Almost Unprecedented: A President Without a Pet
You’ve known this was coming for a while, so don’t act surprised. Forget the deputy sheriff. Forget the at-risk adopted sons. Forget the gay dancer husband. If Jon Carroll could let those damn cats have their own column, then why shouldn’t rescue dogs get in a bark or two?
My name is Krypto Thaddeus Fisher-Paulson, and I’m the beta. We’ve had some fierce alphas, but beta is the better job because the alphas always have to go out and sniff the other dog’s butt. Besides, I make it into all of his passwords.
I got the name from Kevin, a lifelong Superman fan. In the family pictures, I’m the one with the all-white coat. Kevin’s theory is that if black cats are bad omens, then surely white dogs must be lucky.
The other two hounds are Buddyboy and Bandit. Buddyboy may be my son, but he is also the bizarro Pekingese. Pekes as a breed are not very bright, but Buddyboy drags us all down the bell curve. If you feed him, he barks. If a cat walks by, he wags his tail. We tried to sign him up for remedial dog training, but it was like teaching a pig how to sing.
Bandit doesn’t know that his front legs are crooked and that he walks funny, so he declared himself alpha. He’s not very bright either, as he spends most of his time running in circles, trying to figure out who put a tail on his back end.
We are all lion dogs. Pekingeses were originally the sacred consorts of the Chinese royal court. The emperor himself ordered them all destroyed when the British sailed up the Yangtze during the Boxer Rebellion, but his aunt had hidden five of them in her boudoir, and we are all descended from that noble lineage.
Buddyboy, Krypto and Bandit
Kevin allowed me to write this week’s column because of the inauguration. Donald Trump is being sworn in as leader of the free world, and he has appointed billionaires to the Cabinet. But Trump has yet to answer the question: “Who will be the first dog?” I don’t care much whether Melania ever moves in, but a White House without a dog is like a Kremlin.
This may be what’s wrong with America in the Trump years. A society is measured by its compassion, whether that be for the homeless, the immigrants or the rescue dogs.
If you include horses, then every president except James Polk and Andrew Johnson has had a pet. It has been almost 150 years since the White House did not have an animal living inside. I’m not saying that Johnson wouldn’t have been impeached if he had a schnauzer, but he would have had a happier home life.
Many times the pet is more interesting than the president. Martin Van Buren lived with a pair of tiger cubs. Teddy bears got their names from their association with Theodore Roosevelt. And Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hippopotamus. No kidding.
There have been first families slow to understand the importance of canines. The Clintons started out with a cat named Socks, but after two elections, Bill finally realized that the American people wanted a chocolate Labrador in the White House. (I bet Hillary wishes she had walked a dog a little more during the last campaign.)
Our pack members, Brian and Kevin, voted for Barack Obama, but they might have rethought that had they known at the time that Obama insisted that his presidency not have “a girly dog” and so he chose a Portuguese water dog named Bo. His prejudice against kinder, gentler creatures remains the one blemish on his tenure.
Even Richard Milhous Nixon had dogs. We tend to forget after this most vicious of all presidential campaigns that in 1952, when Nixon was running for vice president, there’d been complaints about political donations. Nixon made the best speech of his career, stating that he had only ever kept one donation for himself, and that was from a traveling salesman named Lou Carrol, who sent the Nixon daughters a cocker spaniel named Checkers. By the way, the Nixons actually had three other dogs: a poodle named Vicky, a Yorkshire terrier named Pasha and an Irish setter named King Timahoe. Word on the street is that Vicky and Pasha blamed King Timahoe for the 18½-minute tape gap.
It’s been suggested that Vladimir Putin will appoint a Siberian husky or a borzoi to the White House. I’ve nothing against the Russians (they did, after all, make Laika the first dog in space on Nov. 7, 1957), but I think that Trump’s holding out for a French poodle who’s done the centerfold for Dog Fancy.
Sooner or later, Trump is bound to learn that Harry S. Truman was right when he said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Photos courtesy Kevin Fisher-Paulson
This article was previously published in the San Francisco Chronicle.