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The General Assembly Has Gone To The Dogs, Well At Least One

Diva at the General Assembly
Credit Jessica Jones
Diva, wishing for a snack.

Many state legislators in the General Assembly aspire to be top dog, but few of them are as popular as the real deal: a miniature Pomeranian named Diva.

The fuzzy, four-pound lap dog with a personality to match her name comes to work at the legislature every day with the people she owns, Republican representative Nathan Ramsey and his wife, Robin Ramsey, who’s a legislative assistant.

“It certainly opened the door to more visitors, which is good,” said Robin Ramsey. “I just wanted to bring Diva because she’s part of the family.”

But in a short time, the taffy-colored rescue pup has arguably become the most chased after creature at the legislative building. Walk in on any given day and you’ll see a steady stream of bipartisan visitors knocking on the Ramseys’ office door. Democrat Rick Glazier of Fayetteville is one of them.

“I make it a point to stop by,” Glazier explained. “You can’t leave after playing with Diva and talking to the Ramseys unhappy or in a bad mood, and that is not always true (of other interactions) around here.”

The Ramseys started bringing Diva to work in February, because they thought she’d be lonely staying at their condo in Raleigh. Back home in Fairview, the Ramseys live on a family dairy farm, where their dog loves circling the baby calf pen. Representative Ramsey says Diva’s propensity to round up people has served him well in his first term as a freshman legislator.

“A lot of this is about relationships, and really, unless you’re a seat-mate with someone, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to reach across the aisle,” said Ramsey. “You don’t develop relationships by sitting in a committee meeting. You have to find out about other people’s lives and families and get to know them in more depth.”

Ramsey, a former county commissioner, believes Diva has helped him get to know the softer side of the grizzled politicos of Jones Street. The dog has also encouraged other lawmakers to throw Ramsey bones of support for measures he’s introduced-- from one that would relax restrictions on manufactured housing to a study bill on the effects of coal ash.

Just the other day, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis stopped by with his beloved boxer, Ike, for a visit. A spokesman for the Speaker recounted that Ike’s meeting with Diva was “like many meetings in this building- more sniffing around than anything else.”

Diva at the General Assembly
Credit Robin Ramsey
Representative Nathan Ramsey, Diva, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, and Ike.

According to a trusted source, Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt lights up when he sees Diva. “I like Diva,” the distinguished senator said in an e-mail statement. “She fits right in around here. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they put her in leadership.”

Not surprisingly, the Ramseys have already thought about the issues Diva would care about if she ran the place, aside from the dainty ones she leaves outside on Jones Street.

“Promoting the poultry industry in North Carolina,” said Representative Ramsey. “Anything for her favorite— fried chicken,” added Mrs. Ramsey.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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