Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2009

The President's Pet Project

You know what they say about friends in Washington: If you want one, get a dog. Barack Obama is pretty popular as Presidents go, but just in case, he has added a cute little bundle of fur to his Administration. Wise is the leader who plans ahead.

For thousands of years, dogs were drones in the human economy: hunters, herders, security guards, pest-control specialists. But unlike blacksmiths and journalists, dogs have made the most of a changing economy. By finding a truly recession-proof niche — unconditional-love provider — they've gone from eating scraps and sleeping in the dirt to gourmet kibble and orthopedic beds. Turns out humans will pay billions per year for unquestioning devotion — we'll even pick up the poop. These days, the only humans who "work like dogs" are options-rich Google employees.

But much more is demanded of the Obama pooch, who has the long name required of all registered purebreds but shall be known to the world as Bo. Though just a puppy, Bo spent his first days at the White House carrying grin-starved television anchors on his little back. He rounded up straying viewers for cable gabfests and herded readers to newsstands. A Virginia-based publisher is already rushing the first Bo book to print, and you can bet it won't be the last.

Bo also turned the grindstones on which various interest groups rushed to sharpen their axes. As a Portuguese water dog, the favorite breed of Ted Kennedy's, he managed to feed grievances of conservatives and pet-rescue activists simultaneously. Rush Limbaugh is even recording ads for the Humane Society.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's critics once tried to get at him through his dog, Fala, claiming the Navy had been dispatched, at great public expense, after Fala was supposedly left behind on a remote island. The attack backfired — the GOP hadn't factored in the popularity of a pooch with his own secretary to answer fan mail. America is canine-crazy, which is why a President's best friend can sometimes be the only one he needs.