November 6th, 2008
10:37 PM ET
3 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. Franky

    At least the dog is loyal, that's for sure, LOL!!

    November 6, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  2. finally!

    Hilarious! I don't mean this to be a joke, but it is really great that we finally get to see the personality of a white house dog. I hope Barack adopts Barney so that he can show the ropes to the new puppy that Sasha and Malia are getting..

    My vote is for two dogs in the White House!

    November 6, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  3. RR FLORIDA

    Thank you God!! Its about time the media got back some of what they are owed! The average, below average and above average americans are sick of you!!!!!!!
    Wake up and start giving the news with out bias! Stop twisting the stories to reflec what you want or believe in.....just give us the good and bad and let us decide, instead of you deciding for us!!!

    November 6, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  4. dittohead with forty names

    I feel sorry for anyone or anything from Scotland.

    November 6, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  5. Carole Clarke

    Serves Decker right. Any dog person knows not to try to touch a strange dog. They don't like the presumption of humans to manhandle them. If you want to pet a strange dog you put your hand down AWAY from the dog's head and let him come to you. Some will come sniff your fingers, some will not – you have to accept it when a dog doesn't want you to touch them. I have a 10-month old male Scottie and he is being trained to stay away from strangers, bark if someone comes up to my door (I am half deaf) and come inside when I call. He trained himself to use the doggy door into the back yard and I have a great respect for his intelligence. My Seamus seems to have more smarts than Mr. Decker.

    November 6, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  6. David Somuah

    Serves the reporter right. Presidents dogs should be off limits when it comes to media coverage.

    November 6, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  7. Nija

    Barney didn't like him because he voted for Obama.

    November 6, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  8. Crazy Cat Lady

    You moved too fast, mister! Scarey! Heck, if I were Barney, I'd've bitten you too.

    November 6, 2008 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  9. Cathy

    Hi,
    I agree – not that I am a bush fan, but he did have some bad luck.

    November 6, 2008 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  10. Rich from Pholly

    great idea–teach Sarah Palin to bite–with lipstick of course

    November 6, 2008 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  11. G.R.I.T - Girl Raised in the South

    Hehehehehehehe. That's funny. Barney does not want his 15 minutes of fame! Seriously, though, I hope the Obamas get a puppy from the pound. I know a lot of breeders would love to give them a puppy, but getting a dog from a shelter would send a great message.

    November 6, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  12. wackoae

    Something as simple as the cologne or aftershave could had cause the reaction.

    Or maybe he wrote a bad piece about his "handler" :-)

    November 6, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  13. JB

    Funny! Scotties are not known for their social skills–mine runs out of the desire to meet new people quickly. And they can be irritable with Republicans and Democrats alike.

    November 6, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  14. Al

    Barney? Are you feeling okay? I know that dogs and cats are very smart and do sense when there a change coming in their surroundings, especially when they see packing going on. They have a sense about them.

    November 6, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. Citizen

    I think the dog just came back from Iraq, he has a post traumatic desorder!

    November 6, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  16. Mr. Prez-Elect Rocks!

    Good doggie!

    November 6, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. M@RK

    Is it really that important about what the dog did? Can't we just stop seeing Bush already. He has done enough for the country, thanks.

    November 6, 2008 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  18. Bradley In Colorado

    "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."

    Sheesh, that must've been one helluva bite! Guess that shows the dog is as much bite and bark as its master...

    November 6, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  19. GeorgeAbe

    how come Obama don't hire a CNN moderator for his Cabinet ? they certainly know how to delete and Change the News

    November 6, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  20. eugene

    barney dont wants to leave,

    November 6, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  21. John

    Good. Nobady likes reporters.

    November 6, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  22. John

    nobody

    November 6, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  23. Sue in MI

    Speaking of dogs, my mom in Ohio had a discussion with a neighbor today, and suggested that Obama should get a shelter dog, but the girls want a labradoodle. The neighbor replied that Obama would never rescue a dog because he's an elitist. The Palin hypocrisy lives on in the small-minded Republican base.

    November 6, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  24. Rob

    lol – dogs just have a good judgement of humans.

    November 6, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  25. Maria Loi

    Dogs usually don't bite. Sorry, that it had happened. Normally, you have to say hi to them and only approach them when they tell you to. You cannot just approach them unless they sense that you really love dogs or you are not aggressive within. This is the truth for I don't have problems with any dogs, big or small, on the street. You have to ask them if they allow you to pet them. They will tell you if they don't like to be pet. If you don't do that they will normally bite you!
    Cheers,
    Maria Loi

    November 6, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
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