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Ruff To Riches: The Story of Major Biden

On Jan. 20, the world watched with hitched breath as Biden was inaugurated into the White House—whether that uncertainty was due to their president of choice’s departure, or the risk of Joe Biden not making it inside the White House doors. No matter the source of discomfort, it sat tugging at the back of Americans’ brains until the most unexpected event of the day was a Bernie Sanders mitten meme. Yet just days before, a much less stressful ceremony took place: Major Biden’s Indoguration. Major Biden was taken by the Delaware Humane Association after being “exposed to something toxic” where he last lived. From there, the Bidens fostered the puppy until they fell too in love and adopted him in late 2018. Though the story behind his name is not publicly stated, it is speculated that the name might be a testament to the late Beau Biden—Joe’s military son, who was a major in the Delaware National Guard. Judging by the record achieved by the Bidens—Major’s status as the “first shelter dog at the White House”—this nod to their son might not be out of the question.


joe biden speaking at presidential campaign rally
Photo by Gage Skidmore distributed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Despite Major’s status as the “first presidential shelter dog,” he owes the title of “first presidential rescue dog” to Lyndon B. Johnson—whose daughter rescued her dog, Yuki, at a gas station. However, Major’s original home at the Humane Association sends a different message of the importance of providing care and safety to strays in the form of animal shelters. The Delaware Humane Association echoed this message by using the funds raised through Major’s Indoguration to benefit the shelter. It advertised Major’s Indoguration as “the world’s largest virtual party for dogs,” attempting to earn the world record for ‘Most Users in a Pet Video Hangout.” This event—centered around an underdog who won the heart of some impassioned Americans—highlights the surprisingly apt parallels between Major and Joe’s paths to the White House. Though Joe was in very few ways an underdog—especially in the Democratic Primary where he remained a consistent frontrunner—he managed to win the hearts of a country that had chosen a fundamentally different candidate. Major follows in these footsteps as he transcends his shelter life to join the White House family, showing that where a dog—or country—begins is not always where it will remain. Even without Major’s distinction as the first presidential shelter dog, he and his adoptive brother Champ are simultaneously unprecedented and reinstating old precedents. Major is the first dog to come from a shelter, but the doggie duo are the first pets to enter the White House since Obama’s presidency. The last time a president was without a pet before Trump was in the 1860s presidency of Andrew Jackson—who has drawn his fair share of comparisons to Mr. Trump. Though it appears facetious compared to the rest of the complaints made against former President Trump, an adamant population of dog and pet lovers were up in arms about him breaking the streak of presidential pets. The policies Joe Biden will attempt to re-install into the framework of America are certainly notable, yet it seems one of the biggest stories has become about the dogs he’ll be bringing along to do it all with.

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Maddie Stults is a first year psychology student at Florida State University. She is passionate about mental health and volunteers for NAMI Tallahassee in her free time. When she's not writing or studying, she loves playing guitar, tennis, listening to music, and re-watching Parks and Rec on Netflix.
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