Sunday, January 11, 2009

The dog days of the Bush presidency have arrived, but first dog Barney is not going away quietly. In an exclusive exit interview with The Washington Times, Barney, 8, sounds off on his tenure in the White House, his relationship with the scrappy White House press corps, and his advice to the much-anticipated Obama puppy.

Barney declined through Sally McDonough, press secretary to first lady Laura Bush, to comment on last week’s passing of first feline India.

“Barney didn’t want to talk about the loss of his friend, Kitty,” said Ms. McDonough. “Although they may have had a few ‘cat’ fights over the years, Kitty was a beloved member of the family and is missed by everyone, including Barney and Miss Beazley.”

(Editor’s note: Questions for Barney were submitted by Stephanie Green of The Washington Times. Answers were provided by Mrs. Bush’s office.)

TWT: Besides Mrs. Bush, you have been the president’s closest confidant the past eight years. You have seen it all and have stood beside him. What are your best memories?—— Barney: All my friends call me Barney, and even though you’re a reporter, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. So call me Barney. Now about my best memories:

I’ve seen it all, but from a different perspective - about a foot off the ground - and I’d have to say that the holidays are my favorite memory! Barney Cam is the most wonderful time of the year.

I haven’t stood beside the president for eight years. Sometimes I’ve slept at his feet - mainly during extremely important meetings in the Oval Office. And I’m great at keeping secrets since I can’t remember what I’ve heard.

TWT: Lowest points? —— Barney: Lowest point in the whole White House? That would be the secret, undisclosed location where I get CLAWstrophobia!

Oh, you mean lowest emotional point. A great thing about Scotties is that we don’t “do” emotions, so I haven’t had low points. Scotties like to remain aloof, especially when our humans are issuing orders or scolding us.

TWT: You have also gotten to know members of the Cabinet and White House staff. Who are some of your favorites, and can you share some stories with us? —— Barney: My favorites used to be the ones who kept treats for me in their desks. Then some whistleblower said I was getting too pudgy, and my humans put a stop to the snacking.

Dale Haney, the head groundskeeper, is great! He watches me when I’m outside and helps keep my volleyball out of the roses. I help him by digging new holes on the South Lawn in case he wants to plant a tree. He’s not always as appreciative as he could be.

Then there are my pals Karl ROVER and Dana PURRino.

The most fun game is playing golf with the president. When he putts, I’m in charge of retrieving the ball. Sometimes I give it back to him, but a game of chase makes golf a lot more exciting!

TWT: The Barney Cam gave us all a lot of laughs. Where did this idea come from, and do you expect to continue it after you leave the White House? —— Barney: Some staffer probably claims credit for Barney Cam, but really it’s all me. I’m pretty much the complete package: charisma, charm, good looks and humility. Note the noble brow! And I can deadpan with the best of them!

TWT: What do you think of your new home in Dallas? Have you had a chance to check out the backyard? —— Barney: I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m hoping for a fire hydrant. The real test of a great yard is whether it has armadillos. They are great fun to chase. I’ve been giving Miss Beazley lessons at the ranch. She’s coming along nicely, but neither of us has actually caught an armadillo yet.

TWT: What do you expect your new routine to be in Dallas? Will you slow down as the president says he intends to do? —— Barney: Did I mention armadillos? Chasing them can be very time-consuming. And the recovery naps are really long ones.

TWT: Would you like to clear up the Reuters reporter incident? You got a lot of bad press on that. (Shortly after the presidential election, Reuters White House correspondent Jon Decker was bitten by Barney on the North Lawn.) Barney: That was a pre-emptive strike. Did you see the teeth on that guy? He looked RUFF!

TWT: Any advice for the next first dog? —— Barney: Just be yourself, or as much like a Scottie as possible. And remember that you own the place. It’s also a good idea to flatter your humans: Let them think you want to be just like them.

TWT: You have set the bar high as first dog. What would you like your legacy to be? —— Barney: I would like my legs to be about two inches longer. Then I could get up on the sofa or over the bar more easily.

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