Dogs in the White House

Harry Truman was once famously quoted as saying, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” Now, President Truman did not have his own dog in the White House, but many canines over the years have called the West Wing home. On President’s Day, we would like to honor President’s Best Friend; their dogs.

George Washington was an avid fox hunter and kept a kennel of dogs who benefitted from having fresh water running through their kennels rather than being brought water each day. One of his dogs was Vulcan, a French hound, who brazenly stole ham from Mt. Vernon’s kitchen, running past laughing guests with his spoils. We also may never have heard of George Washington or had an America at all if it weren’t for his favorite dog, a hound named Sweet Lips. One day while out walking with Sweet Lips, Washington encountered Elizabeth, the wife of the wealthy mayor of Philadelphia. She was so taken with the dog, she invited Washington to their residence for dinner, where he impressed the mayor so much he was introduced to many powerful leaders who later remembered him when selecting a leader for the Continental army.

Abraham Lincoln had a loyal yellow mix dog named Fido who followed him everywhere around Springfield, waiting outside the barbershop and even carrying his packages. Fido did not make the trip to Washington when Lincoln was elected, instead being left in the care of the Roll family. However, Lincoln made sure his best friend was well cared for, leaving Fido’s favorite horsehair sofa behind to sleep on and making the Roll family promise to keep Fido well fed with table scraps. 

Ulysses S. Grant had a love of horses and riding, preferring to ride the largest and most powerful ones. Perhaps that helped in his choice of a huge bear of a dog, a Newfoundland named Faithful, who belonged to his young son Jesse. Jesse was a huge dog lover, and had been so heartbroken by the early death of several of the family’s prior dogs that President Grant had a stern warning when he arrived at the White House: “If this dog dies, every employee at the White House will be immediately discharged.”

Another Newfoundland soon found its home in Washington when President James Garfield arrived at the White House.  Veto proved true to his breed’s protective nature by once barking to sound the alarm when a barn caught fire, alerting the stable hands to quickly put the fire out. Another time, a visitor’s horse got spooked in the stable and began to rear wildly. Veto quickly grabbed the reins in his jaws and held the horse firmly in place until the stable hands could calm the horse. While his bravery and loyalty are worth recognition, Veto’s name is often what draws the first questions. According to stories, good-natured Garfield named Veto as such to remind Congress that he may not pass every bill they sent him.

Theodore Roosevelt is remembered as a strong character who never backed down from a fight. It makes good sense then that his dog would be of similar nature. Pete the bulldog (the breed has never been 100% confirmed, also having been listed as a bull terrier and a Boston bull terrier) was a beloved member of the Roosevelt family, even though he had certain habits the family didn’t approve of. Pete first terrorized squirrels on the property, then graduated to nipping or biting people who displeased him.  When Pete’s targets included some naval officers and cabinet ministers, Roosevelt simply said it must have been their politics that Pete found disagreeable. Pete’s reign of terror finally ended after he chased the French Ambassador Jules Jusserand down a corridor of the White House, fully tearing the bottom out of the man’s pants. After complaints from the French government, Pete was finally “retired” to the Roosevelt family’s Sagamore Hill home.

While most people enjoy reading news of presidential pets today, the honor of the first “celebrity” presidential pup goes to Warren Harding’s Laddie Boy. The Airedale Terrier was the first to receive regular coverage from newspaper reporters, seeming to garner headlines nearly daily thanks to the Hardings’ including the pup in every event possible. Laddie Boy even had his own chair at the Cabinet table for meetings, where we are sure he was the most popular member. President Harding adored his dog so much that shortly after taking office he had 1,000 bronze miniatures of the dog made that he handed out as a proud parent might hand out cigars after the birth of a child. 

Calvin Coolidge had a veritable menagerie of pets, but his favorite was a white collie named Rob Roy. Rob Roy would lead Coolidge to the Oval Office every morning, keeping a stately posture with eyes fixed forward as he walked. The dog’s name was a bit of cheeky whimsy during the time of Prohibition; originally being named Oshkosh, Mrs. Harding changed it to Rob Roy, the name of a popular cocktail at the time. He was the first dog to be featured in an official White House family photo, and was immortalized alongside Mrs. Harding in her official First Lady portrait, a striking piece of art.

When one thinks of presidential dogs, one often thinks of a little Scottish Terrier named Fala. The loyal companion of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fala was taken many places by FDR and entertained the press and countless others with his tricks. Within the first few weeks of arriving at the White House, Fala began suffering intestinal problems and was taken to the hospital. It was soon discovered that little Fala had discovered the White House kitchen on his own and was being overfed; after that, Fala was only to be fed by FDR himself. The little dog was featured in an MGM movie about the day in the life of the White House, and became an honorary “private” of the U.S. Army. When FDR passed on April 12, 1945, within minutes Fala became quickly and inexplicably agitated, tearing through the very screen of the outside door and running to a hill where he stood, unmoving, gazing into the distance, as if he knew his master was now gone. A statue of Fala accompanies one of President Roosevelt at his memorial, and is still the only presidential pet so honored. 

