Dog-days of summer are over and its back to school for dogs

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At the Olde Towne School for Dogs owned by Carlos and Sandy Mejias, some clients send their dogs to school with packed lunchboxes and enjoy door-to-door school bus service.

In 1975 Carlos and Sandy Mejias struggled to make their newly opened dog training, grooming and retail business succeed in a mere 300 square feet at the corner of N. St. Asaph and Oronoco streets. The neighborhood atmosphere was different then. The city jail, police department and detective offices occupied the adjacent block. Inmates used to call out to us as we walked by, recalled Carlos.

Today, the school serves more than a thousand dogs a year in an expanded space of over 7,000 square feet and is staffed by 20 employees.

Instead of circling around law enforcement facilities, the trainers and dogs enjoy the charm of a restored historic neighborhood. It was during one such walk that a Scottie named Alex was discovered by the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association and became the city mascot, said Alexs trainer Bobby Mahoney.

In keeping with the calendar, the school has now launched its fall classes, following a back-to-school campaign to underscore the drawbacks of leaving dogs home alone after summertime, a season which is often filled with bursts of family time and activity.

 There is a big hole in the dogs life when kids go back to school and other fall routines resume, said Carlos Mejias. Whatever the need, the school is equipped to conduct tailor-fit classes based on the dogs abilities and the owners goals; graduates receive a diploma and an honor student bumper sticker.

Besides the core classes aimed at instilling good manners in the family pet, long-time trainer David Riner said some clients are looking for special help, such as training to walk beside a baby stroller. To Riner, however, the greatest satisfaction comes from training rescue dogs. Its like giving a dog a second chance.

The Mejias school is favored in the area for good reason. Carlos passes along his wealth of experience to his staff from time spent with some of the countrys topmost trainers. Furthermore, sharing the business responsibilities allows both Sandy and Carlos time for their first love: the dogs.

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