Roll Call: Political Party Animals
“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”
For National Dogs in Politics Day, Sept. 23rd, we rounded up Capitol Hill’s canine aides.
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After the 2020 election, President Biden restored a 150-year tradition broken only by his predecessor: dogs in the White House. Other beltway vets may heed the fabled advice of President Harry Truman: “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” And indeed, dogs have always helped turn the wheels of government, providing lawmakers and others with support, perspective, and some necessary mischief. These are just some of the leaders and their canine aides who work in and around Capitol Hill.
Joe Biden & Major
Major may not be the first rescue dog in the White House (President Johnson’s mutt Yuki was picked up at a gas station by his daughter in 1966) but the German Shepherd is technically the first shelter dog — adopted by the Bidens from Delaware Humane Association. New to life in a media fishbowl, Major nipped a federal employee in his first 100 days in office, but some extra training restored order, and there are rumors that a rescue cat may also call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home soon. (Fun fact for dog-loving history buffs: The White House’s previous German Shepherd named Major, FDR’s, bit one US senator and tore up the British prime minister’s pants during his 1933 visit.)
Stephanie Murphy & Carmela
In 2017, U.S. Representative Murphy moved into her DC office with her own “Chief Morale Officer,” Carmela. The 10-month-old Goldendoodle, who belongs to a staffer, quickly became a Hill fixture, working rooms and easing tension. Murphy’s homedog Kona, a Chocolate Lab, remains a core support pillar at home.
Raphael Warnock & Alvin
Few lawmakers get a powerhouse electoral partner like Alvin, stalwart beagle to Rev. Raphael Warnock, whose game, sunny, all-American presence helped usher Georgia’s first Black senator into office — where Alvin bears a message of cooperation and a keen desire for treats.
Pete Buttigieg, Truman & Buddy
Two years after their rescue by South Bend, IN’s then-Mayor Pete and husband Chasten, Lab mix Truman and one-eyed Puggle Buddy became internet sensations — prompting Buzzfeed’s feature “Which Buttigieg Dog Are You?” Now, as their dad serves as Secretary of Transportation, both dogs bring their 73 million Twitter followers to the job of keeping America moving.
Elizabeth Warren & Bailey
Still the only dog to join a presidential candidate onstage, this Golden Retriever diva soared to fame after stealing a burrito from Warren’s husband, video of which hit social media and launched a meme. Bombing selfie lines, live interviews, and countless Zoom meetings, the senator’s dog even appeared on official Warren merch.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & Deco
The New York congresswoman attracted her usual din of online boos and hisses when she bought a non-rescue French Bulldog puppy with her partner. Then, after mulling over Star Trek- and social-justice-themed names, she ended breathless speculation choosing to honor New York City’s crowning architectural style, Art Deco, in naming their dog (who we bet hoped to go by Spock).
Suzan DelBene & Reily
Washington Rep. DelBene found her five-year Golden Retriever wandering the streets of their Kings Country neighborhood. Learning Reily’s owner no longer wanted her, DelBene promoted the dog to Beltway powerhouse almost instantly, though Reily’s probably happy anywhere she goes with her new family.
Suzanne Wild & Zoey
Penn. Congresswoman Wild merits a nod for her surname alone, but her wee, curly-haired colleague Zoey has wardrobe, spunk, and star power enough to lead a movement all her own.
John Hickenlooper & Skye
A canine of redemption and public service, former Colorado governor Hickenlooper’s Akita-Chow mix Skye was trained by an inmate as part of Colorado’s prison reform program. After a noble career as a service dog, Skye followed Hickenlooper to the Senate in 2020 where she remains an advocate of bipartisanship and cuddles.
Kirsten Gillibrand & Maple
Another member of a presidential campaign team, New York Senator Gillibrand’s Goldendoodle Maple has been by her side since her rescue in 2017, blowing up online when she leapt for a ball — in gorgeous slo-mo — in Gillibrand’s office before a Wonder Woman poster.
Jeff Merkley & Juneau
“A hunter chilling in an urban jungle,” per his website, the Oregon senator’s statuesque Husky mix Juneau has adapted to office life over his 10 years in public service.
Brian Shatz & Jupiter
Apparently, the Hawaii senator believes you should either go big or go home. Aptly named Jupiter, Schatz’s Great Dane knows how to spread himself across the house, if not the Senate, and remains a glorious black-and-white speckled star of Instagram.
Jimmy Gomez & Mia
While California Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s work keeps him a continent away from his own dog Austin, his Acting Office Dog, Mia, fills this visible role with honors. Pet partner to a Gomez staffer, the playful rescue dog is known to reach across the aisle (for belly rubs), bark at Congress members on TV, and brazenly hustle Capitol Police officers for treats.
Chris Norris is a writer, reporter, author, and longtime companion to West Highland terrier Gus, recently departed but intensely loved. Chris Norris is has written for The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, GQ, Details, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He lives in New York City with his wife and 10-year-old son.