“One day I went to get lunch and happened to pass the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. I pulled into the shelter to see what it was like and visit the dogs. I thought of volunteering as a dog walker so I could be around dogs.” Patrick Downing, Owner of National Art and Framing, recollects, walking through the kennel and passing one run with three German Shepherd and Collie Mix puppies, “I saw Annabel. At the time, her name was Haddy.” Shy, half the size of the other dogs, and completely different color and temperament, Patrick could not resist. He muses, “It seemed a part of my life was missing.”
“As most children do,” Patrick says, “we loved our animals. We always had at least one dog and one cat, usually shelter animals or found animals.” The list of companions is long: Smitty the Bulldog, Rocky the Boxer, Lady the Beagle Mix, Odie the cat, and several birds, including Bogey the Umbrella Cockatoo, who is still with Patrick’s mother.
“The two most memorable pets from my childhood are Sampson and Webster. Sampson was an English Mastiff and a rather large one, two hundred and forty pounds at four years old.” Sampson, the family dog, went to work with Patrick’s stepfather every day at the family-owned picture framing business, All Around Art, then headquartered on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Customers adored Sampson; those afraid of Sampson’s size soon recognized his gentle and excellent demeanor and became fans.
Sampson’s training at the Olde Towne School for Dogs, “extended to my training of Webster.” In eighth grade, Patrick’s parents gave him Webster, a Golden Retriever. “My parents thought the responsibility of caring for Webster would teach me a larger sense of responsibility in life. In retrospect,” Patrick reflects, “it was one of the most influential moments in my adolescence.” Patrick, solely responsible, cared for and trained Webster. “He was a great companion and went everywhere with me.”
Until he met Annabel five years ago, Patrick says, “I never thought of getting another companion to replace Webster.” After meeting Annabel, Patrick immediately completed the paperwork and prepared his home for the new arrival. “I bought a crate to properly crate train her, toys to keep her occupied, and all the necessities for a new puppy.” Itching to bring Annabel home, “I went to the shelter every day to visit my new companion. I took photos and showed them to all my friends, girlfriend, and even my employees. Finally the big day came.”
Deciding three-month-old Annabel should learn about his daily life, Patrick recounts, “Before I took her home, I took her to work. She met my employees and I walked her around the store to show her where she was allowed to be and not allowed to be.” Patrick says, “Annabel was extremely smart and receptive to everything I was showing her.” Utilizing his training experience with Sampson and Webster, “On our first day, she learned Sit. The next day we learned Down and within a week, Stay.”
“She was great, perhaps the best puppy I’ve ever had.” Pleasantly surprised, Patrick states, “I never expected that out of a mixed breed shelter dog.” Patrick testifies, “It was six months before we spent more than ten minutes apart. She sat by me as I brushed my teeth, made breakfast, waited on customers, and cut frames. She was the perfect companion.” Patrick concludes, “Those early months set the tone for our relationship.”
Annabel and Patrick spend every day at work together, along with Cyrano, a Chihuahua adopted from the Animal Welfare league of Alexandria, who belongs to co-worker Bryan Josa. “Annabel loves the attention she gets at work by her loyal customers whether it’s greeting new customers and their children or seeing loyal return customers that bring her new stuffed animals and bones, I’m sure she has the best life of any dog I’ve ever known, except Cyrano.“
“Many customers often say Annabel won the lottery when I picked her out, but I feel that it’s the other way around,” Patrick says. “I’ve had plenty of pet companions in my life but she has been the best.”