To President-Elect Obama
Thank you for the time, effort, and dedication you have shown thus far in your campaign and early presidency. I am enthusiastic about your upcoming term in office and am hopeful for the future of my country for the first time in many years.
With that said, the new puppy you’re planning to bring into the White House?
Don’t get a Goldendoodle.
In 2006, my parents went to work in London. Their dog, a two-year-old male Goldendoodle named Toby, was sent to live with us until my father retires and comes home. As I write this letter, Toby is currently slamming his head into my office window in the hopes of catching a cat across the street.
Toby has changed my view of dogs. Nineteen months ago, I believed that there were no bad dogs, only bad owners. Now, after nearly two thousand dollars worth of damage to my home and yard, and alienating every single person in our neighborhood, I’ve revised this slightly.
There are bad owners, but Goldendoodles are bad dogs.
I’m sure the first coupling of a Golden Retriever with a poodle was an accident, and likely the fault of the dogs themselves. Then, some idiot without a social conscience thought the puppies were cute so they decided to make more of them. And then sold them by saying that a Doodle’s* hair is hypoallergenic and that the dog is similar to a Golden Retriever, only smarter. Well, they might not have allergens but if you don’t bathe them every single week, they start to smell like dirt and rancid oil. Their coats become sticky to the touch. Their odor starts to get in the carpets and the other fabrics of the house, and there’s nothing you can do to remove it.
A smarter Golden Retriever? This just means that you have a dog that is obsessive-compulsive about retrieving to the point where nothing else exists. Nothing. They don't want affection, they want to chase a ball. Toby plays fetch while he’s eating – he has his own personal game of jacks where he drops his ball, grabs a mouthful of food, drops the food on the floor, and eats however many kibbles he can before the ball stops bouncing (For science, I once threw a ball while he was taking a dump. … if you do acquire a Doodle I strongly advise against this).
I know your children are growing up, but they are still small enough to have problems with larger dogs. Doodles can get pretty big – Toby is eighty pounds – and he is not good with children. The neighborhood kids used to use our yard as a shortcut to get from a small forest to the street. My own dog, a nine-year-old male Rottweiler, would come up to them for a nice ear scratch, if he bothered to get up off of the porch at all. Now, any child who comes anywhere near my yard sees a frothing blond hairball leaping up and down behind the fence, barking and salivating for a taste of delicious free-range meat (Actually, I’m not entirely sure this is true. I might have managed to train him out of attacking children, but this isn’t exactly something I can test. I’m sure we’ll learn someday, though, as the dog looks like a big floppy muppet and children are compelled to hug him.).
Many of the maintenance problems associated with dogs will not be yours to manage, as is your due as President. For the next four years – with hard work and good fortune, the next eight - you and your family will not be responsible for the constant filth generated by a Doodle. But because you seem to be a compassionate man and are no doubt concerned about the welfare of your staff, I’ll briefly note the tedious minutia of cleaning that will accompany ownership of a Doodle.
In the past nineteen months, Toby has caused no less than two thousand dollars worth of damage to our home. He has a unique habit of rolling his balls in any fabric he finds lying around, such as draperies, door mats, towels, jeans, very expensive jackets, the bed sheets, and a green wool blanket that’s been in my family for at least thirty years. He uses this fabric to play a little game with himself, as he promptly forgets where he hid his ball and will then run around the house looking for it. When he “finds” it hidden in the cloth, he’ll rip it open and fling the ball across the room to retrieve it. Sometimes, the ball hits breakable objects. Other times, Toby tries to pounce on it but crashes into the wall and gouges long claw marks into the paint and the drywall. Not having a ball in the house isn’t an option, as he will sit and cry or will find a substitute plaything. This surrogate could be a shoe, or a piece of computer equipment, or a ceramic plate - it really doesn’t matter as long as costs more than a ball and is within five feet of the ground.
Oh, that Dog Whisperer technique where you exercise your dog for an hour a day and then it is the happiest, most well-mannered dog on the planet? Bullshit. That just helps increase energy and builds endurance.
