TV gives Sen. Lamar Alexander’s dog a reason to snooze

Things are hard right now, his closed eyes and floppy jowls seemed to say, so make sure to rest

Rufus appears in the background as Sen. Lamar Alexander is interviewed over the weekend.  (Screengrab)
Rufus appears in the background as Sen. Lamar Alexander is interviewed over the weekend. (Screengrab)
Posted May 11, 2020 at 6:38pm, Updated May 12, 2020 at 1:22pm

“I don’t think he was that impressed,” Sen. Lamar Alexander told Heard on the Hill.

He was talking about Rufus, his dog, who made his national TV debut on “Meet the Press” this weekend ... asleep. As the Republican senator called into the politics program from his home in Tennessee, Rufus was there on a table in the background, sprawled out among books and papers, twitching occasionally.

Maybe it was the phrase “gene sequencing machine” that induced the pup’s slumber. Either way, his mood seemed to resonate with some of the millions of NBC viewers who tune in every week. Things are hard right now, his closed eyes and floppy jowls seemed to say, so make sure to rest.

It was a big step for Rufus, whether or not he was awake enough to realize it. Usually the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is fairly shy, according to our review of his modest social media presence. In one photo with the senator dated May 2018, he turns his back on the camera altogether, as if saying, “Talk to the tail.” Another photo shows him looking introspective, paired with a quote-caption often attributed to Harry Truman: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

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Rufus isn’t the first pet to upstage a teleworking senator. As Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown spoke from home during a recent hearing, a dog barked along with him.

And Rufus himself may get another chance to shine this week, when his owner chairs a much-anticipated coronavirus hearing. Witnesses will appear virtually, including the government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci. So will Alexander, who’s in quarantine after a staffer tested positive.

Will Rufus video-bomb? “That depends on whether he decides to take a nap on the table in my office,” Alexander said.

Update: Rufus did, in fact, decide to once again nap on the table. Something furry could be seen just off camera Tuesday as the senator called to order the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. An untrained eye might have mistaken it for a blanket or fuzzy pillow. But later on in the hearing, the truth became clear: It was Rufus, or at least the bottom half of him, scooting a little further into view. By the end, he was fully in the frame, snoozing on a quilt.

Rufus reprised his nap role on Tuesday, appearing in the background of a high-profile Senate HELP hearing. (Screengrab)