Thoughts on 2020 and Humility
I think it is my job to pierce through the din of politics, the depression, and the euphoria of the last weeks and get to the most crucial development.
Dogs are returning to the White House.
This, my friends, is not a partisan issue. It is richer and more meaningful than politics, as most dog owners will attest.
Flat out, I would say we make better decisions in the presence of a dog. At least I do. Having a dog near your side, curled by your feet, or having your hand on a dog changes the room’s temperature and sense of possibilities. For example, I can’t imagine looking into the deep brown eyes of a dog and then saying, “Let’s invade Canada.”
I know that in our home, the decisions I’m tasked with are made with a dog present. Laurie, my wife, is responsible for things like where we live, where the kids went to school, and how we spend money. I, with a dog present, am responsible for things like rejoining the World Health Organization and what to do about global climate change. Finally, I’m in charge of dealing with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Kim not only does not have a dog but recently ordered all dogs in Pyongyang to be confiscated. (apparently, dogs are a sign of decadence, although my sources tell me a dog rejected him) These are the issues that Maisie, our Terrier-chihuahua, and I ponder daily.
I know that Biden will be struggling with many of the same issues, and knowing that he will have TWO German Shepherds, Champ and Major (a rescue), by his side, has helped me unclench.
Of course, if we look at precedent, many famous canines have helped steer the ship during troubling times. George Washington had a hound named “Sweet Lips” (seriously). Sweet Lips accompanied George to the First Continental Congress. Abraham Lincoln’s dog, Fido (the first “Fido,” making that name a cliche), was by his side during the Civil War.
Teddy Roosevelt had lots of dogs when his family moved into the White House, including a St Bernard and Pete, a Bull Terrier. Pete’s claim to fame was that he allegedly bit the French Ambassador, ripping his pants. Of course, depending on your opinion of the French, pre-World War I, it might have been entirely justified. As my daughter says, never trust an individual who your dog doesn’t like.
A fun, non-dog fact about the Roosevelts is Teddy’s daughter Alice had a pet snake named Emily Spinach. Apparently, she took said snake to galas in her purse. I’m sure that chaos ensued—teenage rebellion at its best.
The most famous presidential dog of all time was FDR’s Fala. He was Roosevelt’s constant companion and traveled with him everywhere. Fala was so popular and received so many fan letters that he had his own human assistant. I wonder what it would be like to be the assistant to a famous dog? If Champ and Major become social media stars, might that be an opportunity for a 70-year-old dog lover and writer?
Anyway, Fala is the only presidential dog memorialized with a statue next to FDR in Washington, D.C.
The Kennedy’s had a menagerie. Both Bush’s and the Clinton’s had dogs running on the White House grounds.
My quick google search came up with the fact that only two Presidents have not had pets—James K. Polk and, yes, Donald Trump. And, Jimmy Carter had a dog but didn’t bring their dog to the White House. (All three were one-term presidents. Coincidence? Hmmm) My tip would be if you’re planning a run for President, think Dog.
Best Presidential dog story — and this is for the parents who’ve made the same deal— is that Obama and Biden both promised their families they would get a dog if they were elected in 2008. How many millions of parents have spoken the words, “I promise we will get a dog if . . . ?”
In the end, something is humanizing about having a dog or dogs at the seat of power. There is the lovely story of the Irish Prime Minister’s Bernese Mountain dog interrupting a State meeting and wanting belly rubs from the Prime Minister. We are human, all, and dogs bring that out in us.
We owe them warmth, happiness and love. Abraham Lincoln, dog owner, said it best: “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”
Don’t forget to take that walk with your dog!