"Good thinking."

"Great idea."

There was one problem. I had fully expected to be turned down. What I had was an idea, not a plan.

My friend Noelia Rodriguez, who was First Lady Laura Bush's press secretary, called me 30 minutes later.

"Mrs. Bush loves Barney Cam," she said. "She's going to show the video at the children's hospital instead of reading a Christmas book for the kids."

"Whoa, Noelia!" I said, beginning to feel panicky. "This is just a theory!"

She told me to turn on CNN — now.

The first lady was there. Live. Talking about the holiday decorations at the White House. Then she mentioned that she would be introducing a cute video starring her dog Barney at the hospital in two weeks.

"Get it together," Noelia said.

The plan

We scrambled.

We were able to secure a lipstick-size camera to attach to Barney's collar. But Barney didn't wear a dog collar. He didn't need to. Some dogs have microchips. Barney had the Secret Service.

When we put a collar on Barney, he protested by lying down. Then he started howling, loudly.

This would make a pretty lousy holiday video.

A colleague reassured me: "Don't worry about it. Barney will get used to it. He'll tire after a while, and then we'll start shooting."

Dale Haney — the White House groundskeeper and caretaker of presidential pets since King Timahoe, President Nixon's Irish setter — stopped by a little later and offered a warning.

"The president loves Barney like a son," Haney said. "He hears Barney howling like that, he's gonna think you're torturing him."

The last thing I needed was for the leader of the free world to think I was torturing his dog. We removed the collar.

Instead, we just had a couple of people chase Barney around the White House on their knees with a video camera to get the right perspective. That included going out in the snow. Numerous times. I would have done it, of course, but I was the director.

'I can't believe we're airing this'