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Harry Truman, who had two dogs in the White House -- a mutt and his daughter's Irish setter -- knew what he was talking about when he made that quotation.

But he wasn't alone in that regard, what with 24 presidents before and after him having one or more dogs.

There have also been a wide assortment of other pets that lived the good life at the White House. According to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, there were (by my count):

Eight parrots, 14 cats, 10 canaries, six parakeets, four billy goats, five guinea pigs, 12 hamsters and an incalculable number of rabbits (we all know why).

When it came to owning horses or ponies, presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Ulysess Grant were about even (their wartime mounts being their favorites).

Some of the more unusual pets were Thomas Jefferson's mockingbird (who never dared try, I'm sure, to mock him); John Quincy Adams' alligator and his wife's silkworms (wonder if they spun enough silk for a silk purse); Martin Van Buren's two tiger cubs; Andrew Johnson's pet mice; William Taft's cow; Woodrow Wilson's tobacco-chewing ram; Calvin Coolidge's wallaby and pigmy hippo; and John F. Kennedy's butterflies (Streaker, White Tips and Blackie).

Theodore Roosevelt had the biggest menagerie (shades of Noah's Ark): a lion, hyena, wildcat, badger, coyote, zebra, barn owl, raccoon, guinea pigs, bears, horses, ponies, dogs, cats, snakes, rats, lizards and roosters (among which was his favorite one-legged rooster).

Regarding the two wannabe presidents, there's not a single pet in Obama's household.

But he and his wife promised their daughters that a dog would join the family at the conclusion of the election, win or lose. Michelle Obama reportedly said that getting a dog was a major bargaining chip in winning the children's support in the race.

John McCain, on the other hand, has a number of pets: an English springer spaniel named Sam, two turtles (Cuff and Link), three parakeets, a ferret, 13 saltwater fish (no sharks), and a black and white cat, Oreo.

It's a question, though, whether or not that would tip the balance in his favor in the election, even if pet owners were to rally to his side in mass.

However, if they did, what with 36 percent of households owning dogs and over 30 percent owning cats, and all other types of pets, he'd win in a landslide. (That's notwithstanding his running mate's opposition to polar bears being listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and her support for the state-sponsored program allowing hunters to shoot wolves from airplanes and helicopters. Hunters, hell.)

Now, if Obama is as smart as I think he is, he'll rush right out -- instead of waiting until after the election -- and buy his daughters a puppy (or better yet, two) to thwart that possibility.

And while he's at it, he should consider adopting a donkey (enigmatic of his party) for his daughters to ride and an orphaned polar bear cub to show his concern for the environment.

Even buying goldfish would be better than having no pets.

Quote of the week: "Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing and no one starts lawsuits over their wills."

-- Voltaire, French philosopher (1694-1778)


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