The birthday celebration started almost as soon as the Marine One helicopter landed on the White House pad. June was surrounded by Advisory Board members, Douglas Lee, the Cooper and Watanabe girls, the Hodgkisses and June’s father, Thomas. She was surprised by the party, in spite of having had some warning. But Matt’s surprise didn’t end with the party.
“We’ve got dogs,” the teen announced proudly about mid-way through the festivities.
The party had been set up in the Sculpture Garden, which was well-shielded from the tourists wending their way through the public rooms downstairs at the White House.
“What?” Mark asked.
“You said okay, Uncle Mark,” Matt said. “And Grandpa hired the guy to help take care of them.”
It was about this time that June and the rest of the party became aware of an extended yapping on the lawn side of the garden.
“We’ve got dogs,” Matt announced again, more loudly and looking expectantly at a gap in the hedge, again on the lawn side of the garden.
Finally, a shaggy yellow lab mix and a sleek black short-hair came trotting into the garden, accompanied by loud yipping from two orangish-balls of fur at their feet.
“Meet Lady and Shalla,” said Matt, over the yapping. He pointed at the yellow dog and the black dog respectively.
Lady and Shalla came over and stood next to the boy, with Lady’s shoulder coming even with Matt’s hip and Shalla’s shoulder topping his waist.
Matt bent and scooped up the two much smaller dogs. One had long, straight fur and a pointed nose, and the other had curly fur, clipped fairly close to his body, and a somewhat more squared-off nose. Each barely filled out Matt’s hand, and the two kept barking and barking.
“And this is Ginger Peachy,” Matt said, holding up the long straight-hair, “and this is Kickie Poo. These are for you, Aunt June.”
“All four?” June asked, trying to smile and failing.
“No!” said Matt. “Well, they’re all kind of all of ours. See, Grandpa rescued them all and he said I could have one and Uncle Mark said that would be cool, and then I thought it would be great if you could have a dog, too, Aunt June, and Grandpa said you liked dogs, but that you couldn’t really have a big one, and, uh, I couldn’t really pick just one, and so we all have dogs.”
“I see,” said Mark, looking over at his father.
Thomas’ grin was less than innocent, and Mark had the feeling the older man had brought all four dogs knowing darned well that they would all end up at the White House.
“So, I’ve got a pomeranian and a poodle,” said June. She again tried to smile and just barely failed. “Who named them?”
“I dunno,” Matt said.
“They were given up by an older woman who had to go into a care facility and couldn’t take them with her,” said Thomas. He took the still-yapping dogs from Matt. “They’ve been a little excitable, but they should settle down soon.”
But as soon as Thomas approached June, the two tiny dogs both started growling and baring their teeth. June drew back.
“Oh, dear,” she said as Lady came up and nuzzled her.
Lady whined softly and June automatically began stroking the soft golden fur on her head.
“Huh,” said Thomas. “Looks like your dog picked you, June.”
“So what do we do with those little ones?” Mark asked.
Still focused on June and Lady, Thomas handed the toy dogs off to Mark.
“Quiet,” Mark growled at the two tiny dogs, and much to everyone’s surprise, they quieted. “What the hell am I supposed to do with these?”
“They’re dogs, son,” said Thomas. “What do you think?”
“Those aren’t dogs,” said Eddie Cooper, laughing. “Those are snacks for big dogs.”
“Hush, Eddie,” hissed his wife Cordelia.
Sharon tried to keep a straight face and failed. The problem was, the dogs were not what anyone would consider “presidential.” That did not stop Mark from getting attached to them, as Gus Guerrero fretted to Sharon two days later, while the two shared lunch in the White House mess after the Advisory Board meeting and before the big press conference introducing the new White House dogs.
“The Moral Americans are going to have a field day,” Gus sighed. “Ginger and Kickie couldn’t be more stereotypically gay.”
“So?” Sharon replied. “I thought the boss’s gender orientation wasn’t an issue.”
“Except that the Moral Americans keep making an issue of it, and do we really want to give them more ammo?” Gus asked.
“Why not focus on the adoption angle?” Sharon said. “That should make the adoption advocates happy.”
“They’ll be wetting their pants in ecstasy.”
“At least somebody will be happy, then.”
Mark handled the issue by going with the reality that the two toy dogs did not fit the image. The conference was held in the Sculpture Garden. Shalla and Lady were introduced to approving ahs. Then Mark brought out Ginger and Kickie, as he was still the only person in the White House who could handle the dogs and get them to stay quiet for any length of time.
“These little guys represent why you shouldn’t give dogs as gifts,” Mark told the reporters. “My nephew, Matt, had picked out Ginger Peachy and Kickie Poo as a gift for my sister June. Now, the only reason he was able to do this is that I agreed to back him up if for, whatever reason, his choices didn’t work well. And they didn’t. June prefers larger dogs and bonded with Lady instead. So, as I agreed, I got Ginger and Kickie. Not exactly the dogs or the names I would have picked for myself, but we seem to be getting on surprisingly well. I will not be changing their names, though I would love to, because while they don’t look like it, they’re actually older dogs. Ginger is 9 and Kickie is 10. They were previously owned by an older woman who had to go into a care facility. My dad, who rescued them, could probably tell you more about her. As many of you know, dogs this age are very hard to adopt out, even small ones. So, I’m glad I was able to step up for these little guys. Lady and Shalla, of course, will still be making the rounds with me, as well, so I’ll be getting my big dog fix. And I have to say, I am really grateful to Matt for thinking of this. One of the few annoyances of my past work is that I haven’t been able to have critters around. I was just too busy. But now, as president, I can keep my little yes men with me.” He held the two small dogs up. “Seriously, these two boys are about the only beings on the planet who are happy to see me without an agenda. Everyone needs a little unreserved adulation in their lives, don’t you think? Now, any questions?”
There was the usual flurry, and Gus was relieved when very few of them were about Ginger and Kickie. One reporter asked about Mark’s response to cat lovers, and Mark replied that loving dogs didn’t mean he couldn’t love cats, as well, and that cats were next up on the pet plan. But that was about as awkward as it got. Naturally, however, the late-night comedians got in hours’ worth of digs about Ginger and Kickie, but most of it was good-natured. Furthermore, there were enough editorials about what a great thing the president had done in adopting the two dogs that the Moral Americans couldn’t really say much about the dogs without looking ridiculous.
Oddly enough, the one group that did get upset was a pet adoption group. They took umbrage that Mark referred to Ginger and Kickie as his “little yes men,” although they were not terribly clear on why that was offensive. Mark had Jean Bouyer release a generic apology and the whole thing blew over within hours. Jean also released a photo of Mark walking through the halls of the White House. The photo looked like many such photos of Mark walking around, surrounded by his usual entourage, except that Mark had a black soft-sided doggie carrier slung over his shoulder, with Ginger and Kickie’s small heads poking out, bright orange against the black carrier and Mark’s dark suit.
The carrier turned out to be a necessity. Ginger and Kickie were so small, that even on a leash, there were good odds they’d get trampled by one of the people walking with Mark. Mark had also set up a small fenced-off area in the Oval Office for the two dogs, although the two usually ran loose. But if there was a meeting, then the dogs were penned in to keep people from accidentally stepping on them.