First dogs Champ and Major Biden are seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. Photo: JIM WATSON / AFP
First dogs Champ and Major Biden are seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. Photo: JIM WATSON / AFP

Biden's canine plans go to the dogs after 'biting incident'

By AFP Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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Sebastian Smith

He came into the White House tasked with bringing sanity and even a bit of fun, but less than two months later, the Bidens' dog Major has bitten off more than he can chew.

In a city famous for politicians snapping at each other, the German Shepherd went one further by using real teeth.

His reported target was apolitical - not a visiting opposition Republican senator or even a journalist, but a security agent, according to CNN.

As a result, Major and his companion German Shepherd Champ have been banished for a few days at least from the "people's house" to the dog house at President Joe Biden's family home in Delaware.

The bone of contention wasn't just what an official - in classic Washington officialese - told CNN had been a "biting incident."

Major, just three years old, is reportedly altogether too rambunctious for the White House.

This is a complex simultaneously serving as family residence, office complex, national security hub, nuclear bunker, and museum for countless art works and iconic artefacts from US history.

And according to CNN's report, quoting two people familiar with the situation, Major has struggled to fit in, becoming agitated, jumping, barking and "charging" staff and security personnel.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki played down the drama, saying that Major was "still getting acclimated" and had been "surprised by an unfamiliar person and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual."

The two dogs will be kept in Delaware this week while First Lady Jill Biden travels and "the dogs will return to the White House soon."

Asked by a reporter to assure the nation that Major will not be put down, she said: "Major Biden is a member of the family, so I can assure you that."

'Buddies'

Biden's predecessor Donald Trump was the first president in more than a century not to have a dog. "How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?" he scorned.

Being dog people was part of the image that Biden and his wife Jill successfully sold to voters last November: regular folk who could connect with a badly shaken country.

And if there'd been canine elections, the Democratic dog duo would have formed a ticket every bit as powerful as Biden and his vice president Kamala Harris.

Champ, about 13 years old, is the gentle, experienced veteran who was already at Biden's side when he was vice president under Barack Obama.

Major seems the perfect complement: not just full of zest, but with the heartwarming back story of being a rescue shelter dog.

"They're good boys," said Biden, who at 78 is the oldest person ever elected US president, during a walkabout with Jill and the dogs on the White House North Lawn in February.

"We asked the vet, 'What can we do to keep Champ going?'" Biden recounted. "He said: 'Get him a young dog.'"

"They are buddies," Jill Biden said.

Wag the dog

Given the presidency is said to be supremely lonely, perhaps it's no surprise that man's best friend has been such a constant presence in the Oval Office.

Virtually every president had at least one pooch. The Obamas kept two Portuguese water dogs.

Theodore Roosevelt brought an entire menagerie. There was a small bear named Jonathan Edwards, a lizard, guinea pigs, a badger, a blue macaw, a one-legged rooster, a hyena and a pony named Algonquin who even once rode the elevator.

So Trump's pet-free White House raised eyebrows.

The Republican not only didn't like the image of himself walking the dog but claimed he didn't have time. Twice impeached, Trump left office after a single term.

The last president to ban dogs fared even worse: William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

Under the Bidens, Champ and Major have become regular sights and were photographed lounging on the carpet in the Oval Office - the holy of holies in American politics.

"Not many people have Oval office walk-in privileges. Happy to report that these two are on the list," Biden joked on Instagram.

But now the question is how long the first couple and their four-legged friends will be left pining for each other.

"They like to be wherever we are," Jill Biden told the Kelly Clarkson Show last month.

At least they can be reassured there's no plan to replace them with a cat - for now.

"I don't have any update on the cat," Psaki said.

AFP

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