, but then as time goes on people tend to become lax and my guess is they’ll probably start viewing the space more as park than a burial ground. It becomes a slippery slope.

        • Anonymous

          you’re still free to all those things you mentioned, save bringing your dog along. all of that on someone else’s property. still seems romantic and generous to me.

  • ilovelulu

    You have to be a member of the Congressional Cemetery K9 corp to walk your dog there.
    To be a member of the K9 corp, you have to make a donation ($200)to the cemetery and pay a membership fee ($50), AND donate time to clean up the cemetery. Some periods of time the cemetery is off limits for dog visits. Most people obey the rules, but there is always the jerks who visit during Easter, or don’t pick up their pup’s poop.

    • Anonymous

      This, to me, is a great solution. Allow the use but don’t let the dog owners externalize the additional costs they put on the public space. There will always be jerks — with pets or without — but most dog-owners I know are very sensitive about limiting the impact their pooches have on others.

  • PetworthRes

    This is really a shame – if anything, Rock Creek Church Cemetery should be encouraging neighbors to come walk in the cemetery and use it as a park. They have huge problems with petty vandalism and theft – I think having recreational uses of the cemetery for neighbors would mean there are more eyes out watching their property.

    I do think their decision is tied to the recent thefts, which is ridiculous. They need security cameras at every exit where you can drive a vehicle out of the cemetery so people can’t just drive off with a 10 ft tall $75,000 sculpture. And they need to secure the fences next to the public housing – kids are cutting holes in the fence and coming in and walking off with whatever they want, plus breaking into buildings, stealing placques off gravestones, breaking spigots everywhere, etc. They have cut way back on their security there trying to save money and are really paying the price.

    • Phyllis

      How dare a cemetery not have recreational use!

      • Laurie

        It’s not like that! It’s not like there’s soccer and volleyball.

        It’s a beautiful peaceful place to walk, jog, and think. I don’t see why that should be denied to the community that lives nearby.

        • It is private property right? That is why the community is denied.

          Beside, your dog walk and reflective moment is another family picnic and soccer game.

          It just seem very strange to me, despite what the Victorian’s had in mind.

          • Justine

            @Frankie; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I was raised to show respect for the dead’s resting place. Common sense should tell people, a cemetery is not a place to walk dogs. It’s a resting place for the dead.

      • victoria

        How dare recreational land be wasted on bone storage!

  • Laurie

    This is a huge disappointment and I don’t think a very smart move by the cemetery. I love to walk my dog there occasionally. We stay on the paths, I keep him leashed and away from graves, and always pick up after him.

    IMHO the more people there to keep an eye on things the better. If they are concerned about theft and vandalism, banning dog walkers will not help anything.

    • PetworthRes

      +1 totally agree!

      BTW, this cemetery is very much like a park. We go walking there all the time, it’s full of beautiful flowers and interesting statues, huge old trees, a waterlily pond, etc. A great place to walk around and explore.

  • o2bncdg

    I have to politely disagree with those who believe that the cemetery should only be used as the resting place for the deceased. Although I’m authorized to “go” into Arlington Cemetery, I prefer that I “go” into Congressional. Two reasons: (1) I walked my dog here for years, cleaned up after them and picked up other trash, and met nice people and other dogs. It’s a “living” cemetery in that regard and I don’t want to be all lonely in a secluded place. And (2) my partner can’t join me in Arlington (well, at least not until DOMA is rescinded or found unconstitutional). I want him with me to enjoy all the fun!

    • o2bncdg

      Oh, oh – – I forgot – – the dues from the dog walkers at Congressional make up a huge percentage of the upkeep of the grounds, restoration of markers and monuments, and provide assistance to docents who give the occassional tours.

  • Anon

    Are we allowed to hunt on Rock Creek Cemetery to prevent all animals from relieving themselves?

    You guys are so bothered by a dog peeing that I assume that a robin peeing on sacred ground is equally disheartening?

    • inwdc

      Fair argument. I think most people’s beef about this probably would be with those select dog-walkers who think it’s alright to have their dogs crap on someone’s grave-site – those who don’t try to guide the dog to an area that’s clearly not a grave-site. My guess is most dog owners respect that, but there are irresponsible owners who don’t. Sadly, they ruin it for all due to their negligence and blatant stupidity.

  • WDC

    I don’t have a dog in this fight (literally), but I like the idea of using cemeteries recreationally, especially in a city where greenspace is limited.

    If I were to be buried in the ground (which is itself a selfish act) I would be rather pleased to think that my “resting place” would be a space for the living to enjoy themselves, with dogs, kids, and kickball.

