Saturday, September 5, 2015

DOGS IN POLITICS



As many of us are aware, the presidential race to the White House has begun with its characteristic political rhetoric.  Recently, I learned that September 23 is also known as “Dogs in Politics Day”.  Intrigued, I researched a bit and thought that whether you are “Right”, “Left”, or in-between, you just might enjoy some political poop not spread by politicians.

A Senator running for Vice-President, named Richard M. Nixon, was accused of taking $18,000 in campaign funds and using it for personal reasons.  Although he denied the accusation, during a televised address on September 23, 1952, he did admit to accepting a personal gift that he emphatically refused to return.  To quote, “You know what it was?  It was a little Cocker Spaniel … And our little girl …Tricia … named it Checkers.  And you know, the kids love the dog and I just want to say this right now… we’re gonna keep it.”  The address was later known as the “Checkers Speech” and is thought to be the motivating factor in the creation of “Dogs in Politics Day”.  The speech was apparently quite successful, for Nixon subsequently served two consecutive Vice-Presidencies.  Checkers never did make it to the White House, having died in 1964.

Pets and United States Presidents seem to go hand-in-hand.  While the gamut of types of pets is rather extensive (including a hippo, a tobacco chewing ram, a flying squirrel, alligators, raccoons, white mice, etc.), only 31 of the 43 presidents actually had dogs.

In the mid-1780’s, aware of George Washington’s intense interest in hunting dogs, Marquis de Lafayette, his ally during the Revolutionary War, sent him seven massive hounds.  Washington crossed these dogs with his own hounds to create a new breed, the American foxhound.  In addition to these famous seven (Sweet Lips, Tipsy, Tipler, Cloe, Searcher, and Drunkard), Washington had more than twenty other canine companions.  One of them, Vulcan, was said to have overwhelming fondness for Virginia hams, much to Martha’s chagrin.  He was definitely a hound with good taste.

Thomas Jefferson originally disliked dogs, especially those at Monticello which ate the sheep.  In response to the marauding dogs, Jefferson came out for a law that required every dog to wear a collar with the owners name on it, so they would be held liable for any mischief that ensued.  Thus, the author of the Declaration of Independence was also the instigator of the dog license.  Jefferson’s attitude did change, and while serving as minister to France, became enamored with native sheepdogs.  Long story condensed, his “Buzzy” became the precursor of the American line of Briard-type sheepdogs.

An Italian greyhound named Le Beau was a gift from the consul of Naples “to grace the White House lawn” during John Tyler’s term.  I suppose “gracing” a lawn is interpreted in a variety of ways.

Fido was a mutt adopted by Abraham Lincoln.  According to various accounts, President Lincoln refused to take Fido with him to Washington DC because he was afraid he would not be able to handle the trip.  He left him in the care of friends with a rather lengthy list of instructions to insure he would be a pampered pet.  Alas, Fido, unaccustomed to mistreatment, had an unfortunate encounter with a drunk and died less than a year after Lincoln’s assassination.

Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s constant companion, earned the rank of honorary private in the United States Army by "giving" $1 a day to the war effort.  He gained additional notoriety during the 1944 presidential campaign when Roosevelt lambasted Republican opponents by stating that Fala’s Scotch soul was furious about a story that Roosevelt had cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.  Apparently, “Fala’s Speech” did not hurt Roosevelt’s reelection

Harry S. Truman’s Feller was one of the most unwanted dogs in history.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s gift of an adorable mutt, named Pushinka, to John F. Kennedy during the Cold War may, or may not, have helped relations.  Lyndon Johnson’s beagle, Him, is remembered mostly for his ears and having many people upset with the President’s perceived cruelty.  The stories and anecdotes are endless and enlightening.  If you want to laugh at something other than the candidates this election year, I recommend that you read more about “Dogs in Politics”.  As President Bill Clinton said about Buddy, “It’s the President’s desire to have one loyal friend in Washington.”



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