Pets' roles not yet defined for election 2004
By Anne Emig
Pets have helped shape presidents' images, sway voters and even win elections.
Although the candidates' pets have yet to play a large role in the upcoming election, Dr. Ronnie Elmore, associate dean of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said he would be surprised if voters do not get a few glimpses of the candidates with their pets before election day. Both families already own pets. The Bushes have a black Scottish terrier named Barney that was given to them after moving into the White House, along with a black cat named India. The Bushes also own another cat, Ernie, who was relocated to the family's Texas ranch after he took to scratching the furniture.
In addition, the Bushes not only have had a presidential legacy but also a presidential pet legacy. When George W. Bush was elected into office, the family owned a springer spaniel named Spotty. Spotty was born in the White House, when George H.W. Bush was in office, to Millie, Barbara Bush's dog.
"When Spotty was alive, we not only had the son of a former president, but the son of a former first dog in the White House," Elmore said. Unfortunately, Spotty died a few months ago.
Not to be outdone by the Bushes, John Kerry and his wife, Teresa, own a German shepherd dog named Cym and a yellow parakeet. Although less is known about Kerry's current pets, the candidate remarked about past pets he remembers fondly in a 2004 Candidate Questionnaire. One of the animals Kerry recalled was a dog named VC that belonged to the whole crew when Kerry was serving on a swiftboat in Vietnam.
"We all took care of him, and he stayed with us and loved riding on the swiftboat deck. I think he provided us all with a link to home and a few moments of peace and tranquility during a dangerous time," Kerry said.
One day as the swiftboat was heading up a river, a mine exploded under the boat; after picking themselves up, the crew discovered that VC was missing. After several minutes of frantic searching, the crew concluded that they had lost him.
"We were relieved when another boat called asking if we were missing a dog. It turns out VC was catapulted from the deck of our boat and landed confused, but unhurt, on the deck of another boat in our patrol," Kerry said.
Among Kerry's other past pets are a golden retriever named Winston that belonged to his daughters and a parakeet that he owned in college named Dodi Faustus. Kerry remembered Dodi as "a smart bird who learned a few words of French and Italian, but not smart enough to avoid having to be rescued from a tree once."
Elmore said he couldn't yet speculate on what role pets will play in the upcoming election, since neither candidate seems to have made a great effort to incorporate pets into their campaigns. He said he just hasn't found enough information on Kerry to form a solid opinion, but he does believe that the Bushes genuinely enjoy their pets. Laura Bush even incorporated papier-mache likenesses of former presidential pets into the Christmas decorations in 2002.
"There is just a lot of evidence that they identify with and enjoy their animals," Elmore said.