In Z Hood: Lionel the Bassador of Del Ray

The timeless art of begging. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

DogZ In Z Hood

By Kelly MacConomy

It’s no secret that Alexandria has gone to the dogz. Port City is home to upwards of 30 dog-friendly parks, 20 pet services and supplies stores, and a Scottish Terrier, Alex, for a City mascot. But what even neighboring Arlington, named the number one dog friendly city in the U.S. by Travel & Leisure Magazine, doesn’t have is a Bassador!

Lionel desperately seeking mittens. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

You may have seen Lionel, the Black Labrador/Basset Hound mix, holding court “pal fresco” at Stomping Ground on Mt. Vernon Avenue, waiting for a sorghum biscuit to rain down from a tabletop. Or perhaps you have taken your Port City brewskie and burnt ends to a picnic table at Pork Barrel BBQ and been met with chocolate brown eyes gazing covetously at that metal tray. That’s Lionel! The Bassador of Del Ray.

In an interview with the Bassador, over a game of pool balls in the No. 9 Lounge upstairs at Evening Star Café, where Lionel can often be found lounging in one of his fave plotzing spots in Del Ray (when he’s not in the country guarding his mountaintop perch in Woodstock), Zebra got to know more about the intriguing lifestyle of Lionel’s roving canine consulate.

Paws-Honor Lionel, the Bassador of Del Ray. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

Lionel was adopted by Anthony Istrico and Heather Garlich from the Alexandria Animal Welfare League in 2016. As Lionel tells it, he was born four years ago on July 5 but Anthony and Heather rescued him on July 10, so he requires both a birthday and an anniversary soirée. Much like Alexandria itself, he gets to celebrate twice that week.

Lionel confided that his turn ons are no different from any country dog/city Bassador: socks, snacks, Shenandoah sticks, bones from Let’s Meat on the Avenue, serious snuggles, snow, and the errant found street mitten. Only one this year so far! Turn offs remain steadfastly Mom and Dad leaving without him, cats and special tax districts.

Anthony Istrico and Heather Garlich, Lionel’s proud parents. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

Lionel’s gastronomic preferences span the length of The Avenue and across the globe. Despite being half Italian, Lionel prefers deep-dish pizza to Neapolitan for the extra thick crust. He claims a pupperoni pizza-his fave topping-with the deep-dish crust takes on the nuance of a spicy, beefy bone.

The Bassador enjoys sampling the expansive wealth of après dog-park dining here in the City, as well. Vola’s Dockside on the waterfront is a pawticularly accommodating pal-fresco doggie dining scene. Lena’s outdoors on the petio by the fire pit is a fine place to sit and stay awhile. Lionel approves of any place in Port City, while keeping Anthony and Heather leashside with the Istrico Productions crew, as long as it offers water and a nice Pinose Noir or Malbark with a local and sustainable menu (the Bassador is a locovore) and dog-friendly servers who give great tummy tickles. Oh, and primo doggie bags.

The Bassador of Del Ray doesn’t let his title or day job as consigliere to Istrico Productions go to his tail. As an über Amazon aficionado (they deliver his Bark Box), he prefers the rubber Washington Post to the rubber Wall Street Journal (who doesn’t?), and he’s been an avid Zebra reader since he was a pup. Simple pleasures are the stuff of good living: a new tennis ball, walkies in the woods, a new chew toy from The Dog Store, a forbidden chair, more socks.

The Bassador sniffing out a nosh at Stomping Grounds. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

All things being political, living across the moat from Capitol Hill, Bassador Lionel has learned a human trick or two. Mastery of a firm pawshake is key in this dog-eat-dog town. The trick, Lionel advises, is to look the human straight and long in the eye, until you get a treat.

Look for Lionel, the Bassador of Del Ray, having a dog day afternoon on The Avenue, listening to his favorite book (Call of the Wild) on tape, rolling over to the tunes of Three Dog Night, Dog Star, Snoop Dog, and Steppenwolf, and playing dead to the stylings of his favorite carooo-ner, Lionel Ritchie. Tell him Zebra sent you. He’ll thank you with a big smile, a wag and a wiggle.

Going up the country to Woodstock VA with Lionel. Photo courtesy Anthony Istrico.

The Bassador asks us to remind our readers: If you have room in your home and heart, paws to think about adopting a dog or cat from the Alexandria Animal Welfare League or a shelter/rescue near you. You rescue them. And they rescue you right back.

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