The weather and dog gods were smiling on September 10 for the American Kennel Club’s first California Canines at the Capitol event in Sacramento. About a dozen dogs and their handlers were on hand on a beautiful, late-summer day to greet legislators and legislative staff, state workers, and the public to talk about the AKC and responsible dog ownership.
The event happened during the legislature’s final week on the last day for legislative amendments. Dogs that participated in the event included a Plott Hound, a Giant Schnauzer, two Lagotto Romagnolos, two Tibetan Terriers, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, a Newfoundland, a Border Collie, a Terrier Mix Rescue, and a Belgian Malinois.
The handlers watched as people came out of the Capitol with serious and stern looks on their faces. Then, when they saw the dogs, those looks turned to smiles, which grew even larger when those people actually put their hands on the dogs. There were many visitor comments about how wonderful it was for legislative folks to be able to come out of the building and get a break from the politics going on inside. One woman came down three times to interact with the Lagotto Romagnolos and said she would have had a difficult time making it through the day without the dogs. Another gentleman was amazed when he learned that the Giant Schnauzer, a PTSD service dog, actually helped relieve some of his stress.
The AKC staff and the dog handlers received other comments to the effect that most events at the Capitol are protests for or against one cause or bill. Having dogs available to interact with the public was a refreshing change of pace. AKC agreed that dogs are bi-partisan and don’t have an overt political agenda; their affection is unconditional and they don’t care on which side of the aisle anyone sits.
AKC Staff were complimented by many people for holding this event during the last week when everyone needed something to break the stress. One woman made a point of telling us that we should come back at the end of every session because it was so good to come down, pet some dogs and get positive feelings flowing before having to go back into the Capitol.
Robert Miller, AKC GR’s West Coast Legislative Analyst and Community Outreach Coordinator, who managed the event, commented, "It was rewarding to see people without a lot of dog experience come up and interact with the wonderful variety of dogs in attendance. Many tentatively asked if they could touch the dogs, then smiled as the dogs gave more affection than they received."
With the success of this first event in Sacramento, AKC Government Relations will hold more similar events in the future, expand the number of breeds and include demonstrations of some of the activities in which AKC dogs participate.