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‘First dog’ Spot mourned

US PRESIDENT George W Bush's dog Spot, the English Springer Spaniel who had remained eager to please despite increasing health troubles, has died aged 15.

Mr Bush and his wife, Laura, went along with a vet's recommendation to put the long-time family pet to sleep, according to White House spokesman Allen Abney. Spot had suffered a series of strokes recently, including one last week, he said.

"The President and Mrs Bush and the entire Bush family are deeply saddened by the passing of Spot,'' White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday in a statement. "A loyal and loving companion, Spot was a beloved member of the Bush family for nearly 15 years. She will be missed.''

Spot was no stranger to the White House. She was born there to Millie, the well-known dog of Mr Bush's parents, former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, in 1989.

The friendly liver-and-white spaniel was regularly seen ambling around the West Wing and the South Lawn alongside the more energetic Barney, a black three-year-old Scottish terrier.

The two dogs were routinely brought out to greet the President upon his return to the White House from trips, no matter the hour, and often travelled with the Bushes to Texas or Camp David.

Mrs Bush had often remarked that talking about and playing with the dogs and the family's much more reclusive cat, Willy, make up a significant portion of the First Couple's entertainment.

The President, who considered Spot "a good runner" and "a great water dog", once told reporters: "I’ll go fishing and Spot will be out in the middle of the lake either chasing the lure or chasing a grasshopper or chasing something."


Creative

Asked how he had chosen a suitable name for the dog, Mr Bush said: "People often ask me how I came up with that name. I don’t know. I’m just kind of a creative guy."

In fact, Spot’s full name was Spot Fletcher, a tribute to Scott Fletcher, the former shortstop on the President’s favourite baseball team, the Texas Rangers.

Spot’s obedience was well known to Americans. She bounded on to the President’s helicopter when he embarked for trips to the Bush ranch in Texas and to the Camp David retreat, in sharp contrast to Barney, who often has to be chased by the President and carried on board.

The high profile role played by the First Pet has been performed with equal gusto by a string of former residents of the White House kennels, such as Bill Clinton’s Labrador, Buddy, who accompanied the former President in front of the world’s television cameras.

But American presidents do not have a monopoly on projecting their caring side through their pets.

President Putin of Russia admitted to a sleepless night on the eve of his country’s parliamentary elections last December, when his favourite dog went into labour. With a helping hand from the President, Koney gave birth to eight puppies.

PRESIDENTIAL PETS THROUGH THE AGES

Bill Clinton, 1993-2001: Socks the cat and Buddy, a Labrador Retriever, killed by a car in New York in 2002

Ronald Reagan, 1981-89: Lucky, Bouvier des Flandres dog, and Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Richard Nixon, 1969-74: Vicky, a poodle, Pasha, a terrier, and King Timahoe, an Irish Setter

Lyndon Johnson, 1963-69: Yuki, a mongrel, and two Beagles, Him and Her, President Johnson famously ran into trouble with animal lovers when he lifted one of the Beagles by its ears for the benefit of TV crews.

Woodrow Wilson, 1913-21: Old Ike, a ram among a flock of sheep in the White House grounds

William Taft, 1909-13: Pauline Wayne, the last cow to live at the White House

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-65: Fido, a brown and yellow dog said to have been killed by a man in a drunken rage

George Washington, 1789-97: Drunkard, Vulcan and Sweetlips were among the first President’s 18 hounds

Source:
Presidential Pet Museum, Maