President Biden is being dogged by a unique White House problem.
About a week ago, Biden’s German Shepherd, Commander, bit a secret service officer — Commander’s 11th secret-service-officer biting since he moved to the White House in December of 2021.
Commander must have been following the paw prints of Major, Biden’s previous German Shepherd, whose biting appetite included secret service agents, technicians and at least one National Park employee.
At one point, Major bit an unlucky government servant every day for eight days straight.
These dog-biting incidents in the Biden White House remind me of a great piece The New Yorker humorist James Thurber wrote in 1933 about his Airedale Terrier, “Muggs.”
In “The Dog that Bit People” Thurber wrote that “there was a slight advantage in being one of the family, for he [Muggs] didn’t bite the family as often as he bit strangers.”
The truth is that several biting incidents involving not one of Biden’s dogs, but two, reflects more on Biden than it does Major or Commander.
According to Psychology Today, legendary British dog trainer and author Barbara Woodhouse said “there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.”
When ABC News asked Biden in 2021 if Major was “out of the dog house” yet following several bites, he said yes. He explained that Major, a rescue pup, never penetrated someone’s skin with his bites.
The president said there are lots of people in the White House who can startle a dog, but that “85 percent of the people there love him… all he does is lick them and wag his tail.”
I suppose Major displayed this happier behavior while resting in between bites?
The Psychology Today article points to a recent study that analyzed the characteristics of individuals whose dogs were confiscated for biting.
It found that 63 percent of dog owners did not provide assistance or express much concern after a dog bite — or, I wonder, they rationalized the pooch’s behavior away as Biden appears to have done?
The study also found that owners of aggressive dogs were more likely to have a history of antisocial behavior, such as shouting at others or intimidating people in public spaces — which, according to Axios, Biden does routinely to White House staff.
“In public,” reports Axios, “President Biden likes to whisper to make a point. In private, he's prone to yelling [and swearing like a sailor]… Behind closed doors, Biden has such a quick-trigger temper that some aides try to avoid meeting alone with him.”
To be sure, the White House is a stress-filled pressure cooker, and any dog is likely to pick up on the angst that permeates the place.
Heck, even President Obama’s dog Sunny bit an 18-year-old guest who approached it for a hug.
Major Biden was quietly relocated to Delaware to live with friends he didn’t want to bite. Will Commander Biden soon follow suit?
Or will we be asked to pretend that the White House doesn’t have a dog-nipping problem — much the way we’re asked to pretend our president is at the top of his game and that his policies have put our country in tiptop shape?
Maybe the White House can defend Commander the way James Thurber’s mother defended Muggs.
She argued that it wasn’t Muggs’ fault he bit people, but the fault of the people who were bitten.
“When he starts for them,” she explained, “they scream — and that excites him.”
Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].