This week’s most surprising news is that Donald Trump has become obsessed with a German shepherd named Conan. It’s not surprising that Trump should loudly preoccupy himself with an inane distraction as impeachment looms, of course, but rather that his object of fascination should be a dog — man’s best friend but certainly not Trump’s.
Trump has been tweeting heavily about this formerly anonymous canine soldier, who helped in last weekend’s top-secret operation that ended with the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. On Monday, Trump revealed Conan’s official portrait (though not his name, yet), and called him a “wonderful dog” who did a “GREAT JOB.”
And yesterday, he tweeted a wildly Photoshopped image — created by far-right troll factory the Daily Wire — of himself solemnly bestowing a Medal of Honor on Conan with the caption “AMERICAN HERO!” (Is it possible that Trump saw this moving, extremely fake photo and thought it was real, forgetting that he has not actually participated in a Medal of Honor ceremony for animals? I don’t want to speculate, but … )
Today, he’s claiming that the dog celebrity will soon be visiting the White House.
Trump seems to be genuinely impressed with Conan, but his admiration is entirely out of step with his long-held, very negative dog beliefs. Trump’s dislike of dogs is well documented; he is famously the only president not to live in the White House with a pet. Given that people tend to love and affectionately dote on their animals, it does seem like dog-owning isn’t up Trump’s alley — just look at how stilted and strange he acts with children, even though he has several himself. Trump routinely invokes dogs when talking about people he detests: his enemies have been “dumped like a dog,” “choked like a dog,” and “kicked out of the ABC News debate like a dog.” And his specific gripe seems to be that he thinks dogs are routinely let go from their workplaces: He is constantly saying the bizarre phrase “fired like a dog,” despite most dogs not being wage-earners.
So does Trump respect Conan, who was injured in the military operation, because he seems to have been a very good boy, and was not fired? Maybe.
More likely is that the president has finally allowed the knowledge that other people like dogs to pass through his aspartame-hardened brain rock, and has learned that it might serve him well to suddenly pivot to dogs with an impeachment inquiry looming. Dogs can’t refuse his invitations to the White House, accuse him of collusion, or other pesky human behaviors. It’s very possible that Trump is standing in front of a mirror right now, practicing responding to photos of dogs in Halloween costumes, trying to fit his diminutive mouth around the word “Aw.”