Originally published in In Session, Summer 2016.
Everyone loves a happy ending. And some of the most heartwarming are those of lost dogs being reunited with their owners. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico knows this personally through the incredible story of her Shih Tzu “Kiwi” – a story she described as “a sad experience that had the best ending ever.”
“[A few years ago], Kiwi got scared [over] some fireworks in the neighborhood and ran away,” she explained. “I was in the middle of my second campaign for Congress, and I dropped everything to look for her. She didn’t return and I was heartbroken.”
Thirteen months later, this story took an amazing turn. “While I was serving in Congress, I got a call [saying] Kiwi turned up at a veterinary clinic, and fortunately they found her [micro]chip that identified me as her owner. We posted a photo of Kiwi and me on Facebook and got the most incredible responses from all over the world.”
For Lujan Grisham, microchipping is an important part of being a responsible dog owner, but it’s not the only thing. “Obviously, responsible dog owners must care for their pet’s day-to-day needs, like food, water, and shelter.” She also emphasizes that there is more that is required. “Just as important, pet owners must be considerate of their neighbors, which means ensuring your dog isn’t a nuisance. Typically, if you’re taking care of your dog’s basic needs and making sure the dog gets exercise, they aren’t a problem for neighbors.”
Congresswoman Lujan Grisham has owned many dogs in her life. She believes that it is important for those who want to own a dog to learn how to care for that dog responsibly, in order to prevent more serious issues for the animals and the community. “Pet overpopulation and pet abuse are serious problems. We must invest in educating people, starting with young children, to be responsible pet owners.”
Congresswoman Lujan Grisham believes that the work and responsibility that comes with dog ownership also has significant rewards. “[Dogs] have their own personalities, and they truly become part of the family. Children benefit from that relationship, but more important, they get their first taste of what it’s like to be responsible for someone other than themselves.”
Dogs can provide benefits to the workplace as well, and the Congresswoman said that she encourages her staff to bring their dogs to work. The staff enjoys bringing their dogs, who play together and join in office festivities. Recently, Grisham’s Chief of Staff organized a birthday party for his dog (including cake!) and the staff and dogs celebrated together.
“Sometimes, it’s more convenient to bring our dogs into the office, as long as they are not disruptive,” she explained. “Most importantly, the dogs provide a warm, welcoming [environment] for our visitors and staff.”
“A relationship with your dog is so rewarding,” Congresswoman Lujan Grisham explained. And her relationship with Kiwi is evidence of this. The Congresswoman explained that she is “very special” to her. “We found each other many years ago during a tough time in my life. She helped me get through that time, which is why I have been especially protective of [her].”
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