WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden, facing roadblocks to his domestic agenda and a renewed fight against COVID-19, will start the new year surrounded by a new friend in Washington: a nearly 4-month old German Shepherd named Commander.
Biden showcased the new arrival in a video posted online on Monday featuring the puppy on White House grounds alongside first lady Jill Biden, about six months after their previous pet, German Shepherd Champ, died.
The Bidens’ other dog, a young German Shepherd named Major, initially joined the couple at White House after Biden’s inauguration in January, but his tenure suffered from reported bite incidents with staff at the grounds.
Major is now living offsite with family friends, Jill Biden’s spokesperson Michael LaRosa said in a statement, adding the move was “not in reaction to any new or specific incident.”
The president’s canine companions marked the return of pets to the White House after a four-year hiatus under former President Donald Trump, who was the first president since Andrew Johnson in the 1860s not have a dog or a cat.
A common American adage that if you need a friend in Washington, you get a dog reflects the hardscrabble reality of politics in the nation’s capitol.
Biden announced Commander’s arrival in an online video posted on Monday, a day after key conservative Democrat Joe Manchin rejected his social and climate policy plan. U.S. health officials on Monday also declared Omicron the dominant type of COVID-19 as Biden prepared to unveil new efforts to fight the highly-infections variant.
The purebred puppy was gift from Biden’s brother and sister-in-law for the president’s recent 79th birthday in November, LaRosa said.
Meanwhile, the Bidens had long been expected to bring a cat on board. A female cat will join them in January, LaRosa added.
(Writing by Susan Heavey and Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell)