At the corner of Old Towns Fayette and King streets stands an unusual drinking fountain, bubbling refreshing water befitting spring. Exceedingly unordinary, the fountain provides for the parched throats of those on foot, in a wheelchair, and on a leash, the latter no insignificant presence in this areas population. It stands in memory of an equally unordinary Golden Retriever named Rissa, pet of Lisa Groover.
Rissa was a true friend of the people in my neighborhood, and to everyone that she met during her many years of living in Old Town, Groover said, which would explain how Rissas birthday party one year at the former Holiday Inn on King Street drew nearly 100 guests. In fact, for the past decade Groover had thrown the beloved pooch, whose face graced the 2005 Alexandria Pet Calendar, birthday parties at the hotel.
When Rissa passed away a year ago after 15 years, Groover painfully felt the loss of her companion. Grieving and trying to recover a normalcy to her life, Groover turned to her web of relationships to help build something lasting to make solidify Rissas memory and place in the community. As a gift to the City of Alexandria, Groover and her dog-loving supporters made possible the singular fountain, etched with the words, In loving memory of Rissa.
Bringing an idea to life
Unlike the normal curveballs sometimes thrown City Halls way, Groover and friends approached bearing a gift, a fully-funded fountain for the communitys enjoyment. Landscape Architect Supervisor for the citys Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Aimee Vosper said, The fountain was a very unique Living Landscape Fund project. Usually the memorials are for individuals, in the form of landscaping. Impressed by the dedication of Groover and her friends, Vosper recalls their perseverance to navigate through the logistics of ordering and installing a water fountain which required securing water lines, work accomplished by city efforts.
To Rissas dog walkers Barbara Sumner and Monika Mitchell of Friend Pet Sitting, the citys cooperation conveyed a message. Rissas fountain recognizes Alexandrias commitment to include our pets in all aspects of our lives. David and Jackie Nelson, owners of tricolor collies Vickie and Bobbie affirmed, The fountain is a living reminder of why our dog-friendly community enhances the image of Alexandria as a great place to live and work.
A connecting place
Owners of Bennie a Tibetan Terrier, Steve and Ann Lindblom describe the fountain as acting as a central meeting location for both dogs and people. Activated for the season, the fountain is a busy place on any sun-soaked day, a place of connection where people with or without dogs are brought together.
Demonstrating a neighborliness which marks the community, the Lindbloms and Bennie make a point of visiting the fountain just to see who is out. And, to remember a great dog. Rissa was a very special pet in our community. We love telling other folks about her and her owner [Groover]. Long-time Old Town resident and neighbor to Rissa, Maggie Stauffer said, Whether you get around on four feet or two feet, you cant help but love Rissas Fountain. Stauffer and husband Barrys cats Razzle and Dazzle were counted as Rissas friends.
After the long process of getting the fountain installed, Groovers efforts turned to arrange the festivities for the fountains opening, complete with donated invitations from supporter Kelly Woodward of Olde Towne Printing amongst other in-kind donations. As if on signal, the clouds opened up and poured rain at the precise hour of the scheduled event; nevertheless, a determined two dozen friends and dogs arrived and were sympathetically offered shelter by business owner Carol Supplee of the nearby Imagine Artwear.
Groover was pressed to reschedule, and two days later more than 70 dogs and people, along with curious pedestrians arrived to raise their glasses of pink lemonade to toast Rissas life. Pink heart-shaped cookies and heart-shaped dog treats were passed around. Pink was Rissas favorite color, said Groover.
Rissa couldnt be replaced, but when Groover was able to adopt Rissas distant cousin Emma from the same Massachusetts breeder, Groover couldnt pass up the chance and became a dog-owner again. A retired breeding dog, Emma has already lived large with 21 pups to her name and is bound to find her duties as companion and pampered pet a nice change of pace. Much to Groovers delight, Emma embodies a bit of Rissa. In many ways [Rissa] is reincarnated.