Politics is going to the dogs!

I’ve always believed that old adage that you can judge people by the company they keep.

That company extends to dogs and other non-human creatures welcomed into a person’s heart and home.

I confess to being a dog lover. I’ve always had a dog and I don’t know how people can live happily without one. There are lots of other kinds of pets, of course, but I am suspicious of anyone who befriends a boa constrictor, for example. I’m told rats make good pets but I wouldn’t rush to be pals with someone with that fetish.

With a new family in the White House (thank God), the ever-voracious media is abuzz with news of what pets are included in the Joe Biden clan.

Former President Donald Trump was the first president in 130 years with no First Pet and to me that says a lot about POTUS 45, who was arguably the worst president in his nation’s history.

Today, other world leaders like Queen Elizabeth 11(corgis), Boris Johnson (Jack Russell cross), Emmanuel Macron (Lab-Griffon mix), Vladimir Putin (various breeds) and many more all appreciate the personal and political advantage of having pets. But not The Donald.

Had Trump read any history he would have learned that Winston Churchill, the gold standard of politicians for many of us, took his dog everywhere (including the dining room where it had its own chair at the table.) And this special relationship was shared by iconic wartime partners William Mackenzie King who consulted his Irish Terrier Pat on major decisions such as cabinet appointees and Franklin Delano Roosevelt whose little Scottish terrier Fala was always by his side.

Trump could have learned a lesson from the recent critical U.S. Senate vote in Georgia where Democrats won both key seats and replaced the Republican majority.

The vote was especially noteworthy because Rev. Raphael Warnock became the first Black to ever win a Senate seat from Georgia. Less known is that it was a little Beagle named Alvin that helped put him there and change the course of U.S. history.

The New York Times has quoted political strategists in agreement that TV ads featuring Warnock out walking Alvin were very effective in clinching Warnock’s victory.

Alvin was cute and loveable and helped white voters feel more comfortable with a Black pastor known to preach a little hell fire and brimstone from the church pulpit once home to Martin Luther King.

(Truth to tell, little Alvin didn’t belong to Warnock. He was borrowed for the ad campaign but it turns out the new Senator is truly a dog lover.)

Donald Trump wouldn’t be able to share the limelight with a dog and his beloved “base” would be unimpressed with their fearless leader walking a Beagle. A pit bull or rottweiler maybe.

Trump has explained that he was too busy to have a pet and scoffed to a questioner: “How would I look walking a dog in the White House lawn?”

My answer to that is he would have looked a heck of a lot better than he did in the company of some of the human rabble he dragged in over his four year tenure. Perhaps the ex president was concerned that a dog would do what dogs do just when you are without a bag in your pocket and there are cameras everywhere. No problem. That’s the kind of job he counts on his old pal Rudy Giuliana to handle.

By comparison to his predecessor’s disdain for pets and the germs they might carry, incoming President Joe Biden and his family have brought with them to the White House First Dogs Champ and Major, both German Shepherds. Major is the first shelter dog to have ever reached such fame. Apparently, a cat will soon follow.

History records that the first First Dog to received media attention was President Warren Harding’s Airedale Terrier named Laddie Boy. It was also recorded that the 29th U.S. president (1921-23) also had a bull frog named Old Boy, a canary called Petey and Pete the Squirrel living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Over the decades just about every breed of dog has shown up at the White House—from Great Danes to terriers and spaniels.

Not all names have been especially inspiring. Lyndon Johnson called his two Beagles Him and Her.

Young children have often influenced whether there’s a pet in the White House. For example, the Kennedys had a virtual menagerie that included everything from cats to hamsters and birds and Macaroni, daughter Caroline’s famous pony.

Amy Carter had a Siamese cat, the Clinton White House had a cat named Sox and Buddy the Labrador Retriever and the Obama daughters shared Portuguese water dogs Bo and Sunny.

Meanwhile, back here in the Great White North, the media has not been as fixated on the furry companions of the occupants of 24 Sussex Drive when the old mansion was still in use and since the current Prime Minister and his family moved to less drafty accommodation down the road.

It seems Jean Chretien is the only fairly recent Prime Minister who resisted pet ownership. Apparently, a dog once snapped at Chretien on the campaign trail and that may have convinced him it’s safer to kiss babies than pet dogs.

Our PMs have chosen pets as diverse as their owners. For example, Brian Mulroney favoured standard poodles, Joe Clark had a Great Dane, Stephen and Laureen Harper are cat lovers and Justin Trudeau’s family chose Labs and St. John’s water dogs.

Choosing a breed and pet’s name is not as simple as it was in the days before political correctness and social media. To avoid controversy and getting tangled up in geopolitical sensitivities, today’s best choice for politicians is a rescue dog with a non binary name.

Nothing is simple any more in this doggone world!


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© 2020 Sally Barnes