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Candidates' pets: Vote fetchers? | (KRT) Claire McLean doesn't know who'll win the presidential election this year, but she confidently predicts one thing about him - in addition to having a cause, he'll have claws on his side.

A candidate without a pet is a candidate without a chance, she said. And she knows.

McLean heads the Presidential Pet Museum in Lothian, Md., where she collects memorabilia about the animals that have lived in the White House.

"The candidate that doesn't have an animal will lose a lot of votes," she said.

So far, the candidates haven't been putting the animals forward as part of the family, which she thinks is a tactical error.

"They should be using their dogs or cats if they have them, because it's nice to know about the people themselves, the personal lives of the people," she said.

Looking for another term in office, President Bush tops the field with the largest number of pets - Barney, a Scottish terrier; Spot, an English springer spaniel; and India, a.k.a. Willie, a black cat.

A little less cuddly, but distinctively Texan, is a longhorn cow named Ofelia, who lives on his ranch near Crawford.

Only two of the Democratic candidates have pets. John Kerry has Kim, a German shepherd, and Sunshine, a canary. Howard Dean has a cat, Katie, who lost a leg to cancer.

"If he has the compassion to be attached to a three-legged cat, then you know this is a guy with real values," McLean said of Dean.

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McLean began the museum when she groomed Lucky, Ronald Reagan's bouvier des Flandres, in 1985. She had a portrait of the dog made from its hair.

"That started me on collecting everything I could on presidential pets and the presidents," she said.

She scours antique shops, old photos, presidential museums and eBay, and so far has come up with about 500 items. Photos and facts are on the museum's Web site,

Presidential pets have been tiny (Andrew Johnson left out flour at night for mice in his room) and jumbo-sized (James Buchanan was given a herd of elephants by the king of Siam).

George Washington had horses and hounds, while Martha Washington kept a parrot. Bill Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, had a dog that was killed by a car. As president, he got a Lab named Buddy, also killed by a car.

A few animals were kept for their usefulness. Pauline, a cow, provided milk for William Howard Taft. Woodrow Wilson brought in a flock of sheep to reduce groundskeeping costs during World War I.

Only a few presidents had no pets at all - Chester Arthur, James Polk and Franklin Pierce - but nearly every president can be connected with animals in some way, McLean said.

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© 2004, The Dallas Morning News Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services