Taking a bite out of terror

By Stephen W. Stromberg
Published August 11, 2004 9:48PM (EDT)

With Americans growing numb to the Homeland Secuity Department's color-coded threat warnings, Tom Ridge and his staff are pushing a new way to get the word out: the homeland security mascot. The Gannet News Service reports:

"In schools, on the Internet and in television and radio ads, kids will be introduced to a Homeland Security mascot in the form of a dog . . . .

"The campaign, through Ad Council advertisements, will encourage families to develop and talk about a communication plan -- where kids should go, who would pick them up, how they would make contact -- for an emergency.

"The Homeland Security Department and groups such as the American Red Cross have been encouraging families to make plans and prepare emergency kits that include food and water, flashlights, battery-powered radios and anything else they might need for up to three days if the power is out."

According to NPR's Mike Pesca, the message maestros at Homeland Security say the new mascot will serve as a "close cousin" of McGruff, the crime-fighting dog. McGruff is a hound dog, and he already has a nephew, Scruff, the anti-drug dog.

The as-yet-unnamed anti-terror dog will be something the Homeland Security people call an "American shepherd." While we're all familiiar with German shepherds, Pesca says not even the American Kennel Club has heard of anything called an "American shepherd." Pesca raises the inevitable question: "Is the American shepherd a canine version of the freedom fry?"

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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