The first shelter 'first dog'

Faith is a great hiking companion. 

Donald Trump is the first president of the United States since James K. Polk to not have a presidential pet while in office (yes, I was not familiar with President Polk either; he was the president back in 1845). This pet column, written weekly since 2006, has always steered clear of politics, so don’t worry. I am not going all political on you here, but I do have an important message to deliver.

When President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, his dog will be making history. His German shepherd, Major, will become “first dog,” the first canine in the White House from a shelter. Jill and Joe Biden became foster parents for Major in 2018, through the Delaware Humane Association. They quickly fell in love and shortly after, officially adopted him into their family. The Biden’s also have another dog, named Champ, who will be the second “first dog” in the first family of the United States.

Pets are not political. Our primary interests are the pursuit of love, kindness, playing and eating. So this week’s column is not a political statement but a reality check. From what I hear of this country’s current political situation, things are a bit messy. It also appears as though people are not getting along so great right now; that divisiveness is generating some pretty ugly situations. My point is you can all use more love, kindness, playing and eating. I expect a lot from Major and Champ.

First dogs have made and changed the course of history many times. For example in 1944 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for his fourth term (it was after this win that term limits were instituted by the 22nd Amendment) he was criticized for accidentally leaving behind his dog Fala when visiting the Aleutian Islands (rumor has it Fala developed a strong liking to surfing and seafood and hid when the boat was departing).

Roosevelt was accused of spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to retrieve his dog. At a speech, known as “the Fala speech,” Roosevelt said, “you can criticize me, my wife and my family, but you can’t criticize my little dog. He’s Scotch and all these allegations about spending all this money have just made his little soul furious.” It is noted that this humanizing speech helped secure reelection for Roosevelt.

Then there was Richard Nixon, accused of hiding secret slush funds during his candidacy for vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. He gave the televised “Checkers speech,” named after his cocker spaniel, denying a slush fund but admitting, “there is one thing that I did get as a gift that I’m not going to give back.” The gift was Checkers, given to his daughters. Following his speech, he received an increase in support and Mamie Eisenhower reportedly recommended he stay on the ticket because he was “such a warm person” (despite this, the slush funds resurfaced again during the Watergate investigations).

First pets grew in prominence with the Clinton’s and Obama’s, with Hilary Clinton writing a book about the first cat and first dog (Socks and Buddy) from the White House and President Obama featuring his first dog Bo in a book written from the White House, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.”

Love. Kindness. Play. Eat.

My name is Faith, a 1-year-old terrier mix. Upon arrival at Second Chance, I was shy, nervous and afraid of leashes but, like Champ, through my foster family, I have turned into a great hiking and cuddling companion. I am ready to be your first dog (or second or third is fine, too).

Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties for more than 26 years. Call 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about emergency response, community medical, spay/neuter, volunteer, or other services. View shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org.

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