By Debbie Siegelbaum - 10/26/11 10:44 PM EDT
The Cannon House Office Building has its fair share of well-known faces, but there’s one popular character that waits patiently just outside its walls every evening.
She has no interest in politics or the economy. She just sits quietly at the northeast corner of the building every night around 5:15 p.m., her big brown eyes searching for one thing: her friend.
It’s a simple moment of joy for Thomas Palmerlee and his dog, Jedda. And a nightly tradition that has become a reason to smile for many more on Capitol Hill.
Palmerlee’s wife, Christina, has been bringing Jedda to the spot at the corner of First Street and Independence Avenue SE for several years. There they wait for her husband — an associate division director with the Transportation Research Board — to come home from work via bus or Metro.
The ritual is so expected that Congress could nearly set its watch by it. Around 5 p.m. on any given weekday, Christina ventures from their home on C Street SE with Jedda, a fluffy, red-haired Chow mix.
Walking slowly due to her arthritis, Christina makes her way to the Cannon benches and pours Jedda a bowl of water. They sit and watch the world go by.
But the 9-year-old dog doesn’t go unnoticed by passers-by. Most smile when they see her, and many have even made friends with her and the Palmerlees in the years since they began their daily routine.
Library of Congress employee Mark Brown has been stopping to say hello and pet Jedda for more than a year.
“I would see them sitting there every day, and I don’t have dogs but I enjoy them,” he said. “She’s just such a beautiful animal.”
Brown has noticed that he has to compete for Jedda’s attention, as the dog maintains a keen eye for co-owner Tom’s arrival.
“She’s kind of a challenge because she doesn’t give up her attention very easily. Most of the time I come by, and she ignores me totally,” Brown said, laughing.
He recalled an instance when he ran into Jedda and both her owners on a walk elsewhere in the neighborhood, and the dog wagged her tail excitedly when she saw him. But when she’s in waiting mode, all bets are off.
“As long as she’s not focused on waiting for Tom, she’ll give you some attention,” Brown said. “It just makes my day when I get an acknowledgement.”
The Palmerlees aren’t sure how their tradition began.
“I think it’s just something we evolved into,” Tom said. His wife of nearly 50 years agreed.
The Palmerlees met in college and married in 1963. They came to the Capitol Hill neighborhood 30 years ago, and have been there ever since.
The couple don’t have children but have had four dogs over the years. After the passing of their last dog, a neighbor came to them with an offer.
“We had a woman that lived in the neighborhood who did fostering for the Humane Society,” Tom said. “She called and knew we were looking for a dog since we had to put ours down, and said, ‘I have one that is really social, and it sounds like it might be a good one for you.’ ”
Jedda was just 8 weeks old at the time. Over the years she has proven her reputation as a social dog.
In addition to her nightly jaunts to Cannon, Jedda and Christina frequently embark on neighborhood walks — which aid with Christina’s arthritis — and the dog always manages to meet new people.
“She walks quite a bit, so people know her,” Tom said. “We’re walking down the street in Capitol Hill and somebody walks by and says, ‘Hi, Jedda,’ and I don’t know who they are. And I ask my wife, ‘Well, who’s that?’ And she says, ‘I don’t know. She’s just a friend of Jedda’s, I guess.’
“I tell my wife, ‘People wouldn’t notice us at all without the dog,’ ” he said with a chuckle.
Tom also described regular run-ins with other dog owners on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and his white Bichon Frise-poodle mix, Bruin.
Frequent trips to the local dog park are also part of Jedda’s routine, but nothing comes between her and her beloved owners each weeknight.
Once she sees Tom and races the length of a long grassy patch to greet him, Christina rewards her with dinner. The Palmerlees then wait patiently for Jedda to finish before continuing on their short walk home.
“It’s really a bad habit, because when we can’t go out, then it’s a real struggle because she doesn’t want to eat,” said Christina, noting that Jedda will instead accept a piece of cheese.
As Jedda ate her dinner one balmy evening this month, longtime federal worker Mary Bizzigotti walked up to greet her and the Palmerlees like she does every time she sees them.
Just like Tom and Christina, Bizzigotti had to wait for Jedda to finish eating before receiving a furry hello — and tail wag — and then continuing her nightly commute to Herndon, Va.
Once finished dining, Jedda nuzzled the Palmerlees, found a stick, and lay down to gnaw on it.
“Dessert,” Tom joked.
It’s all in a day’s work for Jedda, bringing happiness to her owners and those Capitol Hill employees lucky enough to call her their friend.
But no one appreciates seeing the affable, colorful character every evening more than Tom.
“I just clap, and my wife lets her go, and she races up to me. It’s quite a welcome,” he said. “You feel good, after a long day at the office, and you walk home and you get a greeting like that.”