"Here he comes!"
The crowd pushed closer to the rope line in the convention hall, hoping to get a close-up photo of President George W. Bush as he worked his way through the throngs of 25,000 hunters gathered at the 2010 Safari Club International convention in Reno last week.
Secret Service men wearing baggy black suits and wires in their ears did their best to restrain us and clear the way for the President. Their task was difficult, but probably not unpleasant, since Bush was surrounded by thousands of ardent supporters.
I wormed my way almost to the front of the rope line, hoping I'd be able to thrust my hand out and get a Presidential handshake as he strolled by. The crowd was alive with shouts of "Thank you, Mr. President," "We miss you," "God bless you," and "We need you back," and it was obvious he was grateful for the warm reception.
But I wanted more of a connection. After he shook my hand (just a hand thrust from the crowd), I yelled, "Mr. President, how are the dogs?"
He stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me, his eyes twinkling as if someone had just "asked him about his grandchildren." His countenance softened.
"Thank you for asking about them!" he said. "The dogs are doing well, although Barney misses all the attention he got for so many years, and he's having a kind of a hard time adjusting to being a city dog now [in Dallas]. But they're okay." He started to glide on and then turned back once more and repeated, "Thank you for asking about them!"
Who among us (everyone reading this) wouldn't rather talk about our dogs than anything else? Accolades are great, but we all turn mushy inside when someone touches our soft spot--the subject of our beloved pets. I am quite sure that at the end of a difficult day in office, probably nothing comforted George and Laura Bush more than having their beloved Scottish Terriers up on the bed with them for snuggles.
That night "W" was the keynote speaker at the gala dinner. He started out telling us all about his adjustment to life in Dallas in a "real neighborhood."
"I decided to take Barney out for a walk in our cul de sac one morning a few days after we moved in," he recounted. "And of course Barney wanted to do his business in a neighbor's yard. So there I am, the former President of the United States, with a plastic bag over my hand, picking up the same stuff I'd been trying to dodge in Washington for eight years." The audience loved it; no doubt the vast majority of them were dog lovers themselves and could relate to the scenario.
He also spoke that evening about the "unconditional love" from his supporters, and how it had sustained him through the very tough times.
Bush's understanding and appreciation for "unconditional love" make perfect sense. Any true dog lover gets this, and realizes the magical, healing influence of that unconditional love. Whether you're a bum on a street corner or the most powerful person in the world, there's absolutely nothing that can lower your blood pressure and "ground" you at day's end like the adoration and companionship of a four-footed angel.