Bob Franken




I always feel sad for people who are uncomfortable around dogs, because they miss out on the laughs, enthusiasm and attachment of unconditional love. But one of nature’s cruel tricks is “dog years,” a concept familiar to everyone who has welcomed fur babies into their families. The age of your canine companion is equivalent to seven years of human life.
I muse on all this on the occasion of the loss of Bo, the rambunctious Portuguese water dog who belonged to the Obama family (although Bo believed that they belonged to him). He was a gift of Ted Kennedy’s pack during Barack Obama’s years in the White House and well beyond, but now at age 12, he has died of cancer. Michelle Obama made the announcement on Instagram: “This afternoon was a difficult one for our family. We said goodbye to our best friend — our dog, Bo — after a battle with cancer.”
Her husband followed on Twitter that Bo “tolerated all the fuss that came with being in the White House, had a big bark but no bite, loved to jump in the pool in the summer, was unflappable with children, lived for scraps around the dinner table and had great hair.”
No matter what your politics, your pup embraces you (sometimes literally). In return, I’ve watched people operate in Washington who are such jerks who suddenly, miraculously mellow when they are around dogs.
We belong to a social club for pups where the humans can eat and drink and watch while the dogs play in a large fenced-in area. I’m convinced that their canine social habits are far superior to ours, except, perhaps, with the way they check each other out with their noses.
As for the humans watching in the audience, almost all of them have smiles planted across their faces. In fact, some of them, who are not dog owners, are allowed to come and watch. The theory is that they will eat and drink and pay as they watch. No carry-ins are allowed, but I’m sure that the park’s owners will sooner or later realize that they can get away with a cover charge and a minimum to watch as the pups perform.

We pay an annual membership, but it’s in the name of Ziggy, our Bernedoodle.

The Obamas made it clear how bittersweet their announcement was. True, they have sadness, much like the loss of a family member can be, but they also have such memories of love: “We are thankful he lived such a joyful life full of snuggles, games of fetch and evenings spent lying on the couch.”
All families who suffer the death of a fur baby understand the sadness. We lost our golden retriever Mingus last year. The Obamas also have another Portuguese water dog, Sunny.
But now their focus is on Bo. Perhaps they, too, will find comfort in that cliched picture of the front of the pearly gates, with your puppies and other dogs forming a welcoming committee. If there is a heaven, that’s a place you want to be.
No piece on our relationship with our amazing canine companions would be complete without Harry Truman’s observation that “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — a commentary about the insincerity of the transactional relationships in D.C. but also a description of these amazing creatures.
Truman had his cocker spaniel Fella, and most presidents had dogs to comfort them in the White House. One of Biden’s two German shepherds, Major, has had trouble adjusting.
He’ll get used to it. As Biden’s former boss wrote in his tribute to Bo, “He tolerated all the fuss that came with being in the White House.”
A break in the streak came during the Donald Trump administration. I can only feel sorry for Trump; he has missed out on exquisite love.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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