Advice for New Members of Congress: Bring Your Dog to Work

Congress is one of the few workplaces where one can get away with bringing a dog to the office.


Some unconventional advice for incoming members of Congress in both parties: if you have a well-behaved pet, bring it to the office.

Congress is one of the few workplaces where one can get away with bringing a dog (as most lawmaking pet-owners do) or a cat (not so common--the cats tend to demand their own offices) to the office without being too disruptive. And while the upkeep can be a distraction, the benefits are substantial: senators and congressmen who have their pets in the office are almost uniformly more sanguine--and thus more likely to have a civilized relationship with their colleagues--if there is a tail-wagging, non-judgmental domesticated animal waiting for them then they return from a contentious committee hearing or caucus lunch. Even staffers who don’t much enjoy taking the pup out for a quick pit-stop will attest that the positive impact the pets have on their bosses makes it all worthwhile.

[See photos of the first dog: Bo Obama.]

Christmas week, Washington lost Splash, the gregarious and fiercely loyal Portuguese Water Dog who was a constant companion to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Splash was a fixture on Capitol Hill (denied access only to the Senate floor--odd, Kennedy noted cheekily in his children’s book, since Splash was often better behaved than some members of the Senate). When lawmakers had to interrupt a hearing to go vote, they came back to find Splash sitting in the chairman’s chair. When Kennedy went through the revolving doors on the second floor of the Capitol, Splash insisted on getting in the same crowded compartment with the senator, unwilling to be separated from his friend. He was there waiting, panting and tail wagging with excitement, when Kennedy would return from a meeting on floor debate. Splash would even make friends on the other side of the aisle, wandering down the balcony outside Kennedy’s office to greet GOP senators meeting in a room that shared the same balcony. True, Splash had it pretty good; he sailed on the Cape and had a nice yard to run in. But unlike so many other Washington figures, Splash had no agenda. He didn’t know Kennedy was a Kennedy or even a senator. He wasn’t trying to get his owner to slip something into the tax bill. Kennedy was just the big guy who loved him and played with him, and that was enough for Splash.

When Kennedy became ill, Splash (along with Sunny, Kennedy’s other Portuguese Water Dog) was there for him, waiting outside the hospital after the Senator’s visits there. Splash himself had bouts with cancer, but interestingly, he didn’t get sick until after Kennedy passed.

Other lawmakers have also brought their pets to the Hill (and some have also since died--Capitol denizens miss the gentle Charlotte, House Democrat Steny Hoyer’s sweet little dog), and everyone benefits. It’s hard to have a fight with someone when a dog is offering unconditional love and loyalty. It’s not the answer to an increasingly partisan Capitol, but it helps.

  • See photos of the first dog Bo Obama.
  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
  • Follow the money in Congress.