Everything passes, everything changes. When the final note of the ceremonial military band sounds the end of disgraced Christian Wulffs tenure as President of Germany, the corruption scandal will officially be history. The mood will lighten in Berlin, and in Großburgwedel -- the village northeast of Hanover where Wulff lives things will return to their characteristic quiet, the way they were before the German media was chock full of details about the many perks Wulff accepted from his wealthy friends.
The political class will concentrate on saving the euro. Journalists will have a field day with veteran soccer coach Otto Rehhagel, who has been nominated by Chancellor Angela Merkels party as a delegate at the special March 18 parliamentary meeting to choose the countrys next president. And celebrity hairdresser Udo Walz, famous for re-looking Angela Merkel, will sound off on TV about Joachim Gaucks haircut.
Indeed, many believe that the 72-year-old Gauck, a politician, Protestant minister and former East German civil rights activist, will be Germanys next president.
But now for the really important question: will Gauck keep a dog at Schloss Bellevue, the presidential residence in Berlin? If we pause to consider it, German political leaders dont tend to keep pets. Why not?
Dogs, a measuring stick for civilizations
In the United States, every president owns a dog. He leads it on a leash, or carries it, when he climbs into the presidential helicopter. He plays with it in front of the cameras. An American president without a dog would be as unthinkable as Thanksgiving without turkey.
The only German president to have had a dog was Johannes Rau, who was in office from 1999 to 2004. Of Scooter, his mixed breed Schnauzer, Rau once said: As a dog hes a catastrophe, but as a human being hes irreplaceable. Rau, its worth pointing out, was unusual for plenty of other reasons than just his public declarations of love for dogs.
Dogs are not only mans best friend. They are also a measuring stick for civilizations. Societies where pets are frowned upon usually have a problem for example, wherever cats are eaten and dogs raised for slaughter, human rights tend to be an afterthought as well.
In cultures such as ancient Egypts, people believed humans and animals were created together. Animals were thus figures of respect and treated accordingly. For the Jews, the seventh day of rest also applied to animals. In some European countries, there are retirement farms for animals nobody wants anymore -- and anybody who abandons their dog on the autobahn will receive a more severe punishment than if theyd been caught driving without a license.
The long shadow of Blondi
But that still leaves the question of why German presidents dont have dogs. That answer is that first dogs awaken unpleasant associations. In a country where some people still start to hyperventilate when they hear the word autobahn (because of the association with Hitler, who began ambitious construction projects soon after the Nazis came to power in 1933), any presidential dog, be it a Jack Russell or a Great Dane, would stir up memories of Hitlers German shepherd, Blondi.
There was something particularly disturbing about how Hitler could be so attached to the dog, while at the same time author such horrendous atrocities against human beings. Like her owner, in other words, Blondi casts her own long shadow over German history
But 67 years have passed since the dog was killed with her puppies just before Hitler committed suicide. Its high time we normalized our associations of dogs and political figures. German actor and writer Vicco von Bülow (1923-2011), who went by the name of Loriot, had a famous line: Life without a dog is possible, but senseless. Only when this becomes commonplace and German presidents have dogs -- will this lingering vestige of the Third Reich finally disappear.
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