An election that's gone to the animals


Barrrk Obama and Mitt’ns Romney are candidates in a mock election the Washington Animal Rescue League is having. (Courtesy of Washington Animal Rescue League)
John Kelly
Columnist October 10, 2012

Every candidate for public office knows it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. It turns out it can also be a cat-eat-dog world.

How else to explain the lead that Mitt’ns Romney holds over Barrrk Obama, who are, respectively, a tabby and a hound at the Washington Animal Rescue League?

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

They are candidates in a mock election the shelter is having. You are invited to look at their oh so cuuuute photos and cast your vote online.

“You make a $1 donation to us, and it counts as a vote,” said WARL’s Matt Williams. “We highly encourage voting multiple times.”

When last I checked, Mitt’ns had 1,655 votes to Barrrk’s 1,384.

What do we know about the candidates? Mitt’ns is local, Matt said. She’s an 8-week-old kitten found on the streets of Washington.

One-year-old Barrrk is a bit of a carpetbagger. He’s originally from South Carolina.

I’m sure Barrrk considers himself a dog of the people, but I’ve uncovered something that could hurt him with progressives: He came to Washington aboard a private jet, one of eight dogs flown here from an overcrowded shelter in Beaufort, S.C., by an animal lover who had some extra room on his plane.

Interestingly, Matt said that Mitt’ns has fewer voters than Barrrk, but they’ve spent more money to buy more votes.

Scrim scriminee

Been past the Supreme Court lately? You may have done a double take when you saw not architect Cass Gilbert’s sublime building but an amazing facsimile. It’s a scrim imprinted with a huge digital photo of the court.

In 2005, a piece of the pediment fell off. Now, the entire west facade is being renovated. Pam Talkin, the marshal of the court, didn’t want the court to look like a building site. The fabric hides scaffolding that will be in place for the next two years.

“I thought, you know, the court is such a majestic symbol of our justice system,” Pam said. “And part of what we try to convey all the time is that it’s accessible and open to the public. It’s not only equal justice under law, but equal access to the court system. I felt that to have scaffolding covering this beautiful building, or even blank netting, would be so unwelcoming.”

Pam had seen the technique used on historic buildings in Europe. It’s a little reminiscent of the cover that swaddled the Washington Monument during its 1998-2000 restoration.

You may wonder what the marshal of the court does, besides ordering up scrims. She’s responsible for the administrative side of the courtroom, from overseeing security to handling contracting. She also cries the court into session with an “Oyez, oyez, oyez!”

Tale of the tails

Regular readers of this column know how indebted I am to Richard W. “Thor” Thorington Jr. He’s the squirrel expert at the Smithsonian who has been an invaluable source for the squirrel-centric columns I do each April. Just in time for the, ahem, tail end of National Squirrel Appreciation Week (not to be confused with my Squirrel Week), Thor is signing copies of his new book, “Squirrels of the World,” from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in front of the Natural History Museum’s book store.

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, the 460-page, $75 hardcover book is a veritable squirrel encyclopedia, a bit heavy on the scientific jargon but packed with photos of the little critters.

And the not-so-little critters. Thor has always been partial to Ratufa indica, a giant tree squirrel of India that can grow to five pounds. He also likes the Selangor pygmy flying squirrel, native to a tiny part of Malaysia.

“It’s a cutie,” said the Smithsonian squirrel expert.

I’ve decided my current favorite squirrel is the hoary marmot. I just like saying “hoary marmot.”

Bye for now

I’m off to do some research for a series of coming columns. My column should resume Oct. 22. See you then.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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