By Candace Taylor
On Jan , the Delaware Humane Association held a virtual “indoguration” for Major, Joe Biden’s three-year-old German shepherd, who was adopted from the animal shelter in 2018. The Zoom event drew over 7,400 attendees and their pets, raised some $200,000 to benefit the association, and featured a performance by Josh Groban, who sang a slightly altered rendition of “How Much is that Doggie in the Window.”
“Major Biden, if you’re watching, it’s a real honor, Sir,” said Mr. Groban before his performance.
But many attendees were deeply disappointed that Major didn’t make a live appearance during the event. They took to the Zoom chat window to voice their complaints. Some even demanded their money back. “WHERE WAS MAJOR?” wrote one. “Everyone was misled!” wrote another.
Major and Champ, the Bidens’ two German shepherds, already have legions of fans, like many presidential pets before them. For decades, Americans have treated the dogs and cats belonging to the first family as celebrities. The excitement surrounding Champ and Major is especially intense because there has not been a pet in the White House since the Obama family departed four years ago; President Trump is the first president in over 100 years not to have a pet while in office. On top of that, Major is the first-ever White House pet to be adopted from a shelter, according to Andrew Hager, historian in residence at Maryland’s Presidential Pet Museum.
Patrick Carroll, executive director of the Delaware Humane Association, said more people signed up to attend the indoguration than they expected. “The response has been far beyond our greatest hopes,” he said. “Knowing that the first family has dogs is something that people can relate to.”
Dog-lovers are ready for Champ and Major to move in to the White House, but will the White House be ready for them? Preparing the executive mansion for its new canine inhabitants, and vice versa, involves a number of logistical challenges. Moreover, the Bidens have said they plan to add a cat to the family once they are in the White House, which could make the situation even hairier, experts say.
The young, rambunctious Major will likely have more challenges transitioning to the White House than the older, calmer Champ, said Mark Tobin of Delaware’s K-9 Camp Dog Obedience School, who trained both dogs for the Bidens. “Champ is used to the big show,” said Mr. Tobin. “I think Major is going to be like ‘wow.’”
Perhaps for that reason, the dogs will not join the Bidens at the White House this week, but will wait until things settle down, said Michael LaRosa, spokesman for incoming first lady Jill Biden.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Throughout history, presidential pets have come from all corners of the animal kingdom: President Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah, while the Benjamin Harrison family had two opossums. The children of Abraham Lincoln had goats, Mr. Hager said, and Tad Lincoln once tied his chair to a goat and let it drag him through a group of visitors in the East Room.
In more recent years, famous first pets like Socks, the Clintons’ cat, and the Obamas’ Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny, have spawned books, toys, clothing and political cartoons. Champ and Major have already inspired one children’s book: “Champ and Major: First Dogs.” On Twitter, at least seven fan accounts are devoted to the incoming first dogs.
Though common, having pets in the White House can be challenging. Filled with priceless art and artifacts, the roughly 55,000-square-foot building isn’t dog friendly. In the 1950s, the Eisenhowers’ Weimaraner, Heidi, had an accident on a $20,000 ($180,967 in today’s dollars) rug in the Diplomatic Reception Room, according to the book “Dog Days at the White House: The Outrageous Memoirs of the Presidential Kennel Keeper,” by Traphes L. Bryant, who cared for White House dogs from the Kennedy to Nixon administrations. Both the rug and the dog ended up leaving the White House; Heidi was relocated to the Eisenhowers’ farm in Pennsylvania. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson’s white collie, Blanco, peed on the Alexander Calder sculpture “Whale, II,” on loan to the White House from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Michelle Obama wrote in her memoir, “Becoming,” that her dog Sunny “seemed to see no point in being house-trained, given how big her new house was.”
