Pets bring joy to members of Congress enduring lockdown


Members of Congress say pets are bringing comfort as they work from home and practice social distancing.

Libby, a rescue dog adopted over the 2019 holidays, "can't quite figure out what she did right," Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) said in an April interview.

Houlahan is one of several members of Congress who shared photos of their pets and stories about what it has been like working with their furry companions during the coronavirus crisis.

Whether in emails or phone interviews, every member emphasized the importance of physical distancing during this crisis in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill and Callie

Mikie Sherrill and Callie
Office of Rep. Mikie Sherrill

"Callie is our 100-pound ridgeback," Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) wrote in a late April email. "I think she's a little confused as to why we are home all the time, but it hasn't prevented her from napping constantly in the middle of the kids' work-from-home setup or ferociously barking at our postman exactly when I take my phone off mute to speak on an important call."

In her home state of New Jersey, Sherrill noted coronavirus cases are finally starting to come down.

"Social distancing remains critical," she said. "We are desperately trying to keep those numbers coming down so we can safely begin to reopen, and every person we keep from getting infected brings us that much closer."

Rep. Suzan DelBene and Reily

Office of Rep. Suzan De

"My family and community have been taking the stay-at-home order seriously to keep ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones safe," Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), who represents the district where the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country was reported, wrote in an email.

While she is at home, DelBene has been kept company by her faithful pal Reily.

Reily "loves to lay around with us, join conferences calls unexpectedly, and help us stretch our legs," she wrote. "In these difficult times, it's nice to have our favorite ray of sunshine in the house."

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Libby

Chrissy Houlahan and Libby
Office of Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

Libby is "pretty happy about relatively frequent walks and treats from various people," Houlahan said. "I think she'd be happy if we never went back to work." Houlahan, her husband, and her daughter are all working from home during the crisis.

Houlahan said Libby is a rescue from a Pennsylvania puppy mill. She opted for a smaller dog that can travel with her to and from her work in Washington, D.C.

While they are at home, Libby occasionally joins Houlahan during work, recently joining a video call with middle school kids. Houlahan used the opportunity to talk about the need for additional regulations around puppy mills.

Rep. Dean Phillips and Henry

Dean Phillips, his wife Annalise, and Henry
Office of Rep. Dean Phillips

"As one who believes in science and listens to professionals, physical distancing is the only effective measure that we have available to us in the toolbox that will flatten the curve and preserve the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans," Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said during an April phone interview.

Phillips and his wife make the time to take a 30-minute walk every day with Henry, their three-year-old Norwich terrier.

"The irony is that we're seeing more neighbors and members of our community during these strange days than we ever did in the past," Phillips said, noting that Henry gets far more attention from constituents.

He emphasized that he maintains a six-foot distance when he sees his neighbors.

"There are not many bright spots during difficult days like these, but I can't help but think that dogs and cats and pets are great beneficiaries of physical isolation," he added.

Rep. Sharice Davids and Nala

Sharice Davids and Nala
Office of Rep. Sharice Davids

Nala is keeping Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) company during the pandemic. Nala is a foster dog, and Davids said in an email that she encourages others to foster or adopt pets from shelters.

It seems as if many Americans have taken Davids' advice.

"We are seeing a surge in offers to foster pets ... while [people] are at home," the New Jersey-based Liberty Humane Society said in March. Some animal shelters are even empty because all the pets have been adopted.

Rep. John Yarmuth and Leo

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said his cat, Leo, interrupting a Facebook town hall with the mayor of Louisville.

Several other members of Congress noted that their pets often invited themselves to video calls, bringing levity to an otherwise stressful time.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, Pearl, and Abbie

Kathleen Rice, Pearl, and Abbie
Office of Rep. Kathleen Rice

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) says she takes her dogs, Pearl and Abbie, on regular walks while making sure to stay a safe distance away from others.

"Taking a walk outdoors can be great for your mental and physical health — just stay six feet apart," Rice wrote on Twitter while sharing photos of herself and her furry friends.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.