On Sept. 23, 1952, a black-and-white cocker spaniel named Checkers, belonging to Richard Nixon’s daughters, Tricia and Julie, helped change the course of history.
In what became known as the “Checkers Speech,” seen by a then-record TV audience of 60 million, the candidate for vice president of the United States alluded to his daughters and their dog, helping to rehab his image as charges of misusing campaign funds swirled around him.
With the help of Checkers, Nixon garnered public trust, downplayed the accusations dogging him and remained on the ticket headed by Dwight Eisenhower.
That’s how Sept. 23 came to be known as National Dogs in Politics Day – a day to remember America’s political pooches.
While Checkers may have helped save Nixon’s political career, including his future presidency, the dog never called the White House home. He lived with the family until his death in 1964 at age 13, four years before Nixon was elected president.
No such canine salvation stories have boosted Ohio political careers that we know of, but the state, it turns out, has some political pooches worth celebrating.
Two belong to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and wife Connie Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and author. Their dogs are Franklin, named for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and
Walter, named for Walter Reuther, who built the United Automobile Workers into one of the most progressive labor unions in American history.
Both rescued dogs’ breeds were determined by DNA tests. Franklin is part Husky, Poodle and King Charles Spaniel, Walter a mix of Yorkie and Miniature Poodle.
Franklin, adopted at 9 weeks, just turned 9. Connie describes him as tan, black, white and cream with a coat described by their vet as “part fur, part hair.”
“We use a human brush to groom him,” Connie said, “and leave each session forced to acknowledge that he has the best hair in this family.”
The senator has taught Franklin how to grab carrots out of his mouth.
Walter, about 2, also is known for his fur, or as Connie put it, “a dog’s version of Senator Brown’s gray-and-black curls springing to life in different directions each morning and immune to styling.
“Our groomer advised us to let his ‘freak fur fly,’ and so we do. I am referring to Walter here.”
Connie says Walter has a favorite cuddling position. He likes to be able to tuck his head under your chin while crossing his front paws over your hand to feel secure.
Closer to home, another Ohio political pooch, standard poodle Louis (pronounced Louie), belongs to Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
Louis was adopted from the Humane Society last October after heavy negotiations between Whaley and Sam Braun, the mayor’s husband. Sam relented and was rewarded with the privilege of naming the dog. Being a Francophile, Sam chose “Louis.”
Louis was part of a backyard breeding effort in Kentucky for labradoodles. He was the “oodle.” According to his vet, he is between 3 and 10 years old. His curly coat is a mixture of black and white, or “partipoodle.”
The mayor says Louis does an “air jump” when she comes home or sees one of his dog friends. With back legs staying flat on the ground, he rises and waves with his front paws.
Appropriate that Louis should have his “political wave” down.