Keep lids on your trash cans. Expect serious damage to occur to any objects of value including pottery and flat-screen televisions. Doodles have a fondness for chewing through electrical cords, so make sure these are hidden or expect to make yet another late-night call to Rebecca, the night technician at the emergency vet’s. Also, things that you wouldn’t think have any appeal to man or beast will still be tasted and spat out, such as reams of computer paper, candles, toilet wands, and vacuums.
Over the last nineteen months, I have reached a first-name basis with my local carpet cleaner. Do you order “the regular” with your carpet guy? You will, because these dogs have a chronic case of poo foot, a self-explanatory condition that can be treated through scouring the back yard every single day but cannot be cured and reoccurs at least three times a week. Similarly, keep your toilet seats down. For God’s sake, Mister President, keep your toilet seats down! I’ve seen some things, man… horrible, horrible things…!
And heaven forbid you try to do any home improvement. Don’t do any gardening, since Doodles thrive on a steady diet of mud and earthworms, which they will then vomit all over your freshly-cleaned carpets. Oh, once, I painted a floor. Having understood by then that I was not harboring a canine but a small demon in dog form, I blocked off the only door to the room. The dog still managed to walk in the paint and then played a game of fetch with himself. All over the house. The paint, mind you, was bright blue. Not that I think you have painted floors at the White House, but this is information you need to know– right! The porch. I don’t know if the White House has a wooden porch, but if you ever have to stain one, the dog will promptly roll in the fresh stained areas. You will then have to strip and restain the deck, and shave the dog.
Yes, you will find yourself shaving your dog far, far more often than you ever thought possible, because a buzz cut is easier to manage than the Doodle's thick fluffy coat. You will find yourself growing angry at your groomer’s if they did not do a good job of shaving your dog, and you will make absurd threats such as “Leave enough so he doesn’t freeze to death or I’ll shave you.”
And Doodles bark. Constantly. Unendingly. In a deep, carrying bellow that would be really useful if the house were being robbed, but not so much at three in the morning when it isn't. I can’t imagine that your administration would benefit from a dog that never shuts up, although it might speed negotiations forward when visiting Heads of State grow annoyed and want to leave as quickly as possible before inciting war.
If I were reading this, I might mistakenly think this was a single problem dog or a the complaints of an owner who was in over her head with a dog she couldn’t manage. Putting aside the fact that I’ve had my elderly Rottweiler since he was a puppy and he’s quite likely the best dog on earth, I’ll tell you two stories. The first is from my boyfriend’s coworker, who owns a Doodle and lets the dog run free on three acres of fenced-in land. The Doodle spends his days playing in the fields and the small lake on the property. Each night, the dog returns to his owner’s home, puts several freshly-caught perch on the deck, and shreds them into bits. His owner thinks the dog likes to make pretty pictures with the fish guts by throwing the pieces at the house to see where they stick.
The second story is of a Doodle who belongs to my friend’s aunt. She purchased her Doodle as a puppy and spent almost four years fighting with the dog. In spite of training, puppy classes, and advice from other dog owners, her Doodle never learned to walk on a leash, or obey, or listen at all. Until one magical day when she took the dog for its daily walk – rather than dancing and straining at the end of its leash, the Doodle was at perfect heal. My friend’s aunt was delighted! She took it for an extra-long walk, thinking that the Doodle had finally outgrown the puppy phase and had become the dog she had always wanted. When they returned home, the Doodle sat when asked, had its leash removed, and waited patiently until she gave it permission to move. Then the dog walked over to its bed, lay down, crossed its front paws, and spat out a live squirrel. And then, the Doodle chased the squirrel.
I have said all I can about this, except the shelters are filled with mutts that might not have a designer pedigree but won’t reduce the White House to ruins. I have heard your daughter is allergic to dogs, as I am, although I am lucky enough to develop a tolerance to most dogs if I receive medication for the first few weeks. But if you are still considering a Doodle, then do what we told my parents to do when they missed Toby those first few days – go find a well-used yellow bath mat and wrap it around an alarm clock set to go off at three in the morning.
* A Doodle. Doodle. Doodle. This word alone should stand as a giant red flag - nothing good can come from a Doodle.