President George H.W. Bush’s springer spaniel “Millie” was once one of the most well-known presidential dogs. She is the first White House dog to have an author credit, having “written” the popular nonfiction book “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush.” The book reached number one and spent 23 weeks on the best-sellers list, with profits being donated to a literacy non-profit. In July 1989 the Washingtonian published it’s “Best and Worst” list, and selected Millie as the “ugliest dog in Washington D.C.” The editor quickly sent a letter and dog treats to the White House apologizing for the unpopular and impolite choice. Bush good naturedly responded, “Not to worry! Millie, you see, likes publicity.  Arf, arf for the dog biscuits.” The Bush family carried on the springer spaniel when George W. Bush took office years later, bringing one of Millie’s own pups “Spot” with him.

Currently, dogs are back in the White House, as President Biden has brought his two German Shepherds, Champ and Major with him. Champ came to the family when Biden promised his wife he would get her a puppy after the 2008 election.  His name was selected to remind Biden of advice from his father to “any time you get knocked down, champ, get up!” He often gave children plush toys of Champ during his vice presidency during the Obama administration. Major joined the family in 2018 after being adopted from the Delaware Humane Association’s shelter. The origin of Major’s name is not known, but Biden’s beloved late son Beau was a major in the Delaware National Guard. Three days before Biden’s own inauguration, the shelter held the very first “InDOGuration” over Zoom for Major as a fundraiser which raised $200,000 in donations for the shelter. 

Harriet Tubman: Black History Month Highlight

Born in 1822 in Maryland and originally named Araminta Ross, Harriet Tubman was nicknamed “Minty” by her parents, later adopting the name Harriet after her first marriage. She was one of nine children. Three of Harriet’s sisters were sold to distant plantations, severing the family’s ties.
Harriet suffered repeated physical violence in her early life causing permanent injuries. She recounted a particular time when she was lashed five times before breakfast, carrying the scars on her skin as a lasting reminder. In another incident, she encountered a slave who left the field without permission and the overseer demanded Harriet help restrain the runaway. When Harriet refused, the overseer threw a 2-lb weight which struck her in the head, causing seizures and severe headaches for the rest of her life.
Harriet escaped to freedom in 1849, arriving in Philadelphia. She returned to Maryland to free her family members. Between 1850 and 1860, Harriet made 19 trips between the American south to the north, following the Underground Railroad network. She guided over 300 enslaved Black persons, including her parents, from slavery to freedom, and was nicknamed “Moses” for her leadership.
During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse, a scout, guerrilla soldier, and a spy for Union forces. Harriet was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War. She guided the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. Harriet petitioned the U.S. government to be paid for her heroic efforts like any other soldier, but was denied because she was a woman. She eventually received a military pension, but only as the widow of a Black Union soldier.
Following the Civil War, Harriet became active in the women’s suffrage movement, joining Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. She believed in the equality of all people, black or white, male or female, and so was empathetic to women’s rights movements that emerged after the war. She also worked to establish schools for formerly enslaved persons in South Carolina.
In the late 1890s Harriet underwent brain surgery at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital to try to relieve the pains and buzzing in her head due to earlier injury by the plantation overseer. In Harriet’s words, the doctor “sawed open [her] skull, and raised it up, and now it feels more comfortable.”
True to her grit, Harriet received no anesthesia for the procedure and instead bit down on a bullet as she had seen Civil War soldiers do during amputations.
Harriet passed in 1913 at approximately 90 years of age. In April 2016, efforts were introduced to place Harriet on the front of the $20 bill. The final design of the currency was to be unveiled in 2020 for the centennial of the 19th amendment establishing women’s suffrage, but was delayed in 2019. The efforts have been resumed in 2021.

