A pilot, a cemetery and a three-legged dog

I’m in Woodbridge, Virginia for a few days, visiting my niece, who is a Navy pilot.  She just moved here and knows no one. Plus, with the winter hanging on, there’s not much opportunity to meet the neighbors, even though she owns two dogs.  Walking the dogs is a great way to meet new people.

I needed a change of venue, and so did Billy, I’m sure, so I came up on Tuesday to keep her company for a few days.  Tuesday we had yet another snow storm, but I-95 was clean and dry.

Woodbridge is located 20 miles south of Washington D.C. and is growing.  Growing is an understatement.  Exploding is more like it.  Once I left the interstate, I saw miles and miles of houses in new and nearly-new subdivisions.  Woodbridge, located in Prince William County, is a popular bedroom community for D.C, to say the least.

Wikipedia calls Woodbridge a “census-designated place” (CDP), which means that it’s not an incorporated city or town, but has a dense population so it is “designated” solely for purposes of counting people. I had never heard of a CDP before.

Most of the neighborhoods I passed appeared to be built on old farms.  I say this because I saw very few native trees in the subdivisions. Usually builders leave a few trees standing when they clear the land.  Here, instead of old trees, every house sported one or two saplings in the yard.

The houses looked lonely in the waning afternoon sun as I arrived.  When I rang the doorbell, it sounded like hounds had been unleashed from hell.  The sidelight windows were covered with blinds, but I could hear dogs banging against them.  I heard not one dog barking, but three.  And there was a bird screeching as well. It was a comical sound to me.

Well, I thought, Mel doesn’t have to worry about being burglarized!

Turns out Mel only has two dogs, not three.  The third dog I heard was from next door.  And only one of them was throwing itself against the front windows!

She has two dogs, both quintessential mutts. Both are short-haired and medium sized.  The female has white fur with black spots on her legs, neck and belly, a sign that there’s some Dalmatian mixed in there somewhere.  The male is mostly black.  Even though they are not related, they both have brown spots above their eyes that look like eyebrows.

This morning I walked them around the neighborhood. There was not a soul about.  No commuter traffic, no service vehicles, nothing.  Certainly no one else out walking–it was 34 degrees with a harsh wind blowing.  Yet the dogs, even though both are short-haired, didn’t seem to mind in the least.  I think it’s true that mutts are hardy; these two certainly were.

We walked to the tot-lot and in the middle I saw something unusual.  A cemetery surrounded by a black metal fence.  A very old cemetery.  I could see less than a dozen headstones.  Most of them were so worn I could not make out the inscriptions.  The ones I could read dated back to the mid-1800’s– pre-Civil War.  The names were mostly the same–a family cemetery.  This confirmed my suspicion that this used to be a farm.  There was a sign outside the fence that read “Maddox Scott Cemetery.”

When I returned to the house I did some digging.  I hit paydirt almost immediately when I found a website with a list of cemeteries in Prince William County.  According to the website, there are more than 400 of them.

The description for the Maddox Scott cemetery said it contained 33 graves, but only eight with headstones.  The dates on the headstones ranged from 1826 to 1857.  The oldest person in the cemetery was 83, which was old for that time.  The youngest was 29.

Personally, I think its pretty cool to have a cemetery right in the subdivision.  I wonder, though, if all the residents feel the same way.  It reminded me a little of the movie Poltergeist.

And the three-legged dog?  His name is Foster.  Before Mel and her husband rescued him, he had been attacked by a gang of dogs and when he managed to escape, he was hit by a car. Yet you cannot tell he is missing a leg when you look at him from the front.  He stands with perfect balance.  He has a little hitch in his step when he walks, but when he runs, there’s not difference.

He, like his friend Shandy (the one who charged the blinds), is a sweetheart.  After we walked this morning, they both snuggled against me while I watched T.V.

Oh, and Shandy talks.  I just heard her.

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