Seldom, if ever, has so much weight been put on a single family’s choice of dog.
And seldom if ever has getting a dog — normally a personal and joyful affair — become such a public exercise in risk management and political correctness.
At first it was a simple campaign promise to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they’d get a dog after the election — only slightly complicated by the need for that dog, in deference to Malia’s allergies, to be hypo-allergenic, if there even really is such a thing.
Now there’s talk that the Obama’s eagerly anticipated choice of dog breed, or hybrid — Newsweek magazine’s April 13 issue says to expect some developments within the week — could lead not just to a surge in purchases of whatever breed they choose, but could cause a boom to the puppy mill industry as well.
The logic, as outlined by Newsweek, goes this way: If the Obamas get a Labradoodle — even a rescued Labradoodle — it will spark an increase in demand for the hybrid, and since most hybrids are bred by puppy millers, they’ll start churning them out to meet the demand, or in anticipation of it.
If the Obamas get a Portugese water dog — the other choice they’ve mentioned — the same thing would happen because not a lot of that breed can be found in shelters or rescue.
In other words, Obama can’t win. The fear is any breed, or hybrid, the First Family picks could have a “101 Dalmatians” effect: a sudden burst in popularity that breeders will try to capitalize on it by mass-producing similar dogs.
Even with Obama’s popularity, I think the fear is being slightly overstated — and I can’t think of any precedent for a president’s choice of dog leading to mass purchasing of the breed. I don’t think the presidency of younger Bush led to a surge in Scotties, anymore than the popularity of beagles was boosted by Lyndon B. Johnson. (History buffs, please correct me if I am wrong.)
Then again, with the Obamas, there are cute kids involved, and photo ops and, I’m sure, a media onslaught of tremendous proportions once the dog arrives, if how much coverage the issue (or non-issue if you prefer) has already gotten is any indication.
All this is another good argument for what was my personal preference, and really the only politically correct choice — a shelter mutt. That way, the only copycat surge would be in the number of people going to their shelters to adopt dogs that already exist and need homes.
Of course, that was before I decided it was none of my business — that, ideally, a family’s choice of dog should be left up to that family, not pundits, political pressure, or internet polls. Has any other president been held to this level of scrutiny — or any scrutiny at all — regarding his choice of dog? (Note to future presidential candidates: Get a dog before you start your campaign.)
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’m not sure, at this particular moment, if they’re Obama’s.
(Photo: Posters by Shepard Fairey)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, barack, breeders, breeds, choice, decision, dog, dogs, first dog, first family, hybrid, hypo-allergenic, labradoodle, malia, mutt, obama, pets, portugese water dog, president, presidents, pressure, puppy mills, sasha, white house
Given the Pentagon’s decision to ban pit bulls and other “dangerous” dog breeds from Army housing, we thought it would be a good time to revisit Stubby, the stray pit bull who became the most decorated canine soldier of World War 1.
At war’s end, Stubby was treated like a hero. Doors were opened for him, as opposed to being slammed in his face. Today, in light of a recently approved Pentagon policy, soldiers returning home — if they have a pit bull, Rottweiler, chow or Doberman Pinscher in their family — won’t be allowed to keep them if they live on a military base. (Thanks for fighting for our “freedom,” though.)
It’s just the latest breed-specific slap in the face to pit bulls, a breed that once served not just in battle (Stubby saw action in 17), but as corporate mascots (Nipper for RCA Victor) and TV show characters (Petey on “Our Gang”).
Stubby, though he entered the armed forces surreptitiously, was the only dog to be promoted to “Sergeant” through combat.
Stubby was found on the Yale campus — parts of which were being used as a training encampment — in 1917. He was taken in by John Robert Conroy and other soldiers, marched alongside them through training and, when time came to ship out to France, was smuggled aboard the USS Minnesota in an overcoat.
Overseas, he served as a morale-booster, sentry and more.
In April 1918, Stubby, along with the 102nd Infantry, participated in the raid on the German held town of Schieprey. As the Germans withdrew they threw hand grenades at the pursing allies, one of which wounded Stubby in the foreleg.
In the Argonne, Stubby was credited with ferreting out a German spy and holding on to the seat of his pants until soldiers arrived to complete the capture.
Stubby eventually ended up in a hospital when his master, Corporal J. Robert Conroy, was wounded. After doing hospital duty, he and Conroy returned to their unit, and served for the remainder of the way.
At war’s end, he was smuggled back home.
Upon his return, he was made a lifetime member of the American legion. He marched in every legion parade and attended every legion convention from the end of the war until his death. He met three presidents — Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.
In 1921 General Pershing, commander of American Forces during the War, awarded Stubby a gold hero dog’s medal that was commissioned by the Humane Education Society.
One New York City hotel, the Grand Hotel Majestic, lifted its ban on dogs so that Stubby could stay there enroute to one of many visits to Washington.
When Conroy went to Georgetown to study law, Stubby went along and served as mascot for the football team. Some say his halftime antics — he would push a football around the field with his nose — was the origin of the halftime show.
Stubby died in 1926. His obituary in the New York Times ran three columns wide for half a page.
His remains were mounted by a taxidermist and presented for display at the Smithsonian. From 2000 to 2003, he was loaned to the Connecticut National Guard Armory, where he was exhibited for three years.
All that history seems to be lost on the Pentagon — as does that of Rottweilers and Dobermans who have served the country, and continue to.
If remembering Stubby’s life isn’t enough to persuade the Pentagon that their action was rash, ill-conceived and discriminatory, then they should borrow from another chapter of his legacy, that being the last one:
They should take their new policy and stuff it.
(Photos and source material: Connecticut Military Department)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: Add new tag, army, ban, banned, bases, breeds, chow, connecticut, conroy, doberman pinschers, dobermans, dog, dogs, georgetown, hero, history, housing, john robert conroy, military, pentagon, pit bull, presidents, rottweiler, stubby, u.s., war, wolf hybrids, world war 1, yale