By Sam Botz’ 14, PolitcOle Columnist
Because every aspect of the President’s life, political and personal, must be endlessly deconstructed by the internet, you probably already know the Obama family recently adopted an adorable puppy named Sunny. As the second “First Dog,” little Sunny has quite a lot to live up to, considering the fact Bo’s been charming hearts over Twitter and Youtube for nearly four years now–nothing quite wins over the American public so well as a Mean Girls reference.
Yet, despite only having been adopted last Monday, googling Sunny yields a surprising array of articles, photos, and of course, impossibly precious videos that provide incontestable proof that, however useful for swiftly spreading compelling news stories, the internet truly excels in providing the public with its furry animal fix. The majority of these articles are as comprehensive and titillating as a Wikipedia article: Sunny is hypoallergenic for the sake of Malia Obama’s allergies, she has a net worth of approximately $1600, she’s a Portuguese Water Dog like Bo, etc. etc.
What’s slightly more surprising is the number of posts from reputable news sources and personal blogs alike that seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill. Since the Obama family announced the adoption of their newest member, cringe-worthy and wildly entertaining conspiracy theories concerning the poor pup have gone viral. Many of the criticisms derive from Sunny’s pedigree, which may have begun in the home of a (gasp!) Republican breeder rather than a humane society. Meanwhile, Sunny’s name, and its near-homophone “Sunni”, was too perfect of a coincidence for internet trolls to ignore. While accusing the Obamas of naming their dog after the largest branch of Islam is a jab almost too old to be effective, the observation is more often than not followed by a slightly more credible claim: that Sunny’s adoption is a political ploy to distract deterrents and supporters alike from messes that will take a lot more than a pooper scooper to clean up–namely, the controversial NSA surveillance issues.
A closer look at the Obama’s new puppy reveals there may be something, however tenuous, to this supposition. Much like royal babies, pet adoption inevitably brings with it a sense of reassurance: pets need stable, loving homes and if the White House can provide that, everything must be okay, right? Just as FDR’s Scottish Terrier, Fala, conveyed a public image of vigor and vitality that Roosevelt’s polio otherwise belied, and Clinton’s adoption of Buddy the Labrador Retriever in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal projected a vision of wholesomeness, White House pets are an extension of their owner, and a politically calculated one at that.
The videos, photos, and tweets a First Pet inevitably generates create, however unintentionally, a reassuring public presence. A recent paper on this very subject, entitled “Unleashing Presidential Power: The Politics of Pets in the White House,” came to the conclusion that historically, presidential pet purchasing and its publicizing seems to coincide with an economic upturn; during times of unemployment and staggering inflation, it’s rare to see such widespread mention of something as seemingly trivial as pet adoption. The current media preoccupation with Sunny would seem to suggest that the dog days are over.
In short, there are arguments for both sides: someone’s in the doghouse, but whether it’s Obama or Sunny is up to you. But really, a dog is only a dog. Sunny–and Bo for that matter–aren’t to blame for America’s problems, and furthermore will certainly do little to solve said problems…aside from providing aww-worthy gifs, of course.
Sam Botz ’14 is an English and History major from St. Joseph’s, Minnesota. She is a regular PoliticOle columnist. Contact Sam at email@example.com.