    • Anon

      Completely agree.

      We’re not going to get any more land, we need to use what we have in the most efficient way.

    • lolabolt


      I am from Pittsburgh and there is one huge cemetery there that has been used recreationally historically. It’s not only a place to bury the dead, but people have always walked there (with or without dogs) and even had picnics and larger gatherings/reunions there. I agree that in an urban setting it only makes sense to make use of available greenspace for residents to enjoy themselves, even if it is in a cemetery.

    • Anony

      Totally agree with this.

    • Anonymous

      one mans selfish is another mans religious belief.

  • victoria

    Is all poop on graves offensive? If so you need to screen over the entire cemetery to keep rats, birds, squirrels, racoons, opossums, foxes etc. out. If not then why is dog poop different – especially as all decent people pick it up and all rotten people are not going to be deterred by a sign anyway?

    I understand someone might be offended to see someone’s lab actually pissing on a tombstone – but otherwise the “disrespectful” argument is not logically consistent.

    • Denizen of Tenallytown

      Are you intentionally being obtuse? By your logic, people could drop trou and squat on the lawn, so long as it’s cleaned up afterwards.

  • Anon

    Also, to compare it to Arlington Cemetery is preposterous. Arlington Cemetery is more than just a place people are buried. It is a symbol of our nation’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of families and servicemen and women. It is sacred and, in my opinion, shouldnt be used for any sort of recreation, except leisurely walks and running. No bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, ball playing, loud voices, or picnics.

    Other cemeteries are places where family and friends can go and remember loved ones, but its definitely not the same. As long as the area is kept clean and dog turds are not sitting on plots, I see no reason anyone has to object.

  • ET

    In some respects the banding together of dog owners at Congressional increased attention/interest to the, at the time, very troubled cemetery. But the situation at Congressional is controlled and there is heavy peer pressure so I haven’t heard of problems bubbling over.

    Obviously, the authorities at Rock Creek were finding this situation a problem. Since at this point there seem to be no reasons it is hard to determine if this was a “good” thing or an overreaction.

  • Tim

    I have trouble seeing how this could be related to security concerns. In the 5 or so years we’ve had our dog we have met so many good people walking their dogs and I feel strongly that our presence in the cemetery (in parts where I rarely see non-dog walkers) add a level of security. When you remove citizens from the cemetery you must now rely on your own security measures.

    Not only have I never seen a dog owner not clean up after their pet in the cemetery, I have often seen dog owners picking up other trash in the cemetery and carrying it to the trash cans. Many (if not all) of us take great pride in the cemetery and consider it an important part of our neighborhood.

    Cemeteries (particularly urban) have a long history of being designed to provide park space for urban communities (http://cityparksblog.org/2010/12/01/turning-cemeteries-for-the-dead-into-parks-for-the-living/). This may seem odd if you’re not used to it, but they were really meant to be enjoyed by the living and not meant to be walled off from the community.

  • Tim

    A cemetery does equal a park according to the church. http://www.rockcreekparish.org/pages/Our_Cemetery:_History

    • PetworthRes

      Thanks for posting this link – yes the cemetery is also a park – from the Rock Creek Church Parish:

      The burial ground in the church yard’s urban space, with its natural rolling landscape, was designed as part of the rural cemetery movement to function as both cemetery and public park. This beautiful park-like setting is now a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world, who come to see the remarkable variety of monuments and sculptures and often to visit the renowned Adams memorial.

  • Dog Lover

    My Aunt is buried there – she loved dogs and I was thinking just this morning as I walked by and saw that sign – “What would Aunt Mary say about this if she were alive today?”

    Her response would of course be “Get me the hell out of this box I can’t breath!”

    Seriously – I will say that I am a bit bummed about it. I love walking through the space with my pups because there is so much history there and while they are digging for human bones I enjoy looking at the stories of the people’s lives buried there.

    Dog lover or not — if you have not spent an hour of so walking around the cemetery you are missing out on a more hidden history of DC and the country.

  • notolp

    when I die, you can bring your dog to visit me.

    let them roll in the grass, dig a hole, take a nap, chew on a stick above me…even do their “business” if they like.

    I think dead people don’t get enough visitors and are probably pretty darn happy to have guests whenever there is an opportunity for them. so bring your dog, cat, hampster or whoever has intentions of having a nice visit.

    • sc


      I think leaving cemeteries empty, unused and unappreciated is far more disrespectful than using it to exercise your dog.

