November 6th, 2008
10:37 PM ET
4 years ago

First Dog takes a bite at White House reporter

A happier Barney, with President Bush.
A happier Barney, with President Bush.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's daughters have been promised a puppy for the White House - President Bush's dog, Barney, demonstrated his technique for dealing with the media Thursday...sinking his teeth into Reuters TV White House correspondent Jon Decker.

Call it a case of biting the hand that covers you.

First Dog Barney and his handler were out on the front lawn for a walk when Reuters' Decker and another reporter approached.

"He looked very nice and friendly," says Decker. "I bent down to pet him and he just snapped at me."

Decker holds up his right index finger, now sporting two band aids. The First Dog's teeth punctured the skin and Decker started bleeding, so he was sent to see presidential physician, Dr. Richard Tubb. Tubb gave Decker a two- to three-day supply of antibiotics, and told him to come back Friday for a tetanus booster.

"I don't know what he did, but apparently Barney didn't like it," says April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, who captured the entire incident on her Flip video camera.

Decker insists he didn't provoke Barney, and that in fact he's good with Scottish terriers. Decker's mother's dog, Fergus, came from the same New Jersey breeder.

"I don't know what set him off," says Decker. "Maybe it was the Republican debacle Tuesday night, the fact that soon he'll be replaced as America's first dog or that I happened to have bacon for breakfast."

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have promised to get their daughters, Malia and Sasha, a puppy when they move into the White House.

Sally McDonough, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, points out that Ryan commented the biting incident is very unlike Barney.

"I think it was his way of saying he is done with the paparazzi," says McDonough. "I've talked to Jon and he is being a good sport about it all and well, Barney is in the White House Dog House."

"He was just in a surly mood this morning," surmises Decker.

Adam Goldfarb, an 'Issues Specialist' on dangerous dogs and dog bites, had his own take on the matter after viewing the incriminating video.

'I think what happened is two things were going on– one is that nobody was picking up on the dog's stress. Watching the video, the dog's posture was very tense. Which is a sign that he was stressed out in the situation. The other thing the reporter did wrong was the way he approached Barney. He approached very quickly, and from above. His hand came downward from up high. And that can be very frightening for a dog, especially a small one."

Cox Newspaper White House correspondent and veteran Bush watcher Ken Herman shared the first of many jokes about the First Dog's attack on Decker. "You know what Barney calls a presidential press conference? A buffet."


Filed under: Extra • President Bush
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Bush dog bites reporter! Which one – Barbara or Jenna – did the biting?!

    November 7, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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