Heard on the Hill

For Post-Election Comfort, Try Therapy Dogs

Dozens of congressional staffers surrounded three dogs on Wednesday morning

From left to right: therapy dogs Hans, Max and Chobe were in the Capitol complex on Wednesday to de-stress staffers. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

Hans the Portuguese water dog yawned. “Same,” a congressional staffer said. It was a long election night for political junkies, and it wasn’t over yet as of Wednesday morning.

Still, the sun was finally out in Washington, and it felt like another quiet recess day on Capitol Hill, with no members in sight until party leaders arrived for press conferences later in the afternoon.

Incumbents lost and the House flipped; some staffers were still in limbo, waiting for their bosses’ races to be called. With nothing left to do until Congress returns next week, dozens of aides sat on the ground in the foyer of the Rayburn Building, some with coffee in hand, and “aww’ed” over three very well-behaved dogs.

“Oh my goodness!” staffers exclaimed as they walked into the room. They immediately dropped to the ground to shower attention on the therapy dogs.

Despite job instability and partisan battles, the staffers were all dog-lovers on the morning after Election Day.

They gave the pups kisses and ear rubs while chatting with their handlers. Some said they have their own pets back home; others have in-house furry friends who like to visit them at work.

As for the three therapy dogs, they usually roam around cancer wards, nursing homes or hospitals to provide a friendly paw for sick people.

Max rolled around on the ground, which caused a bit of excitement. He’s a dachshund and spaniel mix.

A very quiet Chobe stayed by the entrance and let people come to him. He is a Chihuahua and Yorkie mix named after Chobe National Park in Botswana. Hans is named after a character in the movie “Frozen.”

The therapy dogs were on congressional duty for two hours on Wednesday morning, courtesy of Pet Partners, the Pet Leadership Council, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.  As staffers got in a final bellyrub, they were all “Thank you”s. 

The groups held a similar event for staffers in 2016, the morning after President Donald Trump was elected. To be clear, it wasn’t a response to any candidate in particular; the idea came to fruition before voters headed to the polls. 

The groups wanted to show how the human-animal bond can lead to healthier lives but also push for the Pet and Women Safety Act, which would help survivors of domestic violence and their pets seek safe shelter together.

The bill was introduced in February 2017 by Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.