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Top Coronavirus Aide’s Last Job Was Breeding Dogs

Let’s not be too fast to judge!
By Jonathan Wood, April 2020, Updated June 2021
Brian Harrison, the dog breeder, pandemic lead

News flash: Former Labradoodle breeder tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force.

WASHINGTON (Reuters). On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared.

Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to Covid-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running Dallas Labradoodles, a dog-breeding business, for six years. Sources say some White Houser officials derisively called him “the dog breeder.”

At times, I have questioned Trump administration appointments. Are energy lobbyists really the best choice to oversee the EPA and Department of Interior? Maybe yes, maybe no. What’s that phrase? “There are good people on both sides …”


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I wanted to give this new appointment a fair chance, so I did a little research.*

Keeping in mind that Dallas Labradoodles may have changed in significant ways since Harrison departed in 2018, I felt it would be beneficial to learn more about the exciting enterprise of dog-breeding by visiting the business’s website. Landing on the home page, I was greeted by photo after photo of cute Labradoodle puppies, and a promise: “Through ethical and responsible breeding, we are proudly enriching the lives of families all across Texas and the United States!” What a relief. Brian Harrison was ethical and responsible. A good start.

The “About Us” tab details the Harrison legacy: “The Harrisons were first introduced to the breed in 2011, and, after much research, they became set on adopting a Multigenerational Australian Labradoodle. They found many Labradoodle breeders in Texas, but few that bred genuine Multigenerational Australian Labradoodles, which is key to temperament, health, and pure cuteness.”

What does that statement tell us? First, that Harrison does his research before acting—excellent! He’s committed to health—great! He also values a good temperament and is a team player, two more assets. (I’m not sure how to translate his devotion to “pure cuteness” vis a vis overseeing a pandemic task force, but it must have some applicability.)

The problem-solving skills inherent in breeding Labradoodles are also a plus. I mean, creating a market and then fulfilling its needs for what is essentially a mixed-breed dog. What ingenuity! That sort of audacious “thinking outside the box” mentality can certainly be applied to solving challenges posed by Covid-19, including those related to testing, contact-tracing and restarting the economy.

Harrison can’t take credit for inventing the breed (that would be Australian Wally Conron, and it was an idea he came to regret). However, he should get credit for improving on the idea and amping up its marketing potential by calling his puppies “Multigenerational Australian Labradoodles!” Pure genius.

Then, there’s working under pressure and a keen knowledge of science. There are few more challenging responsibilities than breeding an upmarket commodity like a Labradoodle. No doubt the pressure to “get it right” is immense. One can imagine that the level of responsibility for a successful coronavirus strategy would be similar. Plus, all that science. What’s the genetic recipe for a fawn-colored coat? For long legs? For a well-shaped head? Whew! My own head spins just thinking about it.

And finally, he has experience in dealing with the public, invaluable when one is a public servant. Let’s compare: Potential Labradoodle puppy purchasers are impatient, demanding and full of questions. The American public is also impatient, demanding and full of questions when it comes to Covid-19 testing and public-health decisions. Another perfect match.

So far, I see nothing but top marks and translatable work experience. Harrison is clearly another top-tier pick for the Trump administration and the right man to lead the best pandemic response crew ever assembled, which will keep America number one in testing, in ventilators and in holding down those pesky mortality rates to the low six figures.

Will Chiweenies be handed out with future coronavirus tests? Talk about an incentive … I’ll take three!

*On a sincere—as opposed to ironic—note, we know many charming “doodle” dogs, and know they’re loved and treasured by their people, as they should be. We cast no aspersions on these dogs or those who love them. Politicians? That’s another matter!
—The Bark Editors