The end of an era, in more ways than one
Three of the most likable, least argumentative occupants of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. are no longer around, and some say their absence constitutes the end of an era.
Splash, Sunny and Cappy, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s three Portuguese water dogs, had become a fixture in the halls of the Russell building, committee rooms and in the office of the senator, which was always equipped with water bowls and tennis balls, Politico reports.
“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”
Except for the Senate floor, there were few places Splash, Sunny and Cappy didn’t have access
Kennedy often used his dogs to break the ice with Republican lawmakers, relax nervous visitors and to “put political personalities to the sniff test,” the Politico article says.
“They were part of the landscape,” said former Bush senior education adviser Sandy Kress, who partnered with Kennedy’s office to develop the mammoth education bill No Child Left Behind. “I had no problem patting the dog while talking about Section 10.32. … It just created a pleasant environment,” said Kress, who often watched the senator toss tennis balls to the dogs in the office.
Studies have shown that pets in the workplace can boost productivity and raise employee morale and Kennedy was walking proof, animal experts say. But Kennedy’s dogs could be disruptful as well. Splash has been known to bark impatiently during long meetings, and dig in the shrubs, but it was rare that anyone complained.
Today, the Kennedy offices are quiet and the dogs are residing at the family compound on Cape Cod with the late senator’s wife, Vicki.
“He showed that animals are intimately involved in our lives, and there is an implicit reminder of our responsibility to them,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “So many more people are treating their dogs like members of the family. You may see other members handle their dogs in a similar way.”