Many of us remember that it was a little black Scottish Terrier which signalled the fact that the United States was coming out of the psychological shock associated with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. One of the marks of the sadness and fear and suspicion associated with those attacks was the fact that the White House was closed to tourists during the 2001 Christmas season, a time which normally brought thousands of visitors to see the presidential home.
In December 2002, thanks to a tiny video camera mounted on the collar of Barney Bush, holiday tours were once again reinstated. Barney, President George W. Bush's dog, was the tour guide. He offered a dog level holiday tour of the White House, scuttling from room to room, menacing the Christmas tree, and playfully interacting with the Bush family. This "Barney Cam" video was a hit, drawing 24 million online tourists the first day that it was posted on the web. It signaled to a depressed nation that normalcy was returning, and even those in the highest offices in government were once again allowing tradition, family, and a bit of joy to return to their lives.
Regardless of what one thinks about the politics of George W. Bush, the fact that he loves dogs, and seeks out their companionship, is undeniable. Once, when challenged on a decision that he made, he declared that he was going ahead with it "even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."
Barney was given to the president by Christie Todd Whitman, who was the 50th governor of New Jersey and served as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Bush government. The "First Dog" had his own official webpage which was an extension of the White House website.
Like his master, Barney Bush received his share of criticism. For instance he was disparaged by Russian President Vladimir Putin who felt that a world leader should own a large robust dog not a smaller breed like a Scottish Terrier. He bragged that his black Labrador retriever, Koni, was "bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and meaner, than Barney."
Barney did get to express his own opinions now and then. For example once Barney bit Reuters news reporter Jon Decker on the finger. Laura Bush's spokesman explained Barney's action with "I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi."
The president often traveled with Barney, even though the dog was not particularly obedient and often disobeyed the Commander-In-Chief. When Barney would not respond to coaxing or leash pulls, the president would simply scoop him up, carry him in his arms and try to go about his normal business,
sometimes with rather amusing or awkward results.
Presidents, even former presidents, seldom let their emotional guard down in public statements. However, President Bush took the time to make a special posting on the passing of Barney Bush on his Facebook page.
Laura and I are sad to announce that our Scottish Terrier, Barney, has passed away. The little fellow had been suffering from lymphoma and after twelve and a half years of life, his body could not fight off the illness.
Barney and I enjoyed the outdoors. He loved to accompany me when I fished for bass at the ranch. He was a fierce armadillo hunter. At Camp David, his favorite activity was chasing golf balls on the chipping green.
Barney guarded the South Lawn entrance of the White House as if he were a Secret Service agent. He wandered the halls of the West Wing looking for treats from his many friends. He starred in Barney Cam and gave the American people Christmas tours of the White House. Barney greeted Queens, Heads of State, and Prime Ministers. He was always polite and never jumped in their laps. Barney was by my side during our eight years in the White House. He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend. Laura and I will miss our pal.
Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark; Do Dogs Dream? The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome
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