issue 4 (page 6)


Rufus hated Barack Obama.

The President got under his skin, tapped something deep underneath his fluffy fur. Once he appeared on the screen, walking across the White house lawn with his family and dog on their way to a family vacation. Rufus barked the entire night; long after the image of them strolling towards the helicopter was over. He kept all of my neighbors awake. I received nasty glares in the elevator the next morning.

Then the President had to go and ruin everything.

When I read in the paper that the president was coming to town I got scared. Word had it that he was going to give a speech right down the street from me. I wrestled with the idea of putting him in a kennel for the day, for his sake.

The city prepared for his arrival. Days in advance, parking spots were coned off. Twenty four hours before he was expected they closed down the street. We could barely get out of the apartment for his daily walk. I even had to call in sick to work. Would’ve taken too long to find a parking spot coming home. Besides, the Secret Service blocked off the front door to my apartment.

The day of his arrival, Rufus stayed frozen in place at the window. The craziness unfolding below him on the street. His motorcade, the police escorts, the sirens, the crowd, they provoked Rufus. Instigating his usually calm demeanor. I trained him to be a Democrat. To be fair and friendly with anyone who approached him on the sidewalk or at the park. I thought I had done a good job.

At least a dozen unmarked black cars, any of which could be the one with the President in it. I guess that was the point; you never knew which one he was in. Cop cars, both marked and unmarked flanked the line of sedans. Uniformed officers stood their ground on the front line, forming another line of resistance beyond the wooden barricades.

Wet snout pushed up against the cold, streaky glass. His tail was wagging. He could tell something big was going down. I cracked the window open, just a bit. I felt bad. I wanted to give him some fresh air, try to calm him down by giving him something he was familiar with, something he loved.

I’d already seen him before. Not just on the television, but in person. I was in the park the night of the election. Granted I was like a mile back from the stage but still how many people could say they’ve seen a President in person? I felt a part of something for the first time since my college days.

I jumped in the shower, leaving Rufus alone. I took a shower knowing that if I didn’t, even with the day off from work, I wouldn’t feel myself. I was a person of routine and I needed this to start the day, everyday just right.

Rufus’ barking rivaled the crowd’s noise. I rushed to his side to catch a glimpse of the scene, to feel that sense of belonging to something bigger once again however fleeting it may be.

And then Obama did something unexpected. The line of black cars stopped in the middle of the street. They sat there for a few minutes before one of the passenger doors opened up. Out stepped Mr. and Mrs. Obama. They looked magical in their finely tailored clothes. Brimming with energy they walked, hand in hand, towards one side of the crowd.

Shaky poll numbers no doubt influencing him to be more accessible, to be viewed as a common man, among the people. Everything was probably scripted but they made it look effortless. The smiles, the eye contact, the waves as they approached the now screaming crescendo of the crowd.

They broke apart as they reached the barricades. Still within touching distance, they bravely stuck their arms into the sea of people and let them grab hold, allowed them to make their own story of how they met the President and First Lady, giving them just enough time to construct a memory they could relay to their friends and family. It was genius. It lasted for hours. As they moved along at a sluggish pace, for every two steps they took forward, they had to double back a step to reach out and paw a missed hand.

Halfway towards their destination, the music hall at the end of the avenue, they were right below us. They had moved back to the middle of the street, walking the rest of the way, no longer slowed down by the throngs of faceless arms reaching out to touch them. The phone rang. By the time I got to it in the kitchen Rufus had squirmed out of the window and onto the fire escape. He made it down to the street by the time I reached the window. All I could do now was hope. I was frozen. With fear, with doubt, with anticipation.

He actually landed on the crowd. Plopped right down on a fat man’s shoulder before falling to the ground. A small circle formed in the crowd, giving Rufus all the room he needed to reach his target. I lost him in the crowd but he could see his trail as people began to jump and gyrate unexpectedly, looking down in shock.

He made it to the barricade and scampered in between a police officer’s legs. He was almost there. A secret service agent, close to the First Lady turned and crouched, readying himself for the part of the job he’d never been trained for. Rufus made a sharp cut to his left and left the agent on his hands and knees, suit ripped up. He was heading straight for the President.

Sensing, or maybe overhearing, the commotion around him the President turned towards Rufus. He was within a few strides. I was too scared to look but too curious to look away. The President bent over and dangled his right hand a few inches off the ground.

The crowd, for a moment, went silent. Everyone, except for the President and Rufus, stood in place, not sure what to do. Rufus reached his hand, stopped and licked it a few times before sitting down as the President were his owner. Obama looked to his agents and winked, as if to say, I got this. Then he looked into the crowd an unassuming smile.

As the sound of cameras going off increased, he picked up Rufus and cupped him in his right arm, cradling him like a baby, like he was his. His staffers couldn’t have asked for a better moment. It was a one of those picture perfect situations showcasing Obama’s human side, reminding everyone that he was, after all, just a normal guy.

I rushed downstairs and opened my building door to the mass of people. I jumped up as high as I could, yelling, he’s mine, he’s mine, that’s my dog! An officer, standing in the crowd, took me by the hand and led me through to the front of the crowd. I was sweating from equal parts embarrassment and pride. The cop waved over an agent, who motioned for the President. It was a bureaucratic chain. And it happened in a matter of moments.

The cameras, sensing the money shot, hovered nearby, ready for their cover photo. The President got to the barricade. Something about him reminded me of Bill Clinton, that easy going smile, the oozing of charm that just seemed to emanate from him like a ball of energy. It was why I had voted for Bill back in the day, chosen to participate in the political system, finally giving in to a man that seemed both friendly and intelligent.

“I believe this guy belongs to you.”

“Yes, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe he got out.”

“No worries, he’s quite friendly, and cute. Maybe he’s jealous of all the camera time my dog gets.”

He winked and let out a slight chuckle at this and handed Rufus back to me. Rufus was still staring up at the President, who, patted him on the head and rubbed behind his ear like I had done so many times before waving to the crowd behind me, as if to signify that everything was fine now, and returned to his wife’s side.

Maybe he was right, maybe Rufus hadn’t hated the President after all. Every time he’d yelped at the television Obama was with his wife, daughters, and their dog. He wasn’t angry, he was jealous. From that day forward I made sure to turn off the television if the first family’s dog was on the screen. I took to calling him Barack after that. It took some getting used to but he was a smart dog, after all. Intelligent enough to pick the most important person in the crowd and run up to him. He was my furry little Democrat and for one afternoon, the most famous dog on the planet.
patrick trotti grew up on second hand smoke, dime pulp novels, and nintendo video games.  you can find him barely breathing at