WASHINGTON – President Harry Truman reportedly said that, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
So Rep. David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, and his staff have at least two friends on most days in Washington.
Walk into Cannon House Office Building room 409 and, in addition to the flags and the usual district-related decorations, you’ll be greeted by Dixie and Sarge, two office pooches who seem excited to meet just about anybody who walks through the door.
“(We love) having his happy face and wagging tail running around the office,” said Ryan White, a senior legislative assistant in the office. “It brightens everybody’s day.”
The dogs-in-the-office tradition started when Schweikert was the Maricopa County treasurer from 2004 to 2006. After bringing his then-new dog, Charlie, into work a few times, office workers soon had treats waiting at their desks.
“It was this wonderful stress reliever in the office,” Schweikert said, especially for employees who were constantly “berated by the taxpayer.” So Charlie became a regular office presence.
When Schweikert won a seat in Congress in 2010, it seemed only fitting that Charlie accompany him on his journey to the nation’s capital, with regular posts on Twitter under #CharlieTakesDC that had the congressman’s pup “commenting” on the vagaries of life in Washington.
Charlie died a couple years ago, but the tradition didn’t die with him.
“We work our staff really hard,” Schweikert said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office. “And many of these brilliant young people that work in our office have a big dog at home.”
As he spoke, Dixie and Sarge clambered over the furniture and over the congressman himself, looking for scratches and attention.
“It’s fun to watch her grow, and watch people’s hearts grow, as well,” Schweikert policy adviser Kelly Roberson said of Dixie, “as cheesy as that is.”
When they’re not greeting constituents at the door or bounding on the furniture, the dogs sometimes play fetch, sliding along the marble Capitol Hill hallways as they play.
Dixie, a 17-month-old Staffordshire terrier and hound mix, and Sarge, a 5-year-old flat-coated retriever and kuvasz mix, are the main dogs for Schweikert’s office, but they often get visitors from other parts of the Hill.
Canine visits may be the only kind of Capitol Hill connections that don’t fall along party lines.
“I know my dog at home is a Democrat,” Schweikert said. “He expects me to clean up after him, he expects me to feed him, expects me to take him for walks.”
And White said Sarge has a romance with a left-leaning dog down the hall.
“Capitol Hill is actually much more dog-friendly than you’d ever imagine,” Schweikert said.
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