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Tag: richard nixon

Who lets the First Dog out? Often, Dale Haney

boobama5You don’t know the face, but you may know the leg: A khaki-clad hunk of it often shows up — generally from the knee down — in photographs of Bo Obama.

The leg belongs to Dale Haney, who, when the First Family is too busy to walk the dog, assumes the duty.

As a keeper of the White House grounds for nearly 40 years, Haney has managed to cultivate  relationships with the presidential pups — all the way back to Richard Nixon’s Irish setter, King Timahoe.

“They heard about me and they called me to come over here for an interview and I came and here I still am,” he told the Associated Press  during a tour of the gardens on a rainy morning when first lady Michelle Obama — Bo’s primary walker — was out of town.

“I have him a little bit more” when she’s traveling, said Haney.

haney-100Before Bo came along, Haney had walked and played with President George W. Bush’s Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley. But he says he was most fond of Spot, an English springer spaniel whose mother, Millie, belonged to Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush.

“I do have a soft spot for Spot,” he said in an online chat in 2003. “I was there when she was born and now she’s back.” Millie gave birth to Spot at the White House in 1989; the younger Bush and his wife, Laura, put Spot to sleep in 2004 after she’d had several strokes.

Haney began at the White House as a gardener, then was supervisor of grounds maintenance and lead horticulturist before becoming superintendent of all the grounds last fall.

Besides helping out with Bo, Haney tends to the nearly 19 acres of lawns, trees and gardens around the White House.

The dog who saved Nixon

The No. 1 rule for a website, most will tell you, is to write short. We at ohmidog! have never been too fond of rules. Today, with all the hubbub about Obama’s yet-to-be-named dog, with gift dog offers pouring in to the Obama family, we travel back in time to look at another dog gifted to a politician, how that gift came to be given, and how Checkers, arguably the most famous dog in politics, rescued Richard Nixon’s career. This article (written by me) originally appeared in the Baltimore Sun on Sept. 22, 2002.

She taught music. He was a traveling salesman. They never gained much fame. But, with help from their cocker spaniel Boots, they may have changed the course of history.

Had Beatrice Carrol not been hired to teach piano at a women’s college in Texas, had Lou Carrol not picked up a newspaper to read during another lonely dinner on the road, had Boots not been paired up with a stud named Ace and given birth to a litter of black and white cockers two months before the Republican National Convention in 1952, Richard Nixon — it could be argued — might never have been president.

It was the Carrols who — back when TVs were black and white and Communists were “Reds” — gave the Nixon family the puppy they would name Checkers.

And it was Checkers who provided the sentimental hook in a speech that helped the then-U.S. senator from California secure his role as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice presidential running mate.

Nixon’s “Fund Speech,” better known as his Checkers speech — given 50 years ago tomorrow — was historic on several levels. It was the first time a politician, bypassing news organizations, made a direct appeal to the public on television. The speech was watched by the largest audience TV had ever amassed. And, most historians now agree, it resulted in Eisenhower turning around a decision — all but made, Nixon found out shortly before going on the air — to remove him from the ticket.

But like so much else when it comes to the man who would later serve as the nation’s 37th president, the Checkers story is full of contradictions.

Nixon barely knew the dog when he gave the speech. He implied she was a surprise when, in fact, his staff had known about the planned gift for more than a month. And, in the speech, he both got her gender wrong and incorrectly stated where she had been picked up.

Those discrepancies — granted, not as alarming as an 18 1/2 -minute gap on a White House tape recording — never got the kind of scrutiny that Nixon would in 1974, when the Watergate scandal and investigation led to his resignation as president.

For Lou Carrol, “that whole Watergate mess” made for some uncomfortable times, as well. While he had remained in relative obscurity, while he had never boasted about his gift to Nixon, he became, after that, hesitant to mention it at all.

To this day, few know he is the “man down in Texas” Nixon referred to in the speech. Other than appearing on two TV quiz shows in the 1950s — I’ve Got a Secret and What’s My Line? — Carrol never received much publicity. “Nor,” he says, “was I seeking it.

“It was just one of those things you do spontaneously. There’s a joy in doing that kind of thing,” he said. “Every time I’d see those children — those pictures of them and the dog and how happy they looked — it put a smile on my face.”

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