Sunday, December 14, 1997
Puppy is nation's newest tenant

The Cincinnati Enquirer

It's too late now, but the Clintons really should have checked with us before they got a puppy. They are living in the nation's house, so we are technically their landlords. I suppose the best we can do is to demand a security deposit.

Otherwise the next thing we know, we'll have to replace the pale yellow carpeting in the Oval Office and paint the woodwork in the Map Room at our own expense. If we were upset about the Lincoln Bedroom being turned into a Motel 6, how will we feel about tooth marks on the Lincoln bedpost?

Nouveau dog people

I, myself, have a new puppy, and I'm thinking of sending some photographs to Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, which I believe they will find most instructive. And terrifying.

Pictures of me in my bathrobe escorting the dog to the latrine area. Pictures of me walking the dog in the rain. In the snow. In the dark. Pictures of our former couch. Pictures of mauled shoes and belts.

Somebody has to help the president and his wife. They are cat people. Once you show your cat the litter box location, you are in business. Dogs are a little more, shall we say, challenging. The president may have heard about ''contributions'' this dog makes. I hope someone tells him this is pet-lover euphemism for deposits he really doesn't want.

The puppy, a 3-month-old Labrador retriever, is being sent away to be ''trained.'' Ha. Any of the 54 million dog owners in this country could have told the Clintons that the creature who most needs training is the human. So far, I am flunking Dog Teething 101. Our puppy, Murray Kempton, is named after my second-favorite newspaper columnist. I wanted to call him Paul Daugherty, but my husband says he looks more like a Murray. A blue merle collie, he actually looks a lot like a goat sometimes.

Since he joined us, he has eaten a tube of Neosporin, an entire chocolate layer cake, a window sill and the leg of my favorite wing chair.

He will outgrow this, but meanwhile we are on constant alert.

Mr. Clinton could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just going down to the pound and giving some adult dog a presidential pardon. He would have gotten big points from animal lovers, plus he could have skipped the puppy stage. Which is cute, but a lot of trouble.

My friend Sally, who lives in Hyde Park and so is obliged to own a lab, says they're not difficult to train. ''But they have heart and brains, so they can be stubborn.'' She also says they love water, can't resist pools. They're built for swimming - with oily, water repellent coats, webbed toes and a tail that works like a rudder. And they fetch, ''sometimes things you'd rather they didn't.''

Maybe the First Puppy will find Marilyn Monroe's water wings.

And let's make sure that security deposit includes enough for a new filter for the First Pool. ''They shed all the time,'' according to Sally, ''but get really serious about it in the fall and spring.''

The First Friend

Diane Blair, a friend of the Clintons from Little Rock, told reporters she has been urging the president to get a dog. ''The president frequently keeps late hours, later than anyone else in the house, and I thought how nice it would be to have someone staying up with him.''

My dog manual says that labs ''love to work and to socialize.'' Of course, they are loyal, as are all dogs. The presidential exception would be Richard Nixon's Irish setter, King Timahoe, who was too proud to have anything to do with the shifty goings-on in the White House. ''The dog hates me,'' Mr. Nixon complained on tape.

''The president receives constant criticism from all quarters,'' Ms. Blair said, ''from the press, the Congress, the world. A dog never criticizes.''

That's true, but at least reporters are house broken. Most of them.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.