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paws for thought

Even the President's pets got dragged into the campaign - but an expert reckons they're an ideal dog for the Áras

Peter Casey went on the attack over Michael D Higgins’ Bernese Mountain Dogs.

PETER CASEY MANAGED to get people talking about – of all things – the President’s dogs in the course of the Áras campaign. 

More specifically, he repeatedly took Michael D Higgins to task with claims about the incumbent’s dog-grooming bills (you’ll find our FactCheck on that subject here). 

Later on, Casey released a video questioning why Higgins chose to keep Bernese Mountain Dogs as pets – rather than more typically Irish breeds like, say, an Irish Wolfhound or a Kerry Beagle.  

With Higgins’ re-election yesterday it looks like his two dogs – Bród and Síoda – can continue to look forward to walks around the Phoenix Park for the foreseeable future. 

Casey’s dog video generated plenty of comment on social media in the course of the campaign, but it’s unlikely the businessman himself even meant it seriously. 

Nevertheless, now that the dust has settled on the race for the Áras we took it upon ourselves to attempt to answer that last lingering question from the campaign…. 

“Are Bernese Mountain Dogs a suitable breed for the Áras?” 

Considering the number of guests invited to the presidential mansion each year for receptions and garden parties, the dogs certainly have the appropriate demeanor. 

Sean Delmar, president of the Irish Kennel Club, said that Bernese Mountain dogs “are very calm” and “don’t run around the place getting overactive”. 

“They’re very trusting and warm. They approach everybody and anybody,” Delmar said. 

In that respect for a meet and greet with people coming into the Áras, I think they’d be absolutely suitable. 

“First of all, they’d approach in a nice, easy, gentle manner. They instantly trust everybody,” he said. 

German President Gauck on visit to Ireland DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

Adding to this, Delmar said that dogs can be an excellent conversation piece because “they put people at ease straight away”. 

Rather than coming face to face with the president, you know what I mean, the dogs come up and everyone’s attention turns to them. It’s a great icebreaker and a small little conversation piece before you get into the direct involvement of the things at hand.

‘They’re excellent with children’ 

Be it children or elderly people, Delmar added that the dogs are good with any age. 

“They’re excellent with children, I’ve never, ever known one to show any sign of aggression, at any level,” he said. 

“I’m sure people with disabilities, or autism, or old or frail people would find them very welcoming and very calming.” 

0124 People Acorn unveiled President Michael D_90532163 President Michael D Higgins unveiling a new public art sculpture in a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin

Delmar turned to address the size and colour of Bernese Mountain dogs, noting that their aesthetic adds to their likeability. Bród and Síoda are very often spotted photographed alongside President Higgins’ and guests of the Áras. 

“They’re very full like a little bear and they’ve lovely colouring – black, rustic brown and white. They’re very attractive to the eye and they have the awe factor,” Delmar said. 

This is another reason a Bernese Mountain dog is a suitable fit for the president, as “they don’t require an awful lot of exercise”. 

“They’re not a breed that requires to be galloping full speed around the place. A little bit of room to exercise … and I’m pretty sure there’s plenty up at the Phoenix Park anyway,” Delmar said. 

He added: “They’re quite comfortable indoors.” 

rowing 879_90528504 President Michael D Higgins with members of Skibbereen rowing club Sam Boal Sam Boal asked Delmar if he thinks any other breed of dog (perhaps one suggested by Casey) would make for a more suitable Áras pet, to which he said:

“In an ideal world, we’d like to think that one of the Irish breeds would be there.”

He went on to add that Terriers “would be too giddy and too active” for the role. 

“Maybe some type of retriever might be suitable for it, dogs that are used in Autism assist, in other words, dogs that are permanently calm and easy to react.”

On reflection, I think the Irish Wolfhound would be ideal for the Áras. They are used worldwide on State occasions as a mascot.

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