Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Children, Dogs

The White House Puppy

If you love dogs, as I do, a high moment in President-Elect Obama's speech had to be his words to his daughters, Malia and Sasha, promising that when they move into the White House, their long-held dream of a puppy will be fulfilled.

Here's a picture of the current occupant, Barney, referred to lovingly in remarks by our current President just this morning. (And apparently Barney is unhappy about leaving…)

Seven years ago, 11-year-old Snowman reminded me that I had promised our family would get a dog when I finished seminary. I pointed out that graduation was still six months away, but he pointed out that such matters deserve some study, and we invested in a book about dog breeds, which he perused exhaustively.

My real plan? To get a rescue dog, of course. Our cats came from the refuge league, surely our dog would, too. I believed in rescuing animals, not buying them. I certainly knew better than to go to the pet store in the mall, having some vague knowledge of puppy mills.

Daily puppy
There is no question that the
Obama's puppy search presents an opportunity to educate the public
about the right way to find a dog, whether a purebred or a mutt. If you
want a purebred, go through the national and/or regional breed club for
a list of breeders who meet the club's qualifications for ethical
breeding standards. In the case of a Bernese Mountain Dog, that
included doing certain kinds of testing for inherited health problems. If you want a rescued dog, check out the pups at your local shelter, and ask a lot of questions, including why certain dogs are not placed with certain families. (Chloe, pictured here, is a rescue pup featured on The Daily Puppy.)

In the late winter of 2002, I began visiting the Animal Refuge League, looking for a pup. But the refuge league had NO puppies (due to the
effectiveness of spay/neuter education in Maine) and would not place any of the
other dogs they had with a family that had cats and/or a child under 10. They
knew and liked us from cat adoptions, so it wasn't personal. I'm certain almost
any rescue group would love to place a dog with the new First Family, but
realistically, most rescue groups have standards for the families with whom
they place a dog, and those standards need to apply in this case,

Fall and Winter 02-03 035
We ended up seeking a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, and Molly joined our family that spring. I still had not learned how to navigate the world of dog breeders; I did not use a referral program. We brought home a puppy with a long list of physical problems we would later discover, though no one could beat her for joyfulness in living. We couldn't possibly regret having Molly, but I learned a lot about the way to find a dog, the questions to ask, and the support available in the world of purebred dogs.

All over the web, well-meaning dog people have offered up opinions about what kind of dog the Obamas "should" adopt. I hope dog-loving groups and individuals will take into consideration the many
factors the Obama family will be considering as they choose a puppy to take to
the White House and not focus on making their choice for them. The last
thing the dog world needs is a bad match with a little girl's allergies and a
dog who has to be "returned" to rescue.

People are raising their "voices" to swear that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, but I want to ask for some peace and space for the Obamas.

If a Bichon is the little girls' favorite, please don't accuse them of going Hollywood.


Labradoodle-picture-logcabin1bIf they really love a labradoodle, let's not have a purebred fit about the fact that they are deliberate mutts, neither labrador nor poodle, okay?

Chinese crested
If they go with a nearly hairless Chinese Crested, let's not berate them for having an elitist purebred, agreed? (And if anybody says they're ugly, send them over to talk to me.)

BrownStandardIf they bring home a Standard Poodle, don't call them effete, but meditate instead on the idea that the whole family will be tall, athletic and smarter than most of the rest of us.

(And there is no rule that says they have to be, as Light Princess said when younger, "cut into shapes.)

Headshot smallA White House dog must adjust to multiple staff
members, people coming and going, even Secret Service protection. Temperament
and training will be crucial to a happy placement.  Molly tells me she would willingly volunteer for this national service if only her coat would not make a child feel ill.

(Sam feels he can better serve at home, although should bad people try to get through the gates, he could certainly bark at them, fiercely. While wagging his tail.)

Finally, the Obama family will be fine on two of the touchiest issues with both breeders and rescuers. At the White House, *someone* is
always at home. And the yard? Definitely fenced-in.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Dogs, Psalms

Full of God’s Creatures

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24, NRSV

Last night I got a phone call from a friend in the regional Bernese Mountain Dog Club (or Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, as St. Casserole dubbed them), to check in about planning a picnic for this summer. Yes, I do belong, believe it or not, to a breed club. Two, actually: one regional, one national. It happened because Molly had many orthopedic problems as a puppy, and when I went to the Internet looking for information, I found the clubs.

I had always been a cat person. It came as a great surprise that I could love a dog, and now two dogs, with the abandon and occasional anxiety previously reserved for my children. I expected larger cats. (Yes, I hear you dog people chortling at my foolishness.)

Dogs and cats, and any animal we can love, really love, prove God for me. Oh, there are other things, too. Sunsets, harvest moons, lilacs, daffodils, mountains, the ocean, things so beautiful they couldn't possibly be merely random. And then there are human relationships, with their aggravations and their deep satisfactions, and physical pleasures. Love, and really good sex, and a piece of gooey pepperoni pizza–all these things transcend ordinary reality and make me want to shout, or purr, or wroo-wroo my praises.

Animals, with their determined focus on their own pleasure or their desire to be faithful to us, with their enthusiasm for chasing each other or rolling in something that smells delicious, for curling up next to us when we feel low, for simply being present to us–they are made in God's wisdom.

Yes, even Baby, the cat who brings wildlife indoors, brings some of that wisdom to the fore. She loves me as much as a cat can love a person. She suffers when I turn her out of the room, hoping to sleep. She spends her days contentedly on my bed, rubbing up against anything of mine I don't think to put on a hanger.

If only I spent my days as attentive to God, even when God seems absent…

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to God, for I rejoice in the LORD.

(Psalm 104:33-34)