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Remembering Champ Biden: The president’s beloved German shepherd was a ‘sweet, good boy’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/19/2021 Maura Judkis
a dog sitting in front of a door: Champ, a 13-year-old German shepherd belonging to President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, has died. © Win Mcnamee/Getty Images Champ, a 13-year-old German shepherd belonging to President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, has died.

Champ, the elder of President Biden’s two German shepherds, died June 19 at the age of 13, the president announced on Twitter.

“He was our constant, cherished companion during the last 13 years and was adored by the entire Biden family,” Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a joint statement posted Saturday to the president’s official Twitter account. “Wherever we were, he wanted to be, and everything was instantly better when he was next to us.”

The Bidens are spending the weekend at their home in Wilmington, Del., and the statement noted that Champ died “peacefully at home.”

Champ was adopted by the Bidens shortly after the 2008 election. They purchased the German shepherd puppy from a Chester County, Pa., breeder. The Biden granddaughters chose the name Champ, which was a childhood nickname of the president: His father famously used to encourage him by saying, “Champ, when you get knocked down, get up!”

In 2009, when Biden was visiting a Syracuse, N.Y., elementary school, he described his dog to an enthusiastic crowd of fifth-graders, according to the local paper, the Post-Standard. “Have I ever petted a dog?” he said. “Oh, yeah. And guess what. I got one that lives with me. The smartest, coolest dog in the world. His name is Champ, and he’s a German shepherd, and he is the neatest dog.”

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The Bidens had prepared Champ for a life in the spotlight, enlisting a Delaware trainer, Mark Tobin, to teach him how to handle the plane rides, noises and crowds that a then-second dog might encounter.

“Champ had the right personality and demeanor for the job,” Tobin told The Washington Post in January. “He was great around people, but he also was extremely attentive to the vice president.”

Champ roamed the vice-presidential residence, and frequently made appearances at official events held at Number One Observatory Circle. During the Obama administration, the Bidens would hand out stuffed animals that looked like Champ to children they met.

In 2018, Champ was joined by Major, another German shepherd, whom the Bidens adopted from the Delaware Humane Association. The energetic puppy kept Champ active, and the two were best friends, Tobin told The Post. They starred in a Christmas video greeting from the Bidens, and were the subject of a children’s book, “Champ and Major: First Dogs.”

Major’s rocky adjustment to the White House — the dog nipped two people — commanded headlines and sympathy this spring from dog owners nationwide. (Champ, too, had an occasional naughty streak: The AP reported in 2015 that Biden suffered “a dark, penny-sized contusion just below his lower lip” from a tussle with the older dog.)

In recent months, White House reporters observed that the graying, elder dog was starting to slow down.

“Even as Champ’s strength waned in his last months, when we came into a room, he would immediately pull himself up, his tail always wagging, and nuzzle us for an ear scratch or a belly rub,” wrote the Bidens in their statement. “We love our sweet, good boy and will miss him always.”

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