Joe Biden Hurt His Foot While Playing with His Dog. Why that Kind of Gives Me Hope.

It’s good to have a dog lover going back to the White House

Steve Jones
Nov 30, 2020 · 4 min read
Joe Biden adopting Major. (Delaware Humane Society Twitter)

President-elect Joe Biden slipped while playing with one of his German Shepherds, Major, on Sunday, twisting his ankle and suffering hairline fractures in his right foot. Docs say he will probably have to wear a walking boot for several weeks.

I know his foot will ache for a while, and the walking boot will be an annoyance, but Biden’s dog-playing incident gives me hope.

I mean, think about it. The president-elect was playing with his dog!

And that means we’ve got a dog-loving family going back to the White House. Soon Major and the Biden’s other Shepherd, Champ, will have the run of the place.

And that’s as it should be.

Until Trump won the electoral college, it had been nearly 120 years since the White House had been without a dog. For four years we’ve had a president who doesn’t have pets of any kind, whether dogs or cats or hamsters or birds. And that explains a lot.

In 2019, Donald Trump told an El Paso rally crowd that “I don’t have any time,” for a dog. Then he added, “How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?”

Well, for one thing, Donald, you would have looked human. And it would have given us some indication that you had a heart.

Remember how glad we all felt on election night 2008 when, after winning the presidency, Barack Obama promised his girls that new puppy they’d been wanting? Remember that great Pete Souza photo of Obama racing the dog they got, Bo, down through the East Wing?

Obama and Bo, a Portuguese water dog. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

You’ve all been there. Your kids want a new puppy, or a kitten, and you make a show of saying “No Way!” But the new puppy or kitten or whatever becomes your inseparable best friend. Sure, you know that feeling.

We had two wonderful Great Pyrenees dogs who both guarded us and comforted us. Every night, one of them would sleep in the hallway that led to everyone’s bedrooms. Just in case.

They would sit by someone who was upset and offer comfort, just by being close by. They were true empaths.

Our sweet Basset Hound, Toby, is a joy. He sleeps a lot, which is okay. When he hears someone coming down the hall, his tail starts wagging, hitting the arm of the chair with a rapid “thump, thump, thump.” That sound makes me so happy.

I’ve written before about how Toby would lay on my lap to avoid our two cats, making me use him as a writing desk. He’s braver around the cats now, but not much. They enjoy pestering him.

You have million or so pet stories of your own, so you get the point.

Pets take us outside ourselves, make us think about the needs of someone else for a while, make us sit and relax and think.

Yes, pets come with their own aggravations. But it’s a universal thing to have to pick up poop or soak up pee.

I would like to think that a president who can humble him- or herself enough to be with a pet, to commune with a pet — can more effectively commune with others. To develop understandings of others, to sit and listen to them.

We take Toby for a walk most evenings. Being a Basset, he tends to stop and sniff every bush or pile of leaves he encounters. He doesn’t just stop, he pulls and tugs until he gets to whatever smell intrigues him.

I tend to pull and tug to get on with our walk. My daughter corrected me, though. “You have to understand,” she said, “that you’re not taking Toby for a walk, you’re taking a walk with Toby.”

It’s obvious Trump never got that lesson.

For years now, with his MAGA slogan and “Keep America First” creed, Trump has been taking the world for a walk instead of walking with the world.

Joe Biden knows a lot about walking with people. And he’s learned at least part of that by walking with dogs.

So keep playing with your dogs, Mr. President-elect. We’re all better for it.

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Steve Jones

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We’ve got to do better than this, folks.

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