POV: Presidential Pets

Catharine Richards, Copy

A house is not a home without a dog, right? The White House should be no exception, and as exciting as it might be to have pets back in the White House, recently President Biden’s three-year-old rescue German Shepherd, Major, has been involved in two incidents related to biting White House staff. While both cases were extremely minor, an abundance of press coverage has spotlighted the potential issues that come with having a rescue dog with some possible behavioral problems in the White House. One would assume the dogs of the president would be exceptionally trained, but that does not prevent issues developed with previous owners. While of course the White House is the residence of the president, it is also a government facility. So what is the impact of having pets in such an official workplace?

This is certainly not the first–and likely not the last–incident involving presidential pets acting up. Throughout history there have been an interesting and odd array of White House companions. Everything from ponies to lizards, hamsters to goats, and even, fittingly, a bald eagle have lived under the president’s roof. Only now is the White House seeing its first rescue dog, Major, so what challenges does this pose? Students had a lot to say on the contentious issue.

“We had a badger [in the White House] once,” says senior Jeffrey Smrha-Monroe, “I don’t think this is that bad. If he hasn’t been drawing blood I guess it’s fine.”

In regards to Major being the first First Rescue Dog, faculty member Matt Patterson says that he’s “all for that.” Patterson continues, “I think that sends a really good message, and I hope that the dog gets the counciling it needs so that it can live up to the sense of dignity that we expect a presidential pet to display.”

Oddly enough, Major is not the first Major in the White House to make the headlines. Franklin Delano Roosevelt also had a German Shepard named Major who, in 1933 during a meeting between his owner and the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, nearly tore off the Prime Minister’s pants. After the incident, Major was promptly sent back to his New York home. Similarly, after Major Biden’s first nipping incident involving a Secret Service agent, Major and his brother Champ were sent home to Delaware for Major to receive some further training. While both of Major Biden’s biting incidents were significantly less serious, they are emblematic of the issues with owning a rescue dog. 

“I have a rescue dog that was from a really bad home,” says senior Jackson Rogers. “He was attacked by another dog, so he kind of has PTSD, and there are some things that he’s sensitive about. He never attacks people but he can get a little crazy, and it’s not his fault. He’s the biggest sweetheart.” Rogers says that in the case of Major’s biting issues, “I think it’s just a scary situation, but I don’t think he would actually hurt anybody.”

“If he was [really] biting people that would be bad,” says eighth grader Elyse Hammann, “but I mean he’s just like a puppy, right? It’s really not that bad.”

Currently Major is back at the White House with Champ and receiving further training. Patterson concludes that once Major receives the extra attention necessary, he’ll “be a good role model for pets everywhere.”