President Harry S. Truman is often quoted as having said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” It’s advice that hasn’t been ignored.
Presidents since Washington have had dogs, and they’ve been more than just companions -- they’ve become secret political weapons. In 1952, no less sneaky a politico than Richard Nixon used his cocker spaniel, Checkers, to deflect the allegations of a secret slush fund. Eight years earlier, a speech about his dog contributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s being elected to a fourth term.
“Politicians are grounded in family life,” explains upscale D.C. groomer Aleta Elsayed, “so dogs have long been a part of their world.”
The entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley also see the allure. Dot429 cofounder Richard Klein has two bicoastal bulldogs, which he shares custody of. “They shed very little, and they’re a little stubborn, which I appreciate,” Klein explained. “Clean, stubborn, and cute. What more could you want?”
Using dogs to make a person seem approachable isn’t exclusive to our nation’s capitol. Remember the 2004 release, The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries, penned, er, pawed by Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua? Perhaps you’re familiar with its modern-day equivalent, the blog kept by Gigolo, the Pomeranian belonging to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, Lisa Vanderpump.
Something about dogs makes them ideal partners for titans in any industry. Take, for example, the pugs that keep fashion icon Valentino company; they’d never pan a show or steal his designs. Martha Stewart’s dogs, including G.K., the Westminster Dog Show–winning Chow Chow, would certainly never bring up her time in the clink.
While an animal might not take the place of an actual pal, Truman’s adage still rings true: Sometimes when you’re on top, the best friend you can have -- in public or in private -- is on the other end of a leash.