President Obama Takes the Name of Dog in Vain

I happen to be a registered Democrat, and I gladly voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Like many other dog lovers, I wasall earswhenhe vowed...

Julia Szabo  |  Sep 9th 2010


I happen to be a registered Democrat, and I gladly voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Like many other dog lovers, I wasall earswhenhe vowed tomake good on his campaign promise to his daughters: now that the election was history, the Obama girlswould finally getthe dog they’d been tirelessly lobbying for.

Let’s flash back to the president-elect’smemorable first press conference in November 2008:

“With respect to the dog, this is a major issue,” he said. “Our preference would be to get a shelter dog … shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

As a bigproponent of rescue and adoption, and author of a book titled The Underdog: A Celebration of Mutts,I’m always impressed by creative, positiveuses of the M-word, so I was beyond charmed when the bi-racial president-electlikened himself to a mutt.

What’s more, I was hopeful that homeless shelter mutts all over this land would finally get the love andrespect they so deserve. After all, ifourcountry’s dynamic leader endorsed them, millions of Americans were bound to follow suit.

It was hard not to get carried away on this wave: Animal shelters from coast to coast would finally become go-to destinations for dog lovers in search of wonderful family pets! And mutt advocates could finallyentertain the audacity of hope that some day in the not-too-distant future, loving homes could be found for all homeless American dogs.

In Nepal,meanwhile, artists who paint “Danger Dog”signs were so excited and inspired by the election of America’s firstnon-white president that theymade exceptionally charismatic portraits of Obama on metal, including one very handsome specimen with the timelylegend MUTT! that promptlyearned pride of place inmy personal art collection.

But Obama disappointed many of his dog-loving constituents, this one included,by accepting the gift of a purebred Portuguese Water Dog from Senator Edward M. Kennedy. No offense to Bo Obama, butwhile he’s certainly adorable,he’s no shelter mutt. He’s just another well-connectedpolitical animalborn to a life of privilege.

Sadly, our country’s animal shelters continue to be overburdened– especially the ones inLouisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. In these states, so many people have lost their jobs due to the Gulf oil spill that economic hardship forces them to do the unthinkable: surrender their dogs.

These days, President Obama is using the word dog in a surprisingly different context. One might even say he’s taking the name of dog in vain. Here’s what the commander in chiefhad to saya few days ago: “Some powerful interests who have been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time and they’re not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog.”

I’m no fan of Rush Limbaugh, but on Monday, when the conservative radio host roundlycriticized the president for his surprisingly inappropriate use of the D-word,he wasn’t just Right, he was right.

“I don’t understand this, folks,” Limbaugh said. “I talk about my dog – I got two of them. I talk about my dogs like they’re kids! … So I don’t understand what he is saying. Bow-wow presidency or something?”

Limbaugh then shared a personal anecdote about his holiday weekend. It turns out that my dog Redmond and I weren’t the only mediahounds obliged tospend part of the Labor Day weekend at an emergency animal hospital. One of the Limbaughs’ two familydogs swallowed a sock, necessitating a midnight run to the nearest24-hour vet hospital, where doctors successfully induced vomiting and all was well.

Limbaugh continued on the canine theme,unfortunately stepping out of bounds to use a dog term whencharacterizingunion leaderRichard Trumka as a “barking lunatic”:

“I mean, imagine being on the same podium with that barking lunatic, Richard Trumka, and you’re the guy who makes news with a bonehead remark that people treat you like a dog.”

By the way, whatever else you may think of them,right-wingers do tend to be big dog lovers. And let’s face it, President Obama’s remark was indeed boneheaded.Here’s hoping that, going forward,our leadercan remember that 1)he is, in fact, a dog owner,and 2) dog is not a four-letter word.