WASHINGTON — By her own admission, Diane Johnson spoiled her first dog.
The best perks in Kirby Dennis Johnson’s life were his daily romps off-leash across the hills of the Historic Congressional Cemetery each morning and night. After his death in July at age 12, Johnson remained devoted to the black Labrador retriever as she spread a portion of his cremated ashes along the beach of her native Cape Cod in Massachusetts. And she often talks to the ashes she keeps in her home in the District of Columbia.
The 46-year-old health care communications consultant even wrote an obituary about him for the newsletter of the dog-walking group at the cemetery on Capitol Hill.
Soon, Johnson will be able to have Kirby’s remains remain forever at Congressional, as the cemetery plans to open D.C.’s first pet burial site in the coming weeks.
“I want him to be the first dog interred here,” Johnson said. “There’s no place like this on Earth.”
The Kingdom of Animals section will be available for the furry, the scaly, the four-legged and the fliers.
The cemetery considers the move to offer pet burial a natural extension of a wildly popular members-only dog-walking group that for the past two decades has breathed life into this place of eternal rest.
The K9 Corps at the Historic Congressional Cemetery is a club of 770 dogs and their 660 humans, who pay $235 a year, plus $50 per dog, so their canines can roam the paths and hills off leash. There is a $75 nonrefundable fee to be placed on the waitlist.
The club revived the cemetery after decades of neglect and nocturnal activity by drug users and prostitutes.
The members’ volunteerism, donations and dues support groundskeeping at the 35-acre site, tucked away just a few blocks south of RFK Stadium and near the John Philip Sousa Bridge over the Anacostia River.
Officials do not have a firm date for opening the pet gravesite, but are aiming for late June.