Frederick Douglass: Black History Month Highlight

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in February 1818, a slave who escaped from Maryland and became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. History knows him better as Frederick Douglass.
Douglass successfully escaped in 1838 by boarding a northbound train of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, dressed in a sailor’s uniform provided by his future wife, Anna Murray, and carrying identification and protection papers he obtained from a free black seaman. He eventually reached a safe house in New York City. The entire journey took less than 24 hours. Douglass stated in a letter to a friend soon after reaching New York City, that he, “felt as one might feel upon escaping from a den of hungry lions.”
Once he arrived in New York, he sent for Anna and they were married on September 15, 1838, adopting the surname of Johnson to divert attention. Frederick and Anna later settled in Massachusetts. Their more famous surname, Douglass, was inspired by characters of Walter Scott’s poem, “The Lady of the Lake.”
Douglass was an incredible orator and incisive in his writings regarding anti-slavery. One of his best writings was in 1857 wherein he delivered a speech entitled, “West India Emancipation” in Canandaigua, New York. The following are highlights of this speech:
“I know, my friends, that in some quarters the efforts of colored people meet with very little encouragement. We may fight, but we must fight like the Sepoys of India, under white officers. This class of Abolitionists don’t like colored celebrations, they don’t like colored conventions, they don’t like colored antislavery fairs for the support of colored newspapers. They don’t like any demonstrations whatever in which colored men take a leading part. They talk of the proud Anglo-Saxon blood as flippantly as those who profess to believe in the natural inferiority of races…
Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”
In 1872 Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States, on the Equal Rights Party ticket. His running mate, Victoria Woodhull, was an equally progressive selection, the first female nominee for President of the United States.
In 1877 he visited his former owner Thomas Auld on the slaveowner’s deathbed at the behest of Auld’s daughter, a supporter of Douglass. While some criticized this move, it appeared to bring closure to Douglass. The same year he purchased his final home, which he and Anna named Cedar Hill. The home is now preserved as a national historic site.
Anna Douglass passed in 1882. Frederick married his second wife in 1884, Helen Pitts, a white suffragist and abolitionist from New York. The marriage caused controversy among both of their families, but Douglass responded to the criticisms by saying his first wife was the color of his mother and his second, the color of his father.
Through the rest of his life, Douglass continued his work, traveling and making a number of speeches even into his older years. Douglass spoke out against the separatist movement 1892 at a conference in Indianapolis. While speaking in Baltimore in 1894, Douglas stated, “I hope and trust all will come out right in the end, but the immediate future looks dark and troubled. I cannot shut my eyes to the ugly facts before me.”
With that comment, Douglass certainly predicted the future of race and equality issues in the United States.
On February 20, 1895 Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. where he received a standing ovation. That very evening he died of a massive heart attack at his home at the age of 77. Douglass’s contributions to the abolitionist movement have directly shaped the fabric of our society and the spirit of activism today.

Phillis Wheatley: Black History Month Highlight

All of us are aware of Amanda Gorman and her impressive poetry presentation at President Biden’s inauguration. Amanda’s remarkable talents certainly belie her young age of only 22 years old. Many of us probably do not recognize the similar talent of a young woman from West Africa who came to America on July 11, 1761 as a slave at only seven years of age.
Her true given name is lost to history as she was sold by slave traders in Boston, Massachusetts. She was given the first name of Phillis, after the name of the ship that had transported her from Africa, and the last name Wheatley, after the family who had purchased her. Phillis quickly learned to read and write, and the Wheatley family encouraged her talent in poetry.
By age 12, Phillis Wheatley was reading Greek and Latin classics. At 14, she wrote her first poem to the University of Cambridge (now known as Harvard University, where Amanda Gorman herself attended). Many colonists did not believe that a Black slave could write so well, and so Phillis was required to defend her authorship of her poetry in court in 1772. She was further scrutinized by a group of Boston luminaries of the time which included the governor and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and John Hancock. They concluded Phillis had, in fact, written the poems and signed an attestation, which was included in the preface of her first book of collected works.
In 1773, at the age of 20, Phillis traveled to London, England accompanied by Nathaniel Wheatley to present her poetry. Her first book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published on September 1, 1773 and was the first book written by a Black woman in America.
“On Being Brought From Africa to America “
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
These words were a gentle but powerful challenge to the racist practices and beliefs in America at the time, indicating that while many discriminated based on skin color, “black as Cain” (an allusion to the belief of many Protestant Christians that Cain’s “mark” was a darkening of his skin), she and other persons of color had the same access to redemption and salvation as white Christians and were equal in the eyes of God.
In November 1773 Phillis was emancipated by the Wheatleys. Susanna Wheatley died soon after in the spring of 1774, and John Wheatley passed in 1778. Phillis married a free black man named John Peters and began a challenging and painful chapter of her life.
By 1784 Phillis had lost two of her three children, her husband was imprisoned for debt, and she was forced to work as a scullery maid to provide for her sickly infant son. Her all-too-brief life ended on December 5, 1784 at the young age of 31, with her son passing soon after.
Her contributions to African-American literary history cannot be ignored and her talent should be celebrated and memorialized.

How to Evaluate Risk

social-distancingWith the information and circumstances regarding COVID19 in our current world, it’s a good time to review how we as humans consider risk. In general, humans are poor at evaluating true risk as we do not understand the elements of risk.

Most of us are raised on controlling risk with slogans and campaigns.

