Tim Schnabel is a retired marriage and family therapist from Walton County.

President Bush, Barney and Miss Beazley

Barney and Miss Beazley follow President George W. Bush along the West Wing Colonnade on July 23, 2008, on the way back to the Oval Office at the White House.

An animal in one’s life is a gift to both the caregiver and the pet.

Caring for a cat or dog is rewarded with a purr or a wagging tale. It is impossible to bond with a pet without falling in love with him or her. They offer us unconditional love, ways to sooth ourselves and most often, laughter.

No matter what I thought of a past president’s politics, my heart was warmed by pictures of Carter, Reagan, both Bush 41 and 43, Clinton and Obama having precious moments with their pets. Since we live longer, we lose them, most often when they are gravely ill or incapacitated by deciding to end their lives through euthanization. This requires us to grieve and grieving involves vulnerability and fragility.

I have missed experiencing animals in the White House. This is the first time since President James Polk, our 11th president (1845-1849), some 167 years ago, that a little fur creature has not scampered around the first family.

Secondly, I have missed an overt appreciation of the performing arts with White House concerts, but especially, the president and first lady attending the Kennedy Center Honors early each December. These annual artistic performances at the Kennedy Center are created for the five chosen honorees, a tradition dating back to 1978. The president and his wife sit with the honorees as they are feted by acclaimed artists in their profession. The evening is warm, tender, extraordinarily beautiful and loving.

During such performances I have seen tears in the eyes of all presidents attending this remarkable evening.

They allowed themselves to be moved by extraordinary music transporting us to cherished moments in our lives as well as the beauty of the experienced musical moment. Regardless of our tastes when we listen to and appreciate music, we are required to feel … feeling something other than anger or rage.

Through music you see a president’s humanity, that he is delighted, moved and awed by the Kennedy Center honorees and by the musical/artistic performances honoring each recipient. We see his vulnerability by the expression on his face and the tears in his eyes allowing himself to be touched by the artistry. We see him hold the hand of his wife and appreciate the tenderness they share experiencing this once in a lifetime set of performances.

Lastly, I have missed having a president who is willing to laugh at himself for his own foibles and mannerisms. A prime example is comedian Dana Carvey’s imitations of President George H.W. Bush. And how did President Bush respond? He fell in love with Carvey and the feeling was mutual. They actually appeared together on “Saturday Night Live” in a hilarious skit. The two were friends for 25 years.

When a president laughs at himself, he models what each of us needs to do from time to time … not take ourselves too seriously.

When a president attends the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, he knows he is going to be roasted. Experiencing a president laughing along with the audience at his idiosyncrasies, pet phrases or miscues is heartwarming

If the president of the United States accepts being the butt of jokes, laughing right along, why can’t the rest of us loosen up some and do the same? In a way, a president laughing at himself is inspirational.

Yes, I have missed our president attending these dinners.

It has been a huge loss for me … the absence of animals, music and laughter at the White House. These are things that connect our humanity where we simply see each other as human beings, suspending for a few brief moments our politics.

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