When you go to Capitol Hill, you expect to have meetings and to exchange business cards. If you stop by the Office of Congressman Jim Bridenstine, you may receive one for “Oliver – Spaniel and Statesman”. These cards (not paid for at taxpayer expense) have a photo of the office’s official “Legislative Therapy Dog” – a friendly Cocker Spaniel named Oliver, who has been a regular in the office since the Congressman took office in 2013.
Oliver, who belongs to Communications Director Sheryl Kaufman, “gets more photo requests than the Congressman,” she explained. “The photo business cards are necessary because Oliver often gets too excited and interested in his visitors to sit still for a photo op.”
Oliver takes his job very seriously, says Kaufman. Once he has greeted everyone he often chooses to join them in the meeting. “However,” she clarifies, “if he is in the Congressman’s office and hears anyone else coming into the outer office, he politely scratches at the door to ask to go out and greet the new visitors.”
Oliver can boast as being the only member of the Oklahoma Congressman’s Washington, DC office to have actually been born in the state. Oliver, whose parents were both AKC-registered Cocker Spaniels, was born on a farm near Sapulpa, Oklahoma, in August 2007. “When I went to see the litter,” his owner explained, “…I immediately fell in love with Oliver. The 8-year-old son of the farmer said, ‘He’s the one everyone picks up first.’”
Nine years later, Oliver still has many adoring fans. “I never thought I’d be a receptionist for a dog…,” the Congressman’s office manager once said. “I just had to ask someone to come back later because Oliver was in a meeting!”
Visitors to Bridenstine’s office love meeting Oliver, and find him to be a calming influence to the sometimes overwhelming experience of going to Capitol Hill. This is true from constituents to dignitaries. One time, a foreign ambassador came to the office. “As soon as the ambassador went into the Congressman’s office,” Kaufman related, “one very imposing attaché in full dress uniform sat on the floor and played with Oliver, saying ‘I had a cocker spaniel as a child.’”
Cocker Spaniels currently rank 30th on the AKC’s list of the most popular breeds in the United States, and Kaufmann has learned that many like this attaché fondly remember a cocker spaniel they have known. “Everyone wants to talk about a dog they have loved,” said Kaufman. “Recently a Congressman stopped me and asked me to take a photo of him and Oliver so he could send it to his mom who lost her Cocker a couple of years ago.”
He is also much-loved among Bridenstine’s staff. According to Kaufman, “everyone shares [their lunch with Oliver] and when one person tells him ‘last bite’, he moves on to the next [desk].”
Besides his human friends, Oliver also enjoys visiting his canine friends Patches (“who is really shy and works down the hall”) and Mazie (“who is a little loud and works around the corner”). He also loves it when Charlie, owned by Bridenstine’s Legislative Director, comes to visit the office.
One of Oliver’s favorite nightly rituals is running down one of the big marble halls in the Cannon Office Building before going home to expend some of that energy for which Cocker Spaniels are known. Oliver is also a member of the Congressional Cemetery, a very old cemetery near Capitol Hill where dog owners pay an annual fee that allows their dogs to walk and play off-leash.
Congressman Bridenstine’s office recognizes the benefits of having a dog in the office. “As soon as the Congressman’s wife learned that dogs were welcome in the House [of Representatives],” Kaufman said, “she decided that Oliver just had to be a part of the DC office team.”
Bridenstine’s office also believes that dogs in the office can actually help stimulate the economy. “Many people who take their dogs to work are in small businesses,” noted Kaufman. “Interestingly that is where the most economic growth occurs.” Economic growth is an issue of great importance to the Congressman, and his office believes that this benefits his constituents as well as their dogs. He is concerned that “desperate, worried people” are those that may have more of a tendency to abuse animals. She said that the Congressman (and Oliver) believe the country “needs economic prosperity – and more dog treats!”
Oliver is an ambassador for responsible dog ownership and demonstrates how a well-loved dog can benefit not just the dog but the people around him. Wherever he goes on the Hill, Oliver brightens the day of visitors and staff. As his owner affectionately summarized, “Oli just generates a lot of sweetness and light in a place sorely lacking both.”
Photos (c) Office of Congressman Bridenstine. Used with permission. For more pictures of Oliver’s adventures on Capitol Hill, visit his Pinterest page.