Don't ask me for an update on the private life of the pandas in the zoo because "wife of" is barred from entering. Ditto with Dumbarton Oaks and Swensen's ice cream store. I thought I had pull with the director of the National Portrait Gallery, but even he's thinking of putting cement trucks at the front of the place to keep me from coming in. It's not that I'm suspected of being a human bomb; it's just that "wife of" has become besotted over a creature living at the residence, Sweet Pea, the embassy dog, and I love to take him out on the leash.
Sweet Pea is not like any of the other dogs I've ever owned. He thinks of himself as belonging to government so his behavior is as cautious as a mid-management bureaucrat. His nature is certainly a contrast to Hector, the Airedale we owned in Ottawa.
Remember him, Beverly? Hector collected the flesh of joggers as trophies. Hector was more of a Clint Eastwood type -- a real loner who would never allow anyone to take him for a walk on a leash. He preferred to lope eight miles to the shopping district and wait for the bad guys to come and make his day.
It was best to avoid him if I had an errand in the same district. I knew that Hector liked to keep to himself. Occasionally I'd join the outcry from cyclists, joggers and golden age groups carrying parcels, cursing the dog and his owners. But Hector had his code: whatever he did to anyone else, he never bit a member of the family. When he came home Hector gave us a glad but brief hello, because he had to go out again and clear the neighborhood of cats. Hector never sat at my feet, let alone jumped up beside me taking the only cushion on the sofa, like Sweet Pea, the embassy dog.
To tell you the truth, Beverly, I don't know if Sweet Pea knows what a cat or a jogger looks like. He's afraid to go outside alone even n his back yard. If the wind shifts slightly to the east, or a butterfly bumps into his nose, it's back to the silk cushion in the drawing room, near the air conditioning vent. I think a dog goes through a corruption of the soul living in an embassy. When it rains Sweet Pea's not ashamed to go for a walk wearing plastic baggies tied with elastics to this feet, as long as a human takes him out on the leash. The butler thought the baggies would protect the drawing room from being dirtied. Being an embassy dog, Sweet Pea understood. He knows it's important to look after government property. Mr. Ambassador wasn't so tolerant and said he would never walk a dog on Massachusetts Avenue wearing plastic baggies. It would give him, our country and the dog the ultimate wimp image.
I bought Sweet Pea from a lady in McLean, Va., who said he was a Tibetan Terrier. He might be a terrier to her and a terrier to me, but to real terriers like Hector, he's no terrier. Hector was all bite and no bark. Hector was never fool enough to give warning. On a quiet evening the only sound we ever heard was a jogger's scream, and then it was off to the emergency room again, trying to calm a hysterical male stranger with soothing words about Hector's recent rabies shots.
I realized that a Clint Eastwood type dog wouldn't do in an embassy. When I bought Sweet Pea (even the name is a giveaway), I wanted to soothe myself. Mr. Ambassador had a fight the night before with his Prime Minister, and "wife of" thought he was going to be fired for sure. I needed a security blanket, and Sweet Pea is one of those hairy dogs who look the same from either end. I got him cheap because the lady told me he had an overbite problem. Since we still have no way of knowing whether he's coming or going, this is of no account.
As I mentioned, Beverly, there's something about living in an embassy that makes a dog go soft. For exercise, Hector used to follow the Greyhound buses on the highway; Sweet ea follows the waiters carrying trays of canap,es from the kitchen to the library. Embassy dogs are pompous and like the sound of their own bark. Popsie Tribble thought Sweet Pea needed a little more diplomatic training so she taught him not to bark at Powerful Job and Famous Names.
Now he threatens only decompressing former Mr. Secretaries, and the most junior members of Mr. Ambassador's political staff who are greeted with a high pitched hypocritical bark. It's disconcerting to have a dog so attuned to status, but what do you expect in Washington?
Hector, the Airedale Terrier, ate kibble from a bowl in the boiler room. Sweet Pea, the Tibetan Terrier, positions himself under a table in the dining room at a black-tie dinner waiting for a Powerful Job to hand him a rack of lamb.
I don't know whether you read about the event, Beverly, but there was a status dog show recently in Washington organized in honor of a charity. A Washington status dog show means that canine training, breeding and deportment don't count, so long as the dog's owned by someone powerful. Ambassadors are not really powerful in this city, but lip service to protocol is maintained, and even the dog show had a classification for embassy dogs. Of course, Ed Meese's dog got all the publicity, and I'm not even sure she's a thoroughbred. Anyway, I was all ready to take Sweet Pea to the dog show, but our foreign minister came into town that day and he took priority. Mr. Ambassador requisitioned a junior member of his staff to accompany the dog. Sweet Pea was annoyed and behaved badly. He used the junior staffer's leg as a fire hydrant and barked hysterically because he had to wait for Meese's dog to receive an award before the embassy dog contest got under way.
Sweet Pea still has a lot to learn. He may be an embassy dog but he's no diplomat.
Your best friend,