Running for Congress: Pooch leads police, reporter and Senate staffers on hairy rush-hour chase around Capitol

I thought it was a jogger at first.

Someone clad in black ran up the sidewalk on the north side of Constitution Avenue, just across from the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. 

But it was too fast for a jogger. There was an urgency.

This was a female U.S. Capitol Police officer, wearing a thick tactical vest. A radio pack and other police equipment sprouted from the front. Then yelling. 

Then three other Capitol Police officers charged up Capitol Hill, knees churning. 

Police radios crackled. Something was terribly wrong. 

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A security issue? A terrorist threat? Someone with a gun? A bomb?

It was something else.

A scruffy, brown and gray terrier scurried up the hill, with no leash. It darted between cars during the pm rush hour on Constitution Avenue

The dark pavement aspirated petrichor on this sticky June day. A stray shower had just bathed the street, charging the air with moisture in the way Washingtonians know all too well during warmer months. 

But it was about to become a dog day afternoon.

The loose pooch charged toward the Russell Senate Office Building. But then, it haphazardly hopscotched across the bustling roadway — eluding vehicles like an ‘80s arcade master playing Frogger.

The dog artfully dodged the cars. But the canine risked getting KO-ed.

That’s when I realized the mutt was heading toward me on the Capitol side of the street.

He made a dogleg turn and loped toward the Capitol. 

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I had just gotten off the air — delivering a live report on Bret Baier’s program about criminal referrals for Hunter Biden and James Biden by a trio of House committees. It was around 6:25 p.m., and I was walking to my car. I dropped my lunch pouch on the sidewalk and inched toward the street between two parked cars. I crouched down, arms extended and hands sagging toward the ground, like a soccer goalkeeper about to challenge a breakaway at the front of the penalty area.

Things were looking up. Anything to get the dog out of the street. A pursuit would have been much easier on the Capitol square side of the Congressional complex. The U.S. Capitol rests atop a 60-acre expanse of lush open areas, bushes, leafy trees, park benches, accentuated by twisting footpaths. This would be safer for the dog than having it lope around Constitution Avenue.

The pup spotted me.

Zoooosh!

He made a hard right and galloped into the gulley between where cars were parked on Constitution and the curb. There’s a raised, concrete barrier between the curb and the grass. It was too high for the dog to make it onto the Capitol square. He had reversed course and was running back down Capitol Hill.

“Help!” I yelled at an oblivious woman talking on her phone next to one of the parked cars. “Get that dog!”

She looked up just as he ran over her beige mules and zipped back into the street.

Oh, no. 

By that point, several of the officers who had joined the chase on the north side of the street had now run over to the south side near the Capitol with me. Fortunately, no traffic was headed up the hill on Constitution as the dog loped down the hill. He undulated back and forth across the six lanes of roadway like running between agility obstacles at the American Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden.

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I took advantage of the break in cars coming up the hill, taking off in a sprint. My blue, striped tie flapped over my shoulder. My TV IFB cable was still connected to my earpiece and draped down my back from the live shot. 

“Stop traffic!” I yelled behind me to the trailing officers.

I peaked over my shoulder and saw a few cars creeping slowly in the westward lanes down the hill. The drivers obviously saw the commotion, spotting the contingent of uniformed officers running in the street. 

Now the dog was drifting toward the north side of the hill, toward the lower end of the Russell Senate Park and the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon. 

Exhausted and scared, the terrier sought refuge under a parked car on the north side of the street. Someone must have called to shut off traffic on the radio, because there was no traffic advancing in the far lane toward us. I could see a wave of traffic clustering at the foot of Capitol Hill, backing up toward the Department of Labor. An officer assigned to the post at the corner of Constitution and 1st St., NW, stood in the middle of the roadway, halting the cars. 

I got to the rear of the car and dropped down to my knees. The dog was there. One officer slid up by the driver’s side and dropped to the ground, peeking under the vehicle.

But all that did was flush our quarry. The dog escaped, because there were only two of us surrounding the car. There was no way to trap him or grab ahold of a leg or a collar. 

There he went again, tiny legs pumping like miniature pistons as he raced back up the hill and toward the Capitol side of the street. The dog crisscrossed lanes like a manic commuter on the Beltway. Fortunately, there was no traffic now. So, the roadway was clear for the dog to bolt away and slip under a gunmetal-colored Toyota sedan with Maryland tags parked behind a maroon Acura SUV. 

Four officers charged from the grassy hillside of the Capitol square toward the vehicle. Another three ran down the hill, including the original officer in the tactical vest. Two officers approached the car from the south side of the street, along with yours truly. Two Senate aides were now involved – one in a long skirt, and another wearing a tie so orange that it resembled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ colors of the 1970s. His white, oxford dress shirt now spilled over the top of his belt, apparently from his part in the pawchase. 

Almost everyone dropped to their stomachs, reaching under the car for the little guy, flailing around. It would be hard for him to dash away this time. Every corner of the vehicle was covered. Two officers in the street stood back a few feet, hands on knees like a third baseman guarding the foul line. They were back up – ready to grab the wayward dog if he somehow were to escape again.

I was on the ground, my right arm outstretched under the driver’s side. I could smell the fresh rain from the greasy pavement. An officer on the passenger’s side somehow clasped the collar. But the pup wiggled out of it. I poked at it from my side, trying to flush it toward the curb. Finally, a mustachioed officer in a U.S. Capitol Police ballcap managed to pull the pooch out from under the car on the curbside.

“F—!” shouted the officer, nipped almost immediately by the petrified dog.

No good deed ever goes unpunished.

“F—!” yelled the officer again, grimacing.

He unceremoniously handed the dog to another uniformed officer and inspected his right hand.

That officer, in turn, gave the panting pup to someone who appeared to be a plainclothes officer, who had arrived on the scene wearing shorts and a bandanna. He pulled the hound close to his chest and cuddled it. The dog began to relax. 

Unfortunately, there was no tag attached to the collar. But there was a report of a missing dog in the area. It’s believed there’s a microchip embedded in its neck for identification purposes.

Everyone was grinning but gasping for breath. Beads of sweat glistened and slipped down cheekbones. It was four minutes of an intense, aerobic pursuit. Considering all of the direction changes, it’s a wonder no one turned an ankle or tore an ACL. The officer in the tactical vest was smiling. Laughing, even. 

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The quest ended. The dog was safe. The officers re-opened Constitution Avenue to traffic. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was riding in one of the stalled vehicles and hollered something out the window, having witnessed the entire episode.

Harry Truman famously declared that “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

Dogs may be man’s best friend. And if you’re a dog in Washington, perhaps your best friends are the U.S. Capitol Police.