Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

It's a Dog's World

                                     Fwed Astaire Stone

                                     Fwed Astaire Stone

As I begin writing this week's essay, my 10-year old mostly greyhound "Fwed Astaire Stone" is, as per usual, lying on his couch, looking out the window in the library. (BTW: "Fwed" is not a typo; that's the way his name is pronounced. At the time our kids found him abandoned in a parking lot about ten years ago, the Star of the Week on Turner Classic Movies happened to be none other than Kay Francis (1905-1968), a highly-paid ($10,000.00 a week) Warner's star of countless 1930s dramas.  Kay was a world class clotheshorse best known for her gowns and her inability to correctly pronounce the letter 'r.'  This speech impediment caused her to sound a bit like Elmer Fudd; thus she was known in the Hollywood community as "The wavishing Kaye Fwancis."  Hence, our dog "Fred" naturally became "Fwed."  Fwed, by the way, was raised and mentored by our late, lamented Chocolate Lab, "Ginger Rogers Stone."

I start out writing about Fwed not just because he is lying just a few feet away; I do so because this piece is about dogs - and other pets - and how much joy, stability and emotional health they bring into our lives. I also devote this week's essay to, among others, Queen Elizabeth and Barbara Bush, two very public women who have long been known for their love of pooches.  There is, of course, more than a note of sadness attached to both women.  In the case of Queen Elizabeth, just the other day she put down "Willow," a 14th-generation descendant of her first Corgi, "Susan." According to the British Daily Telegraph, Her Royal Highness was "hit extremely hard"  by willow's death, which came as a result of several cancer-related infirmities.  It should be noted that Willow's passing marks not only the end of the royal canine line; it also means that for the first time since she was 12 (the Queen is now 92), she will be without a dog . . .

Then there is Barbara Bush, who passed away this week and was buried less than 24 hours ago.  Mrs. Bush will long be remembered for her white hair, her enormous fake pearls, being the only woman in the nation's history to live long enough to be both the wife and mother of an American president, her 73-year marriage to the nation's 41st president and "Millie," her English Springer Spaniel - the only first dog to "write" a New York Times best-selling children's book.  In Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush, Millie, the nation's "first dog," takes young readers through a typically busy day with the President, including early-morning briefings, deliberations in the Oval Office, and occasional short breaks for squirrel hunting; it wound up raising more than a million dollars for literacy programs. 

Of the 45 men who have served as President of the United States, just about every one was a dog/pet lover:

  • George Washington, our  first president and "Father of Our Country," had at least 8 dogs (with names like "Sweetlips," "Tipsy" and "Vulcan") not to mention a stable's worth of stallions, and a parrot named "Snipe"; 
  • John Quincy Adams kept silkworms, from which his wife Louisa spun their silk;
  • Abraham Lincoln kept goats, cats, rabbits and a dog simply named "Fido";
  • Rutherford B. Hayes kept a minimum of 7 dogs and 3 cats (including the first presidential Siamese cat, appropriately named "Siam") at the White House;
  • Benjamin Harrison: in addition to a goat named "Whiskers," Harrison had a collie ("Dash") and two oposums named "Mr. Prosperity" and "Mr. Protection";
  • Theodore Roosevelt kept a virtual menagerie at the White House including dogs, a badger, pig, laughing hyena and one-legged rooster:
  • Franklin Roosevelt had perhaps the most famous of all first dogs: his Scottish Terrier "Fala," who is immortalized at the Lnncoln Memorial.
  • Richard Nixon's Cocker Spaniel "Checkers" became the subject of one of the most famous speeches in all American political history;
  • Lyndon Johnson's twin Beagles, "Him" and "Her," made headlines when their master was photographed picking them up by their floppy ears;
  • Bill Clinton was often photographed with his Chocolate Lab, "Buddy"' and Buddy's nemesis, a cat named "Socks";
  • Barack Obama promised his daughters that once they moved into the White House, he would get them a dog - this was "Bo," a Portuguese Water Dog.

(It should be noted that the only POTUS to have mixed-breed dogs was JFK, who named them "Pushinka" and "Wolf"; every other presidential hound was a pure-breed.)

Which brings us to '45 . . . who is but one of two presidents (the other being the nation's 11th president, James Knox Polk) who had no pets.  At one point it looked as if '45 would be getting a "goldendoodle" named "Patton," a gift from Lois Pope, the widow of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope, Jr.  “I went through great trouble to find the perfect dog for Donald Trump,” she told Newsweek. "He would’ve been a perfect dog for any president." Patton is hypoallergenic, loyal and beautiful," she said. The deal fell through, Trump telling Mrs. Pope he was simply too busy for a dog.  As things turned out, Mrs. Pope was actually relieved; she had fallen in love with Patton and wanted to keep him for herself. 

Ironically, for a man who does not like dogs, '45 uses the term over and over in his most insulting Tweets.  At one time or another he Tweeted that Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, former N.Y. Governor George Pataki and former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu "couldn't get elected dog catcher."  After one of the presidential debates, he tweeted that he watched Florida Senator Marco Rubio "sweating like a dog."  (Just checked with Fwed; he confirmed that dogs do not sweat . . .)

Much has been made of the fact that '45 has yet to fill dozens upon dozens of major positions in the government.  We are still without ambassadors in 44 nations/organizations including

  • European Union
  • Georgia
  •  Honduras
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Jordan
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • South Africa and
  • South Korea.

One additional post that has yet to be filled - and likely won't be - is that of First Dog  For those of us who do have dogs, we know all too well what an important role they play in our lives;  keeping us happy, emotionally healthy and calm.  They make us laugh when we are down, offer limitless love and are great listeners to boot.

On behalf of Fwed, Willow and Millie, Mr. President, we urge you to consider getting yourself a dog.  We are unanimous in agreeing that the time you spend tweeting insults and inanities could best be spend walking, petting and interacting with a furry critter who loves you despite it all . . .

459 days down, 1002 days to go.

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone