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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

McCallum: A Steady Paw

Associated Press
Calvin and Grace Coolidge relax with family pets, including Rob Roy on the right.

President Calvin Coolidge, a Plymouth, Vermont native who adored his white collie Rob Roy, once stated in his plain spoken way that “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House” – a sentiment with which I firmly agree.

Credit Associated Press
Associated Press
First Lady Grace Coolidge plays with First Dog, Rob Roy, at the White House.

In fact, I’m of the opinion that the lack of a dog is perhaps at the very heart of what’s causing the current confusion and disorder at the White House.

Much has been written about the powerful bond between humans and dogs - and canines in the Oval Office have gotten special coverage since George Washington’s hound Sweet Lips.

Lincoln had his Fido and there’s been an unbroken parade of pooches in the White House since 1901, when William McKinley, our last dog-less president, died in office. His successor, Theodore Roosevelt, brought with him Sailor Boy, Jack, Skip and Pete, the latter an infamous biter ultimately banned from the White House. In 1928, Herbert Hoover’s Belgian shepherd, King Tut, was credited with humanizing the presidential candidate for a public that viewed him as stiff and standoffish. FDR had Fala, Nixon had Checkers, and so on, up to Obama’s Bo.

And this brings me to the benefits of having one of Man’s Best Friends in the White House. They model how to live in the present, they don’t hold grudges, they embrace the natural environment, and they’re not inclined to be shy about expressing joy.

They also tend to be welcoming, whether to invited dinner guests or to those trying to find a better life in this country - invited or not.

Still, getting a dog is risky - not because it may bite you or terrorize the neighbor’s cat – but because it will eventually take up residence in your heart - setting up camp there and leaving an indelible paw print.

They ask for little and repay us with companionship. Their ability to forgive and move on, often from painful circumstances, teaches us about gratefulness. Dogs are endlessly enthusiastic about life, and who wouldn’t feel better being around that?

Never mind debating the relative merits of various Chiefs of Staff – I think what this administration needs is a wagging tail and a steady paw to temper the emotions and tweets of our Commander-In-Chief.

Or, to coin a new acronym: what this country needs right now is a DOTUS for the POTUS

Mary McCallum is a freelance writer and former prison librarian who now works with Vermont elders.
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