  • Be Safe
  • Don’t Drink and Drive
  • Click It or Ticket

While catchy, most slogans leave a lot open to interpretation. Many will say it is common sense, but what is common for you might not be common for your friend or your neighbor, or anybody else. Common sense isn’t common. So, as a society, relying upon a slogan for risk recognition is similar to building a house on quicksand.

What is Risk then?

Risk is defined as the probability of an undesired result occurring and has three main components.

  • Risk Recognition.
  • Risk Acceptance.
  • Risk Probability and Severity.

This is the scientific approach but can and should be applied to life.

Risk Recognition

Risk recognition is as it sounds. It is recognizing if there is a risk. We do this based on past experiences combined with social and behavior factors. If it’s an unfamiliar situation, we ascertain the task requirements of a situation. Then we determine the skill and ability in the task we need to conduct. Based on the information we evaluation our personal probability of success (also known as our value judgment).

In the current COVID19 world, we would say the task requirement is going out, the skill and ability needed to conduct the task would be social distancing, and the value judgement would be determining when/where to go.

Risk Acceptance 

The second component of risk is risk acceptance. Take your value judgment and ask, “Is risk worth it?”

  • Yes? Engage task.
  • No? Decline.

Many times, especially in today’s situation, we might determine more information required before we can accept the risk. Is further information on tasks requirements and skill available? It may not be available, and you would then decline to accept the risk. (Example: Not knowing the infection rate an area might make you decline going to a specific store in that area.)

When further information is available you then determine if it provides a sufficient basis for a decision of accepting the risk. If yes, go back and determine whether to accept your value judgement. If no, you would decline the engagement.

In today’s COVID19 world, this is an extremely difficult step as reliable data is hard to come by. We’re relying on the data we can find and sometimes it’s not enough to take that risk acceptance.

Risk probability and severityRisk Probability & Severity

The last component of a risk is the probability and severity. Even if the risk acceptance is yes, these two measurements are important.

Probability has five levels. This is how likely the risk is.

  1. Frequent
  2. Probable
  3. Occasional
  4. Remote
  5. Improbable

Severity has four levels. This is the extent to which the risk affects you.

  1. Catastrophic
  2. Critical
  3. Marginal
  4. Negligible

Probability in conjunction with Severity drives the acceptance level.

What muddles the risk evaluation process for human beings is personal experience in emotions. “It won’t happen to me,” and “Life is not without risk” mentalities are dangerous in our typical world and our COVID19 world. It’s a way to pass off what’s happening and ignore the risks.

The Probability for COVID19 infection may change but the Severity will always be catastrophic. No matter the probability if you think it’s catastrophic Severity, you’re off the chart, don’t do it. In system safety world, any risk with a catastrophic Severity would be required to go to top of engineering or even the company before moving forward. In our world with COVID19, it’s an indication the risk isn’t worth accepting.

Learn more; listen into Kevin King as he discusses risks on People’s Law Talk and how risk analysis applies to our current situation.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Vaping & E-Cigarettes: New Trend, New Risks

As cigarettes have faded out of mainstream use with increased education around health concerns, a new addictive habit has risen to prominence. Vaping and e-cigarettes are now a part of mainstream culture, but they still have a risk factor, just like traditional cigarettes.

Vaping proponents maintain that it is much safer than traditional cigarettes, contributing to a surge in usage, especially among youth. As many as 8 in 10 middle school students have reported seeing advertising around e-cigarettes. With ever present advertising combined with the belief vaping is less harmful, the lower cost, and the abundance of flavors, it’s unsurprising that from 2017 to 2018, vaping usage in high school students jumped from 12 percent to 21 percent.

The vaping market is primarily people ages 13 to 35 years of age. That group from 13 to 25 are still in prime brain development years. Vaping can hinder and alter this development because, just like cigarettes, it contains high levels of nicotine. Nicotine is known to harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, impulse control, and mood control. Some e-cigarette cartridges can have as much nicotine as a full pack of traditional cigarettes.

In addition to the nicotine, e-cigarettes and vaping pose a safety risk because the cartridges and juices can contain ultra fine particles and additives like vitamin e acetate, pine oils, mineral oils, and terpenes. All these things are entering the lungs, affecting normal lung functions.

The injuries and deaths from this new trend are growing. In 2011 Poison Control reported 271 calls regarding vaping. That number rose to 4,000 by 2014. The growth is so much, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) now tracks vaping injuries on a weekly basis. Last week the reported injuries rose to 2,172, up 121 from the previous week. Deaths are also not unheard of due to vaping injuries. Indiana is currently the state with the highest vaping related deaths.

This month the CDC released a report investigating lung injuries related to vaping. This is the first step forward in measuring and addressing the safety risks of e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Want to know more? Listen in as attorney Kevin King discusses the safety risks associated with the new vaping trend on People’s Law Talk.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

For more information on vaping safety, please read: