Dogs Are Coming Back to the White House — And There’s a Reason Why

Connecting the dots between empathy, presidential leadership, & dogs.

Quy Ma
Quy Ma
Nov 9, 2020 · 8 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Source: Jill Biden with Major & Champ — Twitter

The results of the 2020 US election represented a repudiation over Trump’s term, a return to normalcy and decency, as well as having furry animals running around the White House in the near future.

With Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump comes a few uncertainties such as the outcomes of Trump’s legal challenges and whether or not he will actually concede. Uncertainties still lie on whether Democrats will be able to control the Senate after the Georgia runoff elections.

However, despite all of these unknowns, there will be one certainty that will come January 20: For the first time in 4 years, there will be dogs in the White House again.

I only found out that Donald Trump didn’t have a pet in the White House last year. It was a realization that surprised me. I had taken that knowledge for granted. I asked myself, “Doesn’t every President have a pet in the White House?”

Trump isn’t the first president in the White House to not have a dog. But he did Trump break a 120-year tradition upon taking office by not having a dog, or a pet for that matter, during his term.

Out of the 45 Presidents in US history, “at least 30 presidents have had dogs, starting with George Washington.”

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Barack Obama & Bo — Pixabay

In recent history, when President Obama was first elected in 2008, he gifted Bo, the Portuguese Water Dog, to his daughters. In 2013, Obama welcomed another Portuguese Water Dog to the First Family named Sunny.

President George W. Bush himself had “two Scottish Terriers (Miss Beazley and Barney) and Spot, an English springer spaniel” during his two terms.

Why No Dog?

During a rally in El Paso in 2019, President Trump explained that having a dog “feels a little phony” and he “doesn’t have any time.” Doesn’t have time?Let’s dissect his remarks.

Before he became President, Trump once said at a December 2015 rally that although he loves golf, he said he wouldn’t “have time for [golf]. We have to work” after criticizing Obama for his golf outings. At a rally in August 2016, he said “I’m not going to have time to go play golf…because I’m going to be working for you.”

However, since becoming President, Trump has spent 266 days at a golf course during the 4 years he’s been President, usually at his own resorts. Sounds like plenty of recreation time to me!

Additionally, President Trump reportedly “watches up to 7 hours of cable news every morning before getting to the Oval Office as late as noon.” Again, sounds like a lot of time to me, especially for a dog that ultimately doesn’t need near as much time as golf or TV.

A dog, once trained, needs four things: Food, exercise, play, and love.

For the first three needs, it’s not reasonable to expect the President of the United States to be the one taking care of the dog. Additionally, Trump has lived a wealthy life for most of his life. Hired help wouldn’t be hard for him to come by. He also has a whole host of White House staff that could help with the dog’s needs. Or maybe his son could take care of the dog?

I’m not going to even comment on his ability to love others, including dogs.

President Trump once tweeted a bizarre photoshopped image of himself “presenting a medal of honor to the military dog involved in the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS” in 2019. The dog’s name is Conan.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Donald Trump & Conan — @realDailyWire / Twitter

Super weird. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I watched the actual video of President Trump honoring the dog, Conan, during a public ceremony. He didn’t even pet the dog’s head once. Vice President Mike Pence couldn’t help himself and gave the dog lots of attention, but Trump barely glanced at the dog.

I don’t think Trump ever wanted a dog in the White House. I have a few theories on why:

  • He must be allergic to dogs.
  • He must hate taking responsibility for other things.
  • He must not like dogs.
  • He has no empathy for others.

Champ & Major

With Biden’s ascension to the office in a few months, pet ownership will again be normalized in the White House. The Bidens currently have two dogs: Major & Champ, who are both German Shepherds.

Vice President Joe Biden acquired Champ from a Pennsylvania breeder as a gift to his wife, Jill, in 2013. However, they received criticism and flak for not rescuing a dog instead. According to ASPCA, approximately “6.5 million animal companions enter US animal shelters worldwide…and 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized.”

Biden took note of the criticism for not rescuing a dog and made up for it a few years later. In 2018, Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley, “sent her father a Facebook post with information” about a German Sheperd litter that needed help at the Deleware Humane Association. The pups had been exposed to toxins in a different unsuitable home and developed major health issues.

All of the puppies received medical treatment but needed to be fostered. The Bidens fostered a male puppy. The puppy was named Major. A short while later, Major’s adoption was made official by the Bidens.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Joe Biden & Major — Deleware Humane Association / Facebook

According to NBC News, Major will also be the “first rescue dog to live in the White House” come January.

Presidential Leadership, Empathy, & Dogs

Now, at this point, you might be questioning me and ask what does having a dog in the White House have to do with leading a country? Is it really that a big deal that President Trump never had a pet? I’d say so!

“Approximately 62% of the American population live with a pet,” according to NIH. President Trump’s choice to not have dogs or cats is not representative of the people he’s leading.

I personally think owning pets is a testament to a person’s character. According to a study, people who own pets have higher empathy than non-pet owners. Another study found that “companion animals play an important role in the socioemotional development of a child,” which found links between empathy and pet ownership.

Empathy is the capacity to put yourself in another person’s shoes and to understand their feelings and what they’re going through. Empathy helps us understand others’ perspectives and needs as well as the capacity to treat others how they want to be treated.

Empathy is one of the most critical skills for a successful leader. Empathy and leadership have been found to increase “employee retention, productivity, and happiness” among teams.

One of Joe Biden’s biggest pitches to the American electorate during the 2020 campaign was his capacity for empathy.

During the debates with President Trump, Biden looked solemnly into the camera and asked, “How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the table because someone died of COVID-19?” He vowed to do what he can to defeat the pandemic and get it under control.

President Trump in contrast said during an interview with Axios about COVID-19 deaths, “They are dying, that’s true. And you have — it is what it is.” Trump has displayed a serious lack of empathy in the midst of the pandemic, choosing to ignore it and asking Americans to live life normally.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Donald Trump — Axios Interview Screenshot

In an article from Time Magazine that “we need leaders who are able to vividly remember how it feels to experience hardship, trauma, and pain.” Leaders who are able to empathize will be able to take of other people since they’re understanding what others are going through.

Build Bark Better

In an interview in 2005, while Melania was pregnant with Barron, Donald Trump bluntly told the host that he doesn’t help change diapers.

“I probably wouldn’t have a baby, ya know, cause that’s not my thing. I’m really, like, a great father, but certain things you do and certain things you don’t. It’s just not for me…I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.” — Donald Trump

Trump doesn’t want to think about or care about other things other than paying others to do the tasks he would rather not do.

“How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?” — Donald Trump

Just as he’s apathetic towards the care of his children, President Trump doesn’t have a dog because he doesn’t see himself taking care of one. How does anyone expect someone to lead others when he’s unwilling to help take care of others or see himself taking care of others?

Now that the election is over, Joe Biden sets out an ambitious path to help heal America. His plan, “Build Back Better” involves investing in our economy to help drive recovery and aims to better the lives of everyday Americans. He understands the economic pains and struggles that Americans are going through.

Biden plans to announce a 12-person Coronavirus Task Force this week, highlighting his seriousness in tackling the pandemic. He understands, almost more than anyone, the personal loss of loved ones and vows to keep that to a minimum when he takes office.

Lastly, Biden has one unofficial plan when he takes office — putting dogs back in the White House. By “Building Bark Better”, Biden seeks to establish a civil, more normal, and empathetic administration after a tumultuous presidency with Donald Trump.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social…

Quy Ma

Written by

Quy Ma

Texan living in Utah. Market Researcher. INFJ. 1st Gen Child of Refugees. Empath. 6x Top Writer. Obsessed with unlocking people’s potential. Pragmatist.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social justice. Open to all.

Quy Ma

Written by

Quy Ma

Texan living in Utah. Market Researcher. INFJ. 1st Gen Child of Refugees. Empath. 6x Top Writer. Obsessed with unlocking people’s potential. Pragmatist.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social justice. Open to all.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store