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We’ve been enjoying the fact that President-elect Obama (ooh–gives me the shivers–in the best way possible–just to type that) has promised his little girls that they can have a dog now that the election is over, so today I hopped over to the White House’s kids page and found a roster of presidential pets.

There have been some interesting ones. Calvin Coolidge had a mockingbird and a goosed named Enoch.  Woodrow Wilson had a ram that chewed tobacco. Nixon had his Checkers and Lyndon Johnson got into hot water when he picked up one of his beagles, “Him,” by his ears.

LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto

LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto

And of course Teddy Roosevelt and his children had a whole menagerie: not just horses, dogs, guinea pigs, and cats (and, famously, his daughter Alice’s snake), but also wild animals including, but not limited to, a lion, a coyote, five bears, a zebra, a raccoon, and a macaw called Eli Yale.

But there hasn’t been a presidential airedale since Warren G. Harding’s “Laddie Boy,” seen here in this photo from the Library of Congress. He bears some resemblance to Crispin, I think.

So what do you think? What should the Obama family get?  I think it needs to be a dog that reflects Obama’s thoughtfulness and intelligence, that will be loyal and fearless, but that also has a sense of humor.

Hmm, sounds like some dogs I know . . . how will the Secret Service react when the airedalean mother ship lands on the White House lawn?

So what do you think–should First Dog be an airedale, a mixed breed, a hifalutin’ breed, a rescue dog, a little dog, a big dog . . . leave a comment about who should be America’s next First Dog!

At first we blamed it on each other. But now we’ve got it figured out.

Our dogs love their crates.* They go happily to them at bedtime, and if we stay up later than what they consider a respectable hour, they come and let us know it’s time to open them up so they can go to bed. We credit this amazing phenomenon to the fact that we’ve never used crates for punishment or time-outs, and that each one gets to take a biscuit to bed at night. Also to the fact that the crates are lined with cushy beds I made by covering large pieces of upholstery foam with material from a brand new plushy Ralph Lauren throw I got at Goodwill for $6.  Hell, I’d like to sleep there.

In fact, they like these beds so much that we have to close and latch the crates during the daytime, or Crispin pulls them out of the crates, drags them through the house, and  (remember, this is Crispin) eats them.

Only now winter is icumen in, and the floors in this old house are, admittedly, chilly. The other day we came in to the room where the crates are and found Crispin comfortably ensconced in his cozy bed in the middle of the day. I fussed at the Pack Leader for not latching the door that morning.

The next day we found his bed in the middle of the kitchen floor, and the crate wide open. The Pack Leader fussed at me for not latching the crate door.

We became extra vigilant about firmly latching the door.

The door continued to open mysteriously.

Yesterday I stood Crispin in front of the securely latched door and dropped a biscuit into the locked crate from the top. Dog outside. Biscuit inside.

“Okay, boy,” I said. “Show me how you do it. Get the biscuit.”

He gave me one of his patented winsome looks and said clearly, “I would love to eat that biscuit, but I am just a humble dog and have no understanding of latches.”

I left the room.  I heard the sound of a latch being thrown back. And then the sound of a biscuit being crunched.  And I’m pretty sure I heard some snickering after that.

We began to seriously consider a theory bandied about on the Airedale List, an online mailing list for airedale people whose collective wisdom has helped us weather many a crisis. The theory is that airedales have cleverly disguised Swiss Army Paws with a variety of useful tools contained within.  One flick of those hairy paws brings up the right implement for, say,

  • standing on your purse and thus dialing 911 on your cell phone
  • Opening ziplock bags
  • Pulling open the bread drawer
  • Prying the lid off a jar of peanut butter
  • Picking their teeth to remove any traces of evidence that they might have had something to do with the missing hamburger

But today he came clean. I found him happily snoozing on his cozy designer bed and invited him to step out of the crate. I shut and latched the door. He sighed, gave the latch one flip with his nose, swung the door open, and resumed his nap.

I didn’t have the heart to make him come out again.

*looking at the close-up of the latch, I now wonder whether he wasn’t pointing out that it’s overdue for a little clean-up.  Gotta get on that.

He is so shaggy. People are amazed when he gets up and they suddenly realize they have been talking to the wrong end. --Elizabeth Jones
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Nancy Hall ©2009
November 2008