‘Major’ scenery change: German shepherd pup goes from shelter to the White House

By Mike Finney
Posted 1/15/21

WILMINGTON — For President-elect Joe Biden, it just seems doggone right to have canines milling about the White House.

Mr. Biden even targeted dog lovers with a campaign message shortly …

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‘Major’ scenery change: German shepherd pup goes from shelter to the White House


WILMINGTON — For President-elect Joe Biden, it just seems doggone right to have canines milling about the White House.

Mr. Biden even targeted dog lovers with a campaign message shortly before Election Day when he tweeted “Let’s put dogs back in the White House!”

And while Mr. Biden won’t be inaugurated into the office of President until next Wednesday, one of his two German shepherd’s – Major – will be “indogurated” into his role as one of the First Dogs on Sunday.

Major Biden, whom Mr. Biden adopted from the Delaware Humane Association in Wilmington, is barking proof that every dog can live the American dream. He will become the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House, as he moves into the presidential confines with his older brother, Champ.

The “indoguration” will take place online Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m. and those who participate will have to make a $10 donation that will help raise funds to help more shelter animals like Major find their fur-ever homes. People and pets alike are invited to attend the event.

Major’s underdog tale of becoming the first puppy to go from an animal shelter to the White House actually began back in 2018, according to Patrick Carroll, executive director of the Delaware Humane Association.

“Overall, (Mr. Biden) is a German shepherd person,” Mr. Carroll said. “He likes that breed, so what happened is we have this litter of German shepherd puppies and they weren’t doing well. They were sick and someone needed our help. We ended up taking them in and they had to give them up because it was just too much for the person to get the veterinarian care that they needed and the cost of that.

“We took them in and then we did a post on our Facebook page about the puppies and how we needed support to care for them. We do a plea on Facebook sometimes when we have medical needs for animals and ask for donor support.”

That was when the wheels started turning into motion.

Mr. Carroll said that in early 2018, the shelter received the litter of six shepherd puppies, including Major, the future First Dog. The puppies were very sick and in dire need of help after they had gotten into an unknown toxic substance.

The dogs were lethargic, vomiting and were hospitalized for a few days before they were put into foster care to recover for around 8 to 10 weeks, where they were able to bounce back and recover with fluids and medication.

Ashley Biden, the president-elect’s daughter, saw the Delaware Humane Association’s Facebook post about the German shepherd puppies in March 2018 in search of foster homes. Ashley sent the post to her father because she knew he was looking for a companion for the aging Champ.

“I believe what happened is that Ashley Biden, Joe Biden’s daughter, saw our (Facebook) post and knew her dad was looking for another shepherd and then she shared it with him, and then they reached out to us about the puppies and about getting one,” Mr. Carroll said. “He wanted a male and there’s only one male, so it was pretty easy that way and simple to make arrangements.

“(Major) had to go into foster (care) for a while to get better, so we put him in foster with the Biden family and then finalized the adoption later.”

President-elect Biden actually dropped by the Delaware Humane Association shelter on Easter Day in 2018 to get a look at the puppies but they weren’t there. They were still recovering.

“(Mr. Biden) came here after Ashley had sent him the post and he just dropped in on Easter Sunday in 2018 and they were in foster,” said Mr. Carroll. “They go into foster for 8 to 10 weeks and then we spay and neuter them. In this case, they were also sick.

“He dropped in and the puppies weren’t here, but he did a nice little selfie with the skeleton crew of staff that were here, maybe five or six staff members to care for the animals on a holiday. After that, we followed up with him and we made the arrangements. His trainer actually came to get Major and then he took it to (Mr. Biden).”

In November 2018, the president-elect returned to the shelter with a grown Major to officially adopt him.

Major has already been in the news – all of it not good – with Mr. Biden.
The former vice president to President Barack Obama broke his foot in November 2020 while playing with the young dog. CBS Sunday Morning also recently reported that Major and Champ will have to share their living quarters with a cat.

Major and Champ are now set to become the first dogs in the White House in four years. President Donald Trump was the first president in more than a century not to have a dog.

It is Major who is making major headlines with his improbable road to the White House. He follows in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s rescue dog, Yuki’s, pawprints.

Major is also bringing added awareness of animal shelters such as the Delaware Humane Association and what all they have to offer.

“It’s very cool,” Mr. Carroll said. “We’re trying to be very clear that (Major) is a shelter dog, because we’ve said ‘rescue dog,’ because I guess Lyndon Johnson had a rescue dog which Ladybird Johnson found the dog at a gas station, so he was rescued.

“We’re just really excited because it highlights the work that we do every day. Our message is getting out there about who we are, and also what we do. Just for the whole country it is showing this is a good option for adopting an animal and for resources and vaccinations or spay/neuter surgery, food from our pet food pantry.

“We’re really excited that it’s highlighting it more nationally and we’re glad to be a part of that.”

Mr. Carroll said that even before the news of Major broke, that shelters have been a popular place ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Delaware in March of last year.

“We certainly can’t even measure the public awareness that has happened (with Major),” he said. “It’s amazing because we’ve been all over the national news and so forth. It’s actually a little hard to tell the direct result in terms of adoptions, because since the pandemic started our adoptions and everyone really all over the country, pet adoptions have been soaring.

“There’s just a lot of interest because we believe what’s happening is people are home and they’re getting lonely, so it’s been good companionship, and people kind of say it would be great to get a cat or a dog because I’m here (at home) for a while, so there’s that.”

He added, “People being home has really driven up interest and there’s also the reality that people are reflecting light on their lives and what’s important to them.”

Champ and Major virtual book launch

The “Champ and Major: First Dogs” virtual book launch will take place Jan. 19 from 5 until 6 p.m.

People are invited to participate in an online, interactive conversation with author Joy McCullough and illustrator Sheyda Abvabi Best, to discuss their new book, “Champ and Major: First Dogs,” a picture book about President-elect Biden’s two German shepherds.

The virtual event will include a live reading of the book by children’s author Ms. McCullough, dog sketching by the book’s Kansas City-based illustrator, Sheyda Abvabi Best, and highlight pets available for adoption through DHA.

Animal lovers of all ages will want to read all about Champ, who is excited to go back to the White House, and Major, who will be the first shelter dog to live in the White House.

Registration is currently open.  

Anyone needing additional assistance with registration can contact leweslibrary@gmail.com. Anyone interested in purchasing the book directly from Browseabout, which comes with a signed archival bookplate, can visit: www.browseaboutbooks.com, call the store directly at 302-226-2665, or stop by the store in person to purchase. To learn more about Delaware Humane Association and how to support other shelter animals visit the website