Interior Dept. launches ‘Doggy Days,’ becoming first federal agency to welcome pets

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke holds his dog, Ragnar, as he speaks to reporters on May 5. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The Interior Department welcomed a new breed of visitor to its Washington headquarters on Friday, one on four legs, covered with fur and on a mission to boost morale at the agency in charge of public lands.

The first federal agency to go dog-friendly opened its doors at 7 a.m. to 85 dogs — dachshunds, Labradors, spaniels, Yorkies, border collies, Portuguese water dogs, beagles and many others, purebred and mutt — in a test run of perhaps the most nonpartisan policy change of the Trump administration.

“We’ve become so polar on political issues,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Republican former congressman from Montana, acknowledged as his energetic Havanese, Ragnar, raced around his office sniffing both reporters and an English Lab named Daisy owned by acting deputy chief of staff Megan Bloomgren.

“This should not be a political issue,” Zinke said.

Zinke, who brings Ragnar to the office most days, hopes Friday’s pilot and another “Doggy Day” scheduled for September will catch on across the government and become a regular fixture at the Interior Department and its sprawling offices across the United States.

“I’m competitive,” Zinke said. “You may have heard the president is very competitive, too. We want to win.”

Zinke was referring to a race to be the first to have dogs in federal offices — a race he has won. President Trump, with no dog or other pet in the White House at the moment, could not compete in the “Doggy Days” sweepstakes. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is considering a similar policy, Zinke said proudly.

Dogs and their owners wait to have their picture taken with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The Interior Department dogs — carefully vetted for vaccinations, behavioral problems and assurances that they were housebroken — spent the morning lying under their owners’ desks, sleeping, attending meetings (quietly) and walking along C Street NW when they needed to relieve themselves. They became new fixtures in the budget office, the office of congressional and legislative affairs, the cultural-resources office, legal offices and the inspector general’s quarters, too.

The dogs — on leashes and the small ones in arms — formed a line with their owners to enter Zinke’s carpeted suite, where the secretary shook hands and posed with them for the cameras. It was, for many employees, their first opportunity to meet the new secretary.

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