    • o2bncdg

      NO NO NO – Don’t bring your hamster! Here’s what can happen!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTt7pSav8ts

  • John

    I love it! Only consequences will change behavior. Dog owners abuse the place and lose their ability to take their barking poop factory (aka dog) there.

    • Anonymous

      Love it, new urban dictionary term — BPF

  • Anonymous

    I am going to be “that” guy. Dog owners who use EL Haynes field and let their dogs run off the leash be warned. Complaints to the authorities are coming. My 2 year old was recently almost attacked by huge dog running uncontrolled off the leash, fortunately the owner stepped in just in time, but the kids were quite scared as the dog approached. Dogs are cool. Dogs off leash in a park where kids want to play is not cool, in fact dangerous, and you should know better and be more respectful of others who want to share the space.

    • rooty tooty

      For what it’s worth, the hours and usage of the field at EL Haynes for dogs has been discussed with the school officials in the past.

      I can’t speak to what the outcome of the meeting was, but they have engaged the community on it, rather than just prohibiting it or ignoring it.

    • rooty tooty

      I’ll also say that as a very occasional user of the space, I have the good sense to *not* let my dog off leash if kids are using the equipment. Most sensible (IMO) dog owners will defer to humans for the intended use of such space…or at least ask permission.

    • 99vmi

      wow you are “that” guy. first off why are you going to make a complaint about a field no one uses. the playground is on the other side of the school. Secondly most likely that dog was not going to attack your precious child. dogs bark and like to sniff people they don’t know. Dog owners bring their kids there all the time and everything has always been fine. Why are you taking your 2 year old to a construction area by the way?

      This whole argument is dumb. who cares about a cemetary, i guarantee you the dead don’t care cause you know what they’re DEAD.

      so the tally is you can’t walk your dog in cemetaries, open fields attached to schools, the tree boxed lined streets (love those people by the way), and pretty soon probably dog parks.

      what a gracious community especially one in which probably 80% own dogs.

      • warning

        If your dog comes near my child off leasg, I can promise you that it will likely get kicked hard in the face.

  • RD

    should we ban birds and squirrels from the cemetery too? i bet they shit all over the graves

  • Outtahere

    Yet another victory for the “real” DC residents, the ones that voted for Vince Gray and hate dogs (and their white owners). Yet another reason I’m glad I’m gone. Thanks PoP for providing me with plenty of reasons to never think twice about my decision to leave. If it isn’t long-time DC residents treating people like the dog poop that they claim hate more than anything (far more than little issues like continual gun violence, municipal waste, and anarchy in the schools), it’s sad and pointless institutions like St. Paul’s, dead or dying, that do everything they can to ward off community. If you ever wonder why St. Paul’s has only a sad trickle of parishioners (all with Maryland plates) that come every Sunday, or why their “Fellowship Hall” is an empty tomb day after day, you need look no further than this typical decision. Look for them to close the place completely if they can.

    Hateful people – God, I am glad to see the back of DC.

    • Kim

      Why bother still reading about it if you are so glad to leave and hate the city so much?

      • Anonymous

        to make the rest of us feel bad, obviously.

    • Another guy named Chris

      Black people have dogs too, they just don’t call them “companions”, claim them as dependents and kiss them in the mouth.

    • Justine

      @Outofhere; it’s not right to clasify a whole race of people not liking dogs or another race. I am a black man and I grew up having dogs. My dog Skimper was a pure breed anything, but he was smart and I loved him as a child. He lived to be very old and overweight. However, I voted for Vince Gray and I am disappointed. I vote for Vince to get back at Adrian for his being a nasty person and changing to on blacks in Ward 4 to help in first get elected into office. One of my neighbors is white and Jewish and we have both become friends and advocates for our neighborhood on quality of life issues. Hate is a very strong word to use. I may dislike a person, but I truly try not to hate anyone, including Bin Landen. LOL

  • Justine


    My dog Skimper wasn’t a pure breed anything, but he was smart and I loved him as a child. I love German Shepherds, but I haven’t seen them in years, except for police dogs. I’ve never been a cat person. Actually, I am scared of cats because I always thought, they were evil. I am a big dog lover!

  • yo yo yo

    Good for the cemetery, taking a stand against dog owners.

    I hate how dog owners will say, “I let my dog off leash, but she is good, and when she poops on a grave, I pick it up.” Well, congrats, but it’s disrespectful, gross, and not necessary.

    I also wonder how many of these dog owners have had to bury a parent, child, or other loved one recently?? I have, and I would be more than willing to punch a dog owner in the face if I saw their dog peeing on a headstone.


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