News & Politics

Almost Top Dog

Champ is happy as Bo Obama’s second in command

In his first year at the Vice President’s residence, Champ Biden found his way into press conferences and photo shoots, wandered into a private reception for teachers, and got covered in pink ribbons when a group of schoolchildren came to make Christmas ornaments with Joe Biden’s wife, Jill.

The 17-month-old German shepherd, who lies next to Jill Biden as she grades papers at night, moved into his new home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory shortly after the inauguration. Jill Biden, an adjunct English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, had promised her husband that if the Obama/Biden ticket won, the new Second Family would get a dog.

To motivate her husband on tough days, Jill Biden taped pictures of dogs to the seat in front of his on the campaign plane. Joe Biden also found inspiration from his father, whom he recalled as saying, “Anytime you get knocked down, champ—get up!”

Despite lacking the celebrity of his White House counterpart, Bo Obama (the two have never met), Champ has become a key member of the household, encouraging Vice President Biden to get up early for walks and joining Jill for runs.

Choosing a dog came easily to the Bidens—Joe Biden has had German shepherds since he was young. Because of the Vice President’s demanding schedule, Champ was sent to Delaware obedience trainer Mark Tobin, a family friend, who took the dog to parks, pet stores, and events to help him get used to crowds.

“His personality is very loving, and his favorite members of the family are Joe and Jill,” says Tobin. “I’ve heard he waits by the door when he expects them to get home.”

Champ is protective, taking walks around the house and checking in with staff. He enjoys playing with the Bidens’ five grandchildren—and took center stage on the family’s holiday card.

As Second Dog, he’s managed to avoid controversy, apart from a few accidents and an early liking for chewing shoes. In May 2009, during a visit to an elementary school in Syracuse, Vice President Biden told a group of students he had “the smartest, coolest dog in the world.” Then he said: “My dog is smarter than Bo.”