If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog, Harry S. Truman supposedly once said. But what if the dog is not all that friendly?
For President Biden, pet ownership in the White House has proved to be a presidential headache as a series of biting incidents, including one that is said to have left blood on the floor, has now forced him to banish a second family dog from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Commander, the 2-year-old German shepherd who at times has been more conflict animal than comfort animal, has been dispatched to what a previous administration might have called an undisclosed location to protect the Secret Service agents who are supposed to be protecting the president — just as Major, another presidential canine, was two years ago.
The unhappy end to Commander’s term in the White House has provided fodder for tabloids and late-night comics but also hints at the complicated and sometimes tense dynamics inside one of the world’s most exclusive mansions. The relationship between a president and the staff that serves him is inherently fraught as the two adjust to each other’s habits, preferences and needs. But in this case, according to insiders, it has also been strained by resentment and suspicion.
For Secret Service agents and officers as well as residential staff, the president’s failure to take decisive action sooner has been baffling and frustrating, people close to them say. The agents have no choice but to stick close to the president and have felt uncomfortable not knowing if they might get bitten. Areas of the White House grounds were declared off limits when Commander was around, complicating their assignments.
Records obtained by a conservative watchdog organization this past summer indicated that there had been at least 10 instances of aggressive behavior before