Heard on the Hill

The Morning After: Therapy Dogs Cheer Up Stressed-Out Staffers

‘I feel so much better now,’ says one intern

Zamboni and Spumoni play with a staffer. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

On a gloomy, rainy morning in D.C. — where President-elect Donald Trump won only 4 percent of the vote the night before — five therapy dogs waited to put a smile on staffers’ faces.

“I feel so much better now,” one intern said, stopping short when she walked into Cannon 121 on Wednesday.

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, Pet Partners, the Pet Leadership Council and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council teamed up to bring the dogs to help staffers relieve stress, cheer up and find comfort, an idea that came into fruition well before the election results came in.

“Can I touch the dog?” one staffer asked as she fell to her knees in front of Cleo, a golden doodle.

Cleo sits by while staffers look at their phones. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
Cleo gets some love while staffers look at their phones. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

Two giant white Samoyed therapy dogs — Zamboni and Spumoni — gave everyone who approached hugs and kisses.

“Out of everything in the country right now, no one needs it more than Capitol Hill,” said Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

Bober said he and a colleague were having dinner last Thursday when they got the idea. With help from Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus, they were able to book the room in Cannon right away.

On Wednesday, as soon as 10:30 a.m. struck, a steady stream of staffers flowed through the room for the hour-and-a-half event.

“We’re here to tell people that there’s actual scientific research that shows that pets are good for human health. They help us with stress, anxiety, depression. They even help us get better sleep, which a lot of people need today,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation.

“And they are completely bipartisan. They love us no matter our politics. What better way to deliver that message than to come to Capitol Hill today? The day after the election,” he added.

Lance, a beagle, was hugged by one staffer who turned to his owner and said, “Thank you for bringing your lovely dog.”

The election was not discussed much inside the room, but the five owners were encouraging the many staffers to take a deep breath.

(Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
Griffy waits for a hug. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

“This is a game changer,” one intern said when she saw Griffy, another golden doodle, and Cleo.

The five dogs are trained therapy dogs. Spumoni and Zamboni frequently visit schools, nursing homes, libraries, hospitals and kids’ camps, especially Operation Purple Camp, which is for children of military families. Similarly, Griffy volunteers regularly at Joint Base Andrews.

Bober said they plan to bring therapy dogs back during other stressful times on Capitol Hill, like the day after the State of the Union or a late appropriations vote.

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