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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!

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Breaking news on the brave dog front: dog saves woman from kangaroo attack.

A cat we had when I was a child had a serious theatrical streak, and would feign illness or injury to get attention. On one occasion, for instance, she accidentally (but genuinely) managed to get her paw caught in a suitcase as it was being closed. I’m sure it smarted. She limped around for quite some time, and we petted her and fussed over her.  Then we discovered through careful surveillance that she was only limping when she thought we were watching. If she didn’t think she was being observed, she was fine. Drama queen.

This week has brought more than our usual share of crises of various sorts, all survivable, but we’d be just as happy if everyone we loved were healthy and the plumber hadn’t been here this week as often as the mailman and the pump weren’t making that noise that guarantees that it’s going to quit giving us water on demand–really, it means it this time–as soon as it can catch one of us in the shower with a head full of shampoo.

And first child has sprained his ankle badly, and is hopping around on one foot, using a cane for support when he goes to work, and being spoiled with extravagant delicacies like ibuprofen and bags of crushed ice for the swelling.

So guess what Crispin’s doing. Yeah. Limping, favoring his left front paw. It’s actually quite pitiful, though it’s been impossible to get a photo of his three-leggedness.  This always raises the question, as my friend Sandi notes, of how many days to wait before taking a limping dog to the vet. Is it Lyme disease? A sprain? A foxtail caught between the paw pads? A laceration? Okay, the laceration one is easy, since there’s, you know, all that blood (we’ve been there, done that), but otherwise, it’s sort of a mystery.

We’ve examined the paw and found no cuts, tears, bruises, torn nails, hot spots or foxtails. So the rule around here is that as long as the critter in question doesn’t seem to be in serious pain and is still playing, eating, and appears otherwise healthy, we wait 3 days before going to the vet.  These things have been known to clear up spontaneously after 2 days and 23 hours.

I just hope it’s really the vet Crispin needs, and not the local paper’s drama critic.

It has come to my attention that today is officially Take Your Dog to Work Day.

As a freelance writer, I work mostly from my desk in our home office. Or the picnic table in the back yard. Because of that, the dogs (and cats) are just about always at work with me. Unlike the guinea pigs, who, lazy buggers that they are, only want to hang around the water cooler.

Here, for instance, is Crispin, hard at work in his role as office support staff.

The pleading and frightened look on his face is there because I’ve just told him to come up with a business plan that will clean up the mess on the printer table (I’m not even going to show him the desk–he’d just go on strike). Don’t anyone tip him off to the fact that he’s only going to be paid in kibble.

We bug the dogs now and then because they aren’t making any money. Why can’t they be models whose pictures end up on biscuit boxes? Why don’t they win silver bowls and big checks in the dog shows (okay, maybe that one is because the closest we ever get to a dog show is to watch them on tv once in a while)? Why can’t they rescue children who have fallen into wells, perform search and rescue missions after an earthquake, work as companions for people with disabilities, or have their own tv shows?

I mean, all they do, pretty much, is to lay around here waiting for meals. And, okay, the cats keep the evil spirits away. Yeah, Dinah and Crispin do jump up to see where we’re going even if it’s just to the bathroom or to the fridge for more iced tea, and they do race out the door ahead of us and fan out along the path in our terribly danger-infested suburban back yard and watch us all the way down the walk to see that we’ve made it safely to our cars without being–oh, mauled by chipmunks, say, or hit by falling acorns.

But most of the time they just hang around here under my desk, or wait for crumbs to fall from the kitchen table, or run in crazy happy circles greeting kids when they get home from school or grown ups when we return from long hard expeditions to the grocery store, or give us adoring looks when we do even stupid things or just sidle up and give us little nose-touches to let us know they’re on the . . . oh, wait . . . job.

Never mind. Maybe it’s really Take Your People to Work day. Keep up the good work, dogs.

We’ve passed through the 10 days that count as spring in New England–those 10 mild and balmy days between weather that still periodically dips into the lower 30s and weather that is suddenly close to 100 degrees. Though it’s hot and we’re all scrambling to get the window units into the few rooms that positively demand air conditioning, it’s also dramatically, lushly beautiful, verdant and alive with trees in full leaf and vines and magnificent flowers–azaleas and iris and that pinky-orange-flowering umbrella-like tree with the peeling bark that we don’t know what it is but we love.

And there are birds. Many, many birds. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of acres of yard that include a stream, a pond, vegetation of all heights and densities, making it a little paradise for the birds. We have water birds–ducks and Canada geese (who somehow DO seem to have gotten the memo requiring them to stay in our neighbor’s yard where we can see them and appreciate their handsome plumage and their impossibly cute and fuzzy goslings, but where we don’t have to deal with their soil enrichments), herons and red-winged blackbirds, hawks and osprey, barn swallows, and all manner of song-birds.

Here’s where it gets interesting, because it isn’t just the human residents here who appreciate the presence of the birds. Nemo, for instance, whom you haven’t met yet, spends hours sitting in the windowsill over our bed, keeping careful track of the comings and goings of a pair of purple finches who inhabit a tangle of leafy vines that crawl up the chimney on that side of the house. She chirps softly at them in a gentle way that means, “If it weren’t for this damned screen between us, you two would be toast.”

When we disturb her voyeuristic activities gentle birdwatching, she rewards us with a fond look that clearly says, “Do you not have anything better to do than bother me?”

We do, of course. Right now we are very busy protecting these:

Protecting them from Dinah and Crispin, who have discovered this wren’s nest just at their eye-level, tucked into the frame of the office window that looks out onto the porch. We were tickled when the wrens began to build their nest their, anticipating the joy of being able to see up-close the building of the charming nest, the tiny nestled eggs, and the hungry young babies as they hatched.

Okay, first we gave them an “F” in nest-building–I’m telling you, they just flung sticks at the windowsill and however they happened to fall was okay with them. Then, at about the same time that we discovered (through quick peeks every few days when the parent wrens were away) these 5 amazing little eggs (about dime-sized), the dogs also discovered them, and it fell to us to keep them from eating the eggs. Fortunately, the pack leader cleverly hit upon an arrangement of boards (left over from a building project)–that, propped at just the right angle, blocks both the dogs’ view of the nest and their access to it, but leaves plenty of room for mama wren (who figured it out quickly) to fly in and out.

Of course, the neighbors may call the planning and zoning commission–our remodeling isn’t exactly something you might see in House Beautiful–but we think it’s a small price to pay for the safety of our new tenants.