‘Major’ news: First rescue dog makes his way to the White House
Biden’s dog choice brings up importance of adopting shelter dogs
Let past politicians tell it, dogs are presidents’ best friends. And as President-Elect Joe Biden prepares to transition into the White House in January 2021, his two German Shepherds — Major and Champ Biden — will paw their way in, too, possibly hanging out in all the favorite spots where former President Barack H. Obama’s dogs — Bo and Sunny — used to be. But what makes Major especially interesting is he’s the first rescue dog to make it into America’s home.
According to Delaware Humane Association’s Facebook page, Major was adopted in November 2018 after the Bidens had been fostering him. He joined their other dog, Champ.
First there was Champ
Seeing a German Shepherd tapping his way around the White House brings a level of normalcy back to the presidency — considering a historical tradition of presidents having pets. It’s also pretty cool to know that Joe Biden got the OK to get a dog right around the time Sasha and Malia Obama did. While former President Obama made his announcement about a family pet onstage during his 2008 Victory Speech in Grant Park (Chicago), Dr. Jill Biden (and upcoming First Lady) gave her husband the OK to get Champ after Biden had been vetted as VP in 2008. She even taped pictures of different dogs on the back of the seat in front of Biden on his campaign plane, according to Town & Country, so he could get ready for his new four-legged gift. Then Major joined the family 10 years later.
Then there was Major
Obviously it’s always a heart-warming moment for dog lovers to see pups running around or posing for photos on social media. But in this case, it’s more than just Joe Biden with a couple of German Shepherds. Their decision to choose their second dog the way they did is also significant. Major’s background should remind potential dog owners about why it’s a good idea to foster dogs (to know whether you’re fully equipped to keep them long term) and adopt rescue dogs. (Champ was from a breeder.)
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 6.5 million of companion animals end up in U.S. animal shelters nationwide — every year. There are only slightly more dogs (3.3 million) as there are cats (3.2 million). Oddly, this is good news because, in 2011, the number of dogs entering shelters was 3.9 million.
For a variety of reasons, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized — 670K dogs per year. Of that number, 620K are stray dogs. For dog lovers who simply don’t have the time, energy or consistent finances to house a dog, there are always opportunities to donate to ASPCA so they can help take care of homeless dogs until a permanent home is an option. Or, maybe you’re “the option.” Browse through reputable local shelters before going to a breeder. (And help spread the word about new pups for your family members and friends who opted out of neutering or spaying their own dogs. Maybe you could help pitch in for that procedure to be done to avoid the risk of them having to consistently find homes for new puppies.)
While it’s easy enough to wag a finger at pet owners who cannot take care of the animals, some new dog owners are really convinced they can take care of these dogs until a vet bill rolls in. And not everyone has VP level funds to take care of two dogs at once. According to the American Kennel Club, taking care of a dog can cost anywhere from $14K-$15K for dogs who live for 10 to 15 years.
- Small dog: $15,051 (average life expectancy of 15 years)
- Medium dog: $15,782 (average life expectancy of 13 years)
- Large dog: $14,480 (average life expectancy of 10 years)
But if you know you can afford a dog long term while worried about pricey adoption rates, pet adoption doesn’t always have to cost big bucks up front. For example, Chicago’s Animal Control rates are only $65. However, the pet adopter would be required to visit a veterinarian for any necessary shots and/or exam outside of those covered, within a 14-day time period. Chances are high that if you end up paying a higher amount in the beginning, this exam has already been completed. Make sure you get any necessary paperwork to fulfill your city’s pet requirements.
But let’s say you don’t have the funds right now to foster or adopt a dog, but you still want to be around these fluffy balls of love. Consider volunteer work at dog shelters, too. (Profits for dog walkers, dog sitters and dog boarders have dramatically decreased since COVID-19 hit in March, but you can also sign up for this, too.) For potential dog owners who are on the fence, temporary dog boarding, dog walking, fostering and volunteer work will allow you to have a better understanding of what it’s like to take care of a dog if you have not done so before.
In the meantime in between time, make sure to follow the First Dogs in the Biden camp to see what they’re up to in the coming weeks and years to come.