The First Puppy

This isn’t a political blog, so I’ve kept my often strong opinions on the issues to myself. Until now. Though I don’t intend to make political commentary a habit, I couldn’t let such a momentous event in the history of the United States pass without comment.

We Americans have managed, against formidable odds, to elect to our highest office not only a person of color but a person of intellect, education, and achievement who understands that our country needs leaders and decision-makers who are our best and brightest and who are willing to serve the best interests of the nation and its people without regard to partisanism, cronyism or their own ambitions.

This historic event has special significance for me. I grew up in Texas during the turbulent days of the Civil Rights Movement and school desegregation. As African American families began moving into the relatively new suburbs of Fort Worth, my father, an old-school bigot and xenophobe, sacrificed his family’s financial and emotional security and the quality of his children’s education to his irrational fear of people of color. He tolerated all sorts of degenerate behavior from his white neighbors, but when a perfectly nice black family moved in down the street he sold the only home I had ever known—a house he built on a street he named—and moved us into a cheap tract home in a “safe” redneck exurb. My more worldly-wise and open-minded mother, who taught me to appreciate such urban amenities as libraries, museums, theaters, and parks, got caught up in the hysteria only to find herself exiled on a cultural and social desert island. This ultimately destroyed my family and drove my mother to alcoholism and an early death. As petty as it may sound, Tuesday was the first time in my 35-year estrangement from my father that I wished we were still on speaking terms so that I could savor his comeuppance.

But enough about me. President-elect Obama won my vote during the campaign with both the content and quality of his speeches, his performance in the debates, and his rejection of smear politics. His acceptance speech was deeply moving, but he really won my heart with his promise to his daughters that a new puppy would accompany the family to the White House.

There’s a long tradition of purebreds in the White House, from to George Washington’s Black and Tan Coonhounds and John Tyler’s Italian Greyhound to the Bushes’ English Springer Spaniel and Scotties. Though there are many perfectly legitimate reasons for choosing a purebred puppy, my first thought was that choosing a shelter or rescue dog would be more consistent with the principles Barack Obama stands for.

I was already drafting a blog post about this when I took a break to watch today’s press conference. After outlining his strategy for economic recovery, national security, and energy independence, the President-elect answered a question about his choice of a First Canine by saying that it would need to be hypoallergenic because daughter Malia is allergic, but that “our preference is to get a shelter dog.” I cried (again).

I’m sure the Obamas will be deluged with offers of assistance from shelters and rescue groups around the country to help them find just the right puppy to become a part of the First Family. What a lucky dog.

(For the record, I appreciated the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation expressed in John McCain’s concession speech as well as the apparently genuine pride and good will expressed by George W. Bush in his address congratulating the President-elect. Maybe it’s not too much to hope that these are the first steps toward a post-partisan future. )

I want to give a quick shout-out to fellow artist and Bisbee neighbor Kate Drew-Wilkinson, who made me a spontaneous gift on election night of a beautiful pair of crystal teardrop earrings. Thank you, Kate—I’ll treasure them as a memento of a momentous evening.

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One thought on “The First Puppy

  1. Your words, like President Elect Barack Obamas, moved me. I too hope that his family will choose a shelter/rescue dog that needs a loving home.
    I’d like to send you an autographed copy of “Wackiest White House Pets”. Do you have a child in your life that might enjoy it? Let me know to whom and where to send it.
    Gibbs Davis

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