Barney Bush, the well-known — if sometimes controversial — Scottish terrier of former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, died Friday after losing a battle with lymphoma. He was 12.5 years old.
Often referred to as the “first dog,” Barney spent the entire eight years of Bush’s presidency at the White House, starring in videos via the “Barney Cam” and meeting the many famous faces to pass through the historic home.
“Barney was by my side during our eight years in the White House,” Bush said in a statement announcing Barney’s death. “He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend."
Barney was an avid armadillo hunter and golf ball chaser and enjoyed his days guarding the South Lawn entrance to the White House “as if he were a Secret Service agent,” Bush said of the dog, who would be 87.5 years old in dog years.
“He wandered the halls of the West Wing looking for treats from his many friends,” Bush said of his loyal companion. “He starred in Barney Cam and gave the American people Christmas tours of the White House. Barney greeted Queens, Heads of State, and Prime Ministers. He was always polite and never jumped in their laps.”
And while he may have been a loyal pal to his owners, Barney is known for having a bit of a mean streak with the press.
In September 2008, he bit Boston Celtics Public Relations Director Heather Walker on her wrist, breaking skin. A few months later, in November 2008, Barney took a bite of Reuters reporter Jon Decker’s finger.
"I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi,” Laura Bush’s spokesperson joked at the time.
He was also criticized by some prominent political figures, including White House official Karl Rove, who once remarked that Barney was “a lump,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said a world leader should own larger dogs, such as Putin’s black lab, which he said was “bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, meaner than Barney.”
But despite the criticism, Bush loved his four-legged friend.
"Laura and I will miss our pal," Bush said.