“How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?" (Applause) "I don’t know. … Feels a little phony to me.”
— Donald Trump, to a rally in El Paso
So, Donald Trump has gotten a dog.
If it really is so necessary, he suggests, then get a used dog, not a puppy. So it’s trained and it won’t make a mess, at least.
He is at first aware of it only as something persistently underfoot, like a Roomba with ideas of its own. Then he is aware of it as something that has done a deal on the carpet — in the golf room, the new golf room! Of all the places!
Can we send it to a farm upstate, he wants to know, where they’ll take care of it? That might be better than to have this wagging beast that will sometimes ruin a pair of Ivanka Trump heels, almost as if it gnawed on them on principle. No, the farm, he thinks, might be best. It would be happier on the farm.
It is Jared who takes it on himself to explain about farms upstate, and Trump responds by shouting that HE KNEW THAT (OF COURSE HE KNEW THAT), but when he goes to bed that night, he lies awake, rigid with horror. So there was never a farm. So all the farms where the dogs were taken care of were just nowhere. He must have known that. Then maybe there is no place where you can just send things out of mind to be safe?
Not that it matters to him. He has the greatest, best health of any president, according to his doctor, and that is all because of remaining the cleanest president. Dogs are dirty.
Sometimes he hears a noisy snoring, and it is the dog. Sometimes he comes into a room where the dog is being told to sit by an aide, and the dog looks at him with a kind of unquestioning loyalty. He thinks, is this possible to obtain without a rally? Is this possible to just have all the time and you don’t even need to mention a wall?
Sometimes he encounters it outside, and it seems bewilderingly interested in things. He wants to whisper to it, “No, there is no television here. There are only flies and squirrels and grass, which is disgusting and acceptable only as a golf surface.” But the dog seems not to mind.
The dog comes to a rally, and Trump holds the leash and strides back and forth, and everyone claps and shouts how good he looks.
But in the speech, he says something, and the dog’s ears flatten like it heard a sound too high-pitched for human ears. Its tail swishes back and forth.
Afterward, it is not quite itself. The dog keeps pawing at its ear with a worried expression.
When there is a lightning storm, Trump can hear the dog howling as if there is something only it can hear, approaching through the sheets of rain, closer with every flash, like a nightmare of something inching toward you every time a camera flashes until it starts to be visible first in pictures and then in reality. Like the thousands of invisible villains creeping toward the border, Trump thinks. (But that must be real; that cannot just be a nightmare, or what is all the fuss about?)
Trump isn’t concerned. It just would be inconvenient if something were to happen so soon, especially after the disappointment of the farm, that’s all.
The vet says the dog is sick.
All right, Trump says. So, we will get another vet who will say the dog is well, and the dog can be well again.
His aides look at each other and don’t look at him, and he wonders why. It is a European summit all over again! It is some joke he’s not in on. He leaves the room and waits to hear them laugh, but they don’t laugh. Then the dog starts being administered pills. But there’s nothing wrong with the dog! They just need a vet who can understand that.
The dog sits around more. It seems to want to be touched. One afternoon, just sitting on the couch without thinking, he touches it, and as long as his hand is covered in dog germs, he supposes it is worth continuing to touch the dog.
Something about it doesn’t quite click. The dog seems to understand that his hands are incorrectly made for this sort of work, but it doesn’t mind. There’s got to be a catch to this, or everyone would have dogs! (He tries to think what he knows about dogs, tries to remember whether there was a dog in “All Quiet on the Western Front.”) There is no point in having someone look at you like that who will just look at everyone else like that.
It is, for instance, enthusiastic to see Mick Mulvaney, and that’s not even possible. That almost makes it less lifelike, an automatic door that opens when nobody has even approached.
After the touching, the dog is on the couch more, but it isn’t doing any deals or harm there, and sometimes he will wave at it in passing, and it will act excited like an idiot. Like a loser. Like a dog!
He starts to include it on tours, and when it fails to respond properly, he shouts, “You’re fired!” at it, and that gets a laugh.
One afternoon, it doesn’t eat the pills. Not that he has been paying attention to whether it eats the pills! It has just started to sit around on that couch all day, and it isn’t excited for Mick, but it does start losing its bladder control, which is embarrassing for it.
He hates to see it like this. You are embarrassing yourself, he tells it. I will fire you if you aren’t careful.
He hopes no one hears him talking to it.
That week, Jared says he has found a farm after all.
I knew there was a farm, Trump says. This is why I always doubt intelligence so much.
I think it’ll be happier on the farm, Jared says. Don’t you?
He just needs to move around more, Trump says. That’s right. He’s just gotten lazy. He lies around all day like a dog.
They load the dog into a car with an aide, and its tail thumps once against the seat, and Trump waves, “Bye, dog!” and they speed off to the farm.
That afternoon, he gets back from a rally, and there isn’t anything underfoot or on the couch, just a chew toy that he thinks an aide had better send along. The place feels empty. The way a place feels empty when it has been full is different.
He tries to imagine what the farm is like. Once he sang “Green Acres” in a sketch at the Emmys, and he wonders whether it is like that at all.
Once he almost asks Jared and Ivanka if they can all visit the farm, but he stops himself just in time. Could you imagine? Still, he worries they might say something if he left the room.
It is funny knowing there is something out there on a farm that is a big enough idiot to get excited to see you every day.
He wants to ask the rest of the family how they liked it. It was a good experience, probably. Probably an experience lots of kids should have.
Maybe if they liked it enough, he can take them to visit the farm. For them. It can’t be too far.
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