With about as much stewing as he gave choosing a secretary of state, President-elect Donald Trump is considering accepting a canine pet in order to avoid being the first president in a century and a half to not have a dog in the White House.
Dogs, it should be noted, have enjoyed a glorious history in our nation’s executive mansion. Cats, a little less so — although Abraham Lincoln once insisted his cat Dixie was “smarter than my whole Cabinet.”
A few presidents had entire menageries, collections that included an alligator, an elephant, bear cubs, tiger cubs, raccoons, squirrels, horses, silkworms, guinea pigs and parrots. Even goats have wound up on the White House lawn, as a means of saving on mowing costs and showing the public the president was sacrificing to support troops overseas.
Calvin Coolidge had 26 named pets, including two lion cubs and a pygmy hippopotamus. Warren G. Harding’s dog Laddie Boy was way more popular in the newspapers than the president. Franklin Roosevelt’s dog Fala possibly won him re-election to his fourth term. Lyndon Johnson, however, lost stature with Americans when he was photographed picking up his two of his beagles, Him and Her, by their ears.
One thing that could make a difference to Trump is that you can make a lot of money with a celebrity dog, although most modern presidents have given such income to charity. There are all those coffee table books, for example, about children’s letters to Barney, Bo, Millie, Sunny and Miss Beazley. President Obama’s dogs are so popular the first lady has to keep a diary for them to schedule their appointments. They do, however, spend many hours outside with staff.
Thus, Trump could claim getting a dog created jobs since he, a phobic about germs, is unlikely to walk a dog. However, Trump will have a lot of free time since he skips all those boring intelligence briefings he says he does not need. (Incidentally, they are called presidential daily briefings for a reason; they’re only for the president and they need to be done daily even though Trump thinks about once a week is fine.)
That does bring up a troubling thought. What if the goldendoodle a wealthy friend from Palm Beach, Fla., says she is giving Trump has an accident or slobbers over the president’s shoes? Would the dog be publicly fired, breaking the hearts of children from coast to coast, not to mention Trump’s son Barron?
Choosing a name for the White House dog is daunting. Some presidents have been lacking in this area. For example, George Washington had Sweetlips, Drunkard and Tipsy, among others.
The dog under Trump’s consideration is named Patton, after the famous general who did cause presidential angst and was fired as military governor of Bavaria. Patton, however, did not create as much trouble for presidents as Trump’s other favorite general, Douglas MacArthur.
Isn’t it interesting that Trump, who once declared he would fire all the generals, is filling his Cabinet with them? But I digress.
Since Trump insists on remaining an executive producer of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” he will be able to publicize a White House dog even more than his predecessors have. Not just coffee table books but reality TV shows, endless tchotchkes and, for $150,000, cloned Pattons! Trademarked Trump Tower retreats for pets from coast to coast! Patton doggy beds and blankets and bones.
Historically, many pets have been given to presidents by foreign leaders, including Pushinka, a puppy of the Soviet space dog Strelka, given to John F. Kennedy by Nikita S. Khrushchev.
But, somehow, given the current climate of too much schmoozing between Russia and Trump and the president-elect’s refusal to believe the CIA that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, a bad scenario would be Trump choosing a Russian wolfhound, also known as a Borzoi.
Even worse? Trump accepting an offspring of Konni, Vladimir Putin’s Labrador. And naming it Hillary.
Ann McFeatters is a columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her e-mail at email@example.com.