Champ and Major “will have their challenges, because you’re going to have a lot of people coming and going and they tend to be more of a protective breed at times,” said Kristina Carmody of Indigo Dog Training in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Tobin said he trained both Champ and Major to be calm around unfamiliar groups of people. Once Champ, who was adopted from a breeder in 2008, moved in to the vice president’s residence, “he really adapted so well to the transition,” Mr. Tobin says. Major is “a happy-go-lucky type of dog,” he says, but he “has a lot of energy, and a lot of curiosity.” The White House will be filled with new scents, which could cause Major to mark his territory inside the house. He suggests that when the dogs arrive at the White House, the Bidens walk Major around the 16-room family residence, and the surrounding property, on a leash to help him get used to the space.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=CandaceETaylor&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1350910569965039618&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wsj.com%2Farticles%2Fjoe-bidens-dogs-shepherd-in-new-era-of-presidential-pets-at-the-white-house-11611160275&siteScreenName=WSJ&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px
Ms. Carmody suggests limiting Champ and Major, at first, to only a few rooms in the White House rather than letting them roam the entire 132-room building. Being with their owners will also help the dogs relax, she says, recommending that “if President Biden is comfortable, having a dog bed or two in the Oval Office.”
The Bidens should bring familiar dog beds, toys, and rugs from their Delaware home to help the dogs adjust, Mr. Tobin said. Ms. Carmody recommends keeping jars of treats around the White House so the staff can easily reward the dogs for good behavior.
The Bidens may want to consider designating a certain room as belonging to the dogs, says Katherine Wozniak, a Chicago-area interior designer who often works with clients to create luxe but dog friendly spaces. “It’s basically creating a safe place for them when they’re not able to be with the president and the first lady,” she says. Many of the dog rooms she has designed for clients have a pet shower so the dogs can wash off muddy paws before going in to the rest of the house, as well as custom cabinetry to store equipment like leashes and bowls. In these spaces she recommends a sturdy laminate flooring, and sometimes tiled walls so the dogs don’t scratch the drywall.
Another way to keep pets out of trouble is to design elements specifically for them, Ms. Wozniak says. She likes to design a “perch spot” for dogs; in her house, it is a built-in bench beneath a window, with cushions and pillows in a pet-friendly, easily-cleaned Crypton fabric. Another trick, she says, is to incorporate baskets for doggy toy storage into the décor in various rooms. “We want to create more interest for them first before they find it themselves,” she says.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Still, even the best-trained German shepherd can break things with a happy tail-wag. “I would suggest that the more priceless artifacts be above the tail-wagging line,” says Ms. Carmody. “Anything that’s on a coffee table is fair game when it comes to German shepherds.”
The dogs need to be protected from the White House as much as it, and its contents, must be protected from the dogs. Poisonous substances like cleaning products should be stored behind cabinet doors secured with childproof locks, according to dog trainer Larry Kay, co-author of “Training the Best Dog Ever.” Electrical cords, which can electrocute or strangle dogs, should be kept out of sight. Lawn chemical use should be monitored and the dogs only allowed on the grass when the chemicals dissipate.
Things could get even more challenging if the Bidens add a cat to the household. In November, the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C., shared on Twitter that it has a litter of newborn kittens from which the Bidens can pick their new “Catbinet” member. In honor of the Bidens’ affinity for Delaware beaches, the kittens were named Rehoboth, Lewes, and Fenwick. The kittens should be ready for adoption in February, says Stephanie Shain, COO at the Humane Rescue Alliance. “It’s perfect timing for the Bidens,” she says.
Mr. Carroll said his organization is also vying to be the source of the Biden’s new cat. But with two large dogs at home, he advises that the family “should definitely get settled in the White House before they add a cat to the mix.” The cat and the dogs should be introduced to each other slowly, over a matter of weeks.
Ms. Shain recommends that when the Bidens first bring a cat home, it should have its own bedroom to help it settle in. Declawing is no longer recommended, so scratching posts will be needed throughout the White House to prevent the cat from damaging furniture and rugs.
The cat may pose even more of a danger to the White House interiors than the dogs. Betty Monkman, who worked for decades in the White House Curator’s Office, recalls worrying that one of the first cats would claw the upholstery in the family quarters. “I do remember,” she recalls, “being very concerned about that cat.”
SOURCE : WALL STREET JOURNAL