Pets Of Past Presidents The Obama family is close-lipped on their search for dog, so meanwhile we turn to presidents and candidates of campaigns past, who have been more willing to share the truth about their cats and dogs.

Pets Of Past Presidents

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, Sir Tom Jones - that dog.

But first, we now know who some of the people who'll be on the Obama team will be when he is president, but there is an important appointment yet to be made: the puppy the president-elect promised to give his daughters, which might, he said after his victory speech, be a mutt. Now this prompted a happy outcry from animal rescue people who were hoping to get a mutt commitment from the Obama's. Our animal rescue reporter, Alice Furlaud, has these thoughts.

ALICE FURLAUD: Every presidential election since 1992, I've done a commentary on the candidates' pets. This year, I couldn't do my usual story because the Obama's had no pets - maddening. It was such fun reporting on the pets in the old presidential campaign days. My first report was in 1992 when Socks, the Clinton's cat, still lived in the governor's mansion in Arkansas. The host of All Things Considered began my story by saying, I've been disappointed by one of the presidential debates.

(Soundbite of archived All Things Considered news story)

Unidentified Host: Among those paying very close attention to last night's presidential debate was commentator Alice Furlaud. While she was glad to hear the candidates address the issues, she noticed they were absolutely silent on a subject she deems mightily important.

FURLAUD: Bill Clinton's cat, name of Socks...

I remember how frosty the Clintons' press representative in Little Rock was on the subject of Socks. We do not discuss Socks, she said. I ended my commentary that year saying that Socks was a true, down-home feline American. She should bring to the White House the deep inner peace which fosters wise decisions.

The Clintons wisely decided to give Socks to the secretary, Betty Currie, when they left the White House. He had secretly been her office cat all along. Socks is 18 years old now, still living with Betty Currie on Maryland's eastern shore. Mrs. Currie often gives lectures accompanied by Socks himself.

The George H. W. Bush press office in 1992 was as unfriendly as the Clinton people had been in Little Rock. Not a single cat in the White House, he said, even in the kitchen. But then the Bush's pedigree Springer Spaniel, Millie, had written that book talking about things like family, faith and friends.

That year, candidate Ross Perot had said, I wouldn't trust George Bush to take care of my cat for the weekend. To get details about this cat, I called Tracy, a staff member in Dallas. She said, Mr. Perot had a cat, but she passed away this summer. What was her name, I asked. Honey. What car was she, I asked. Tracy replied rather uncertainly, honey-colored.

The year 2000 was my favorite presidential pet year, and Pat Buchanan was my favorite pet lover. Twenty minutes after I had left a message in his campaign headquarters asking about Gipper, his cat, Mr. Buchanan called me back. I warned him that my tape recorder was broken. He didn't care. He started pouring out so much heartfelt detail about Gipper that I could hardly get a question in edgewise. Gipper had been a wedding present from the Buchanan's matron of honor. She bought him for $37.50, Buchanan told me, clearly implying that this was an incredibly low price for this magnificent animal.

John McCain had the most pets of any candidate that year - 31, if you count the king snake and the gecko. All four McCain cats were de-clawed, which might have cost him some votes. One cat, Oreo, is alive and well today.

And in 2000, George W. Bush nearly won my heart when he kept saying he missed his three cats on his campaign bus. He never said he missed his wife and children, just the cats. But after the Iraq invasion, President Bush, interviewed by Barbara Walters, accompanied by his dog, Barney, said, I'm a dog person. Laura is a cat person. See? Pets can show you changes in powerful people.

And now the hopes and fears of all us animal rescue folks are focused on the Obama dog. If it turns out to be a needy, mixed-breed pooch, it will be the second of its kind to live in the White House. The first was Loki(ph), Lyndon Johnson's little, white three-legged mutt. Lucy Johnson had found Loki abandoned at a gas station and brought him to Washington. I once asked Lucy about Loki in his White House days. She told me, that dog gave my father unconditional love. I'm sure that will be true of any dog the Obama's finally choose. For NPR News, I'm Alice Furlaud.

(Soundbite of dogs barking)

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