White House Goes to the Dogs

Barney and Miss Beazley continue the canine tradition in the White House.


June 8, 2007 — -- The presidential chapter in the lives of the Bush family pets -- Barney, Miss Beazley and India -- are coming to a close.

There are certainly many days left to lounge about the Oval Office, sniff the South Lawn or protect those nine lives by cuddling up to the Secret Service.

But there's no doubt the race is on to replace them. And on top of all the pressing issues facing 2008 voters, one more can be added: Will a chew toy or litter box move into the White House come 2009?

President Harry S. Truman said it best: "If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog."

And, for the most part, the 19 (at last count) presidential contenders have largely heeded that bipartisan advice.

According to the American Kennel Club, labs are the most popular dog breed in the United States and, appropriately, they are equally popular among the presidential contenders.

"It makes sense when trying to win an election for the candidates to go with the most popular breed," said Mo Rocca, comedian and author of the book All the Presidents' Pets.

Seamus, a chocolate lab, is the only member of the Clinton family who has not previously resided in the White House.

Buddy, an active chocolate Labrador retriever who preceded Seamus as the Clinton's right-hand canine, was killed in January 2002 by a car on Route 117 outside the family's Chappaqua residence in New York.

Socks, the former first cat, author and Buddy's avowed nemesis, was adopted by the former president's secretary Betty Currie.

The former president, who has been taking an increasingly active role in his wife's bid for his old job, once said of the oft-dueling pets: "I did better with the Palestinians and the Israelis … than I've done with Socks and Buddy."

Buddy came to define Truman's quote, arriving at the White House in December 1997, only one month before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in January 1998.

It's a long and lonely campaign for the White House and, no doubt, Sen. Clinton could use a "best friend." But Rocca advises that she be careful about her pick.

"She needs to stay away from poodles and fancy, feminine dogs that would make her look too weak," said the former "Daily Show" correspondent.

It could be easily argued that the 2008 campaign has gone to the dogs and cats and turtles and fish.

Perhaps one of the few things former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Clinton share in common is that Romney was once the proud owner of Marley, a Weimaraner, who recently died.

Still alive and well, however, is Bella, the golden retriever who keeps former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards company at the family home in Chapel Hill.

Former Arkansas Gov.Mike Huckabee and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., also favor canines.

Huckabee has a Shih Tzu named Sonic and -- you guessed it -- Jet, a black lab.

Hunter also has a pair of black labs named Boo and Hunter (seemingly making the pup's name Hunter Hunter).

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ever the contrarian, does not own a lab but instead rescued Harry, Lucy and George -- a beagle-basset mix, beagle and cocker spaniel respectively -- from the pound.

If Harry and Lucy make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it would be the first presidential beagle pair since the Johnson administration. President Lyndon Johnson's beagles, Him and Her, gained national headlines when the president pulled Him off the ground by his ears, evoking a classic beagle yowel.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has two canines, two cats and two fish. But Brownback's three pairs do not come close to rivaling McCain's ark.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, leads the pack with several pets, including Sam, an English springer spaniel, Coco the mutt, two turtles Cuff and Link, Oreo the cat, a ferret, parakeet and 13 saltwater fish.

Perhaps McCain is merely emulating his political hero, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, the nation's 26th preisdent, had a number of horses, including Bleistein, his favorite, several dogs, a snake named Emily Spinach, a Macaw named Eli Yale, a lion, hyena, zebra and a one-legged rooster.

Not counting any furry friends among their family members, Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, may find themselves in the dog house with pet-loving voters.

Dodd's family suffers from allergies that several types of pets could aggravate. There's no word on whether the Dodd family has considered one of the several hypoallergenic breeds, including the miniature schnauzer, poodle and labradoodle that will not have the candidate's family itching their eyes.

Obama has announced he will buy his two daughters -- 8-year-old Malia and 5-year-old Sasha -- a puppy if he wins the White House.

There is no word on what breed the girls have their hearts set on, but the country's pet lovers can only hope that the puppy will prevail regardless of the election's outcome.

As for Giuliani, New York is certainly a dog-friendly city. More than 1.4 million dogs reside in the metropolis he once governed.

What's more, the subject of pets, especially dogs, is a fragile thread with his campaign.The mayor's wife, Judi Giuliani, once worked for a medical-supply company that required her to demonstrate their surgical products on dogs. Several either died during the demonstrations or were later terminated after experiencing complications due to the processes they underwent.

The White House lawns are not solely canine friendly. There are several cats hoping to replace current first feline India and continue the legacy of Socks.

If New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson takes the White House, Jake and Squeaky would share the title. If Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., moves from the Senate to the White House only Daisy would claim the title.

When it comes to cats, however, Rocca warns that the candidates need to be cautious.

"Cats are always tricky," Rocca advises, warning that unlike dogs, cats are generally admired for seeming totally unconcerned with others' opinions.

Perhaps it's time for the presidential holdouts to take Truman's advice. If they want a friend in Washington -- or a key to the Oval Office -- buy a dog.

Want to learn more about the pups, cats and other animals who have made their home -- or nest -- in the White House? Check out the Presidential Pet Museum

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