National Dogs in Politics Day
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
At the start of this year I received a free calendar from PetPlan pet insurance that includes literally every dog or cat themed special awareness day for all of 2017. I keep it nearby as a handy tool when I need some inspiration or to kick off a session of brainstorming blog or educational content ideas. Over the weekend my husband and I spent a busy two days driving our human kids to and from various places, so I failed to notice until today that Saturday, September 23 was National Checker’s Day, also known as Dogs in Politics Day.
Intrigued, I decided to research this day, which I have since learned marks the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s famous television address in 1952 during which he spoke (amid accusations of improperly used campaign funds) about how a black and white Cocker Spaniel was the only campaign gift that he had received that he was keeping. Political experts credit the mention of Checkers the dog as the emotional connection that voters needed to forget the allegations and vote Eisenhower and Nixon into the White House.
Of course I was not born when this speech was given. In fact my own mother was only eight years old at the time, but I do remember learning about it in either high school or college history classes. I will admit that until today I assumed it was part of the same speech as the “I am not a crook” line, but apparently those famous words happened decades later. What resonates with me as an adult in 2017, though, is the power that revealing himself to be a dog lover had on the public and their view on his character as a human being.
I came across this information on a day in which I am avoiding all political discussions on social media and the news. I am a big follower of the notion of not discussing politics, religion or money among friends and distant family. Unfortunately, many people have abandoned the concept of not complicating personal relationships with these hot topics, and today is one of those days when these discussions are next to impossible to avoid. As a result, politics weigh heavily on my mind today.
The irony of researching the impact of Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers is that my own dogs are absolutely a haven from thinking about or dealing with political issues. Spending time with Jackson and Tinkerbell is hands down the best way that I have to remove myself from the noise and opinions of both close friends and acquaintances and my favorite way to free my mind to work and write.
I used to watch the news in the morning while I drank my coffee until I realized that this habit was starting my day on a stressful note instead of in a way that promotes creativity and a positive mindset. In February a pregnant giraffe named April caught my attention and I started to live stream the feed from her stall every morning instead of watching the news. After her webcam was taken down in early May I realized that I was a much happier, positive human being without the incessant doom and gloom of the national news and especially the local Chicago news, and I continued to avoid the television each morning.
Since I am the first one downstairs around 95% of the time and my husband is not the slightest bit chatty in the morning, most days I enjoy my coffee either in silence with sleeping pups snoring away nearby while I read something fun and light-hearted and ingest my much-needed caffeine, or I watch as they engage in their daily playful power struggles over one antler or toy.
Watching Jackson and Tinkerbell simply being dogs is the most calming, peaceful way to start my own day and keep me from getting stuck in my head and thinking about the woes that face our society and country. If I get stuck in my own head I will waste far too many hours thinking about current issues instead of working on my own dream and business.
I did not find information on exactly how to celebrate National Checker’s Day or National Dogs in Politics Day. I did find a website called Presidential Pet Museum which has an interesting list of presidential pets over the years.
I found it extremely interesting to read over the different types of dogs, cats and other animals who have lived at the White House or been owned by the various Presidents and to think about the comfort that they might have given to each leader at some of the most stressful times in our nation’s history. Did John F. Kennedy’s dog Shannon comfort him while he dealt with Russia and Cuba? Did Barney alleviate some of the stress that George W. Bush must have felt as the world changed forever on a crisp fall day? I do not know, but I hope so, because that comfort is the most glorious gift that dogs bestow upon their humans.
At the end of the day, no matter which party you follow or who you voted for, nobody can discount the idea that the presidency is an incredibly stressful job. Whether we like or loathe the various presidents throughout history it definitely humanizes them to know that so many of them are dog, cat or overall animal lovers like you and me.