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My Turn: A president’s best friend

By
From page A4 | May 16, 2012 |

NICK THOMAS

Most presidents welcome the company of a dog in the White House. The reason is simple: every Commander-in-Chief needs at least one faithful friend in Washington.

For our current president, that loyal pal is Bo, a black and white Portuguese water dog the Obamas added to the family in 2009.

Trained on the Wall Street Journal, Bo has since become a regular companion to the president, hanging around the Oval Office, running through the West Wing sniffing out hostile senators, and flying high on Air Force One.

But after November, will Bo still reign as Top Dog or will he be deposed by some fresh Republican pup?

When campaigning began last year for the 2012 election, some of the GOP candidates’ dogs must have been wagging their tails at the prospect of Bo becoming a one-term presidential pet.

But one by one, the Republican contenders fell off the political radar, leaving Mitt Romney to tackle the Obama White House. However, with no dog currently in the Romney household, it’s uncertain if there will be a Massachusetts mutt to run Bo out of town in November.

The former governor may have a tough time convincing any canine to join team Romney after an old tale of possible animal abuse recently resurfaced.

It seems during a family vacation back in the 80s, the Romneys stuffed the family dog, Seamus, into a carrier atop their car as they set out for Canada. While the story gives new meaning to the term “putting on the dog,” the incident really just illustrated that Romney was clearly a supporter of the controversial No Dog Left Behind Act.

Seamus proved to be a brave road warrior and survived the ordeal, but Romney can definitely forget about that PETA vote, now. And he can expect Democrats to regurgitate the incident ad nauseum through November, instead of focusing on more pressing issues like predicting what breed of dog he will bring to the White House, if elected.

I think the perfect match for Romney would be a Great Dane, since both are tall, somewhat dignified, and even-tempered beasts. And in the past, Great Danes were used to hunt boars. So given Romney’s successful pursuit and disposal of Rick Santorum, it would be an ideal choice.

If Mr. Romney thinks he has a serious shot at the White House, he would be well advised to study the history of previous presidential pooches that have left their mark in the Oval Office.

While Mr. Obama may be a good role model on how to treat dogs, Franklin Roosevelt was every dog’s dream. No one had a better president-First Dog relationship than FDR and his Scottish terrier, Fala, who moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1940 and accompanied the president everywhere.

Fala was spoiled rotten and lived better than much of the country which was still suffering from the tail end of the Great Depression. Every morning, for instance, Fala would receive a bone that arrived on Roosevelt’s breakfast tray. (This is in marked contrast to Bill Clinton who spent much of his second term in the “dog house,” and probably didn’t get many early morning treats from Hillary.)

Along these lines, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the presidential bed. Clinton should have been so lucky.

Away from the White House, Fala often accompanied the president on his travels whether by train, boat, car or plane. Although he rarely traveled by aircraft, Roosevelt actually was the first president to fly while in office.

I’m not sure how many flights Fala took with Roosevelt, but you can be certain his faithful friend would have been lovingly secured in a seat beside the president, and not strapped to a wing.

Nick Thomas has written for more than 180 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Christian Science Monitor. He can be reached at alongtheselines@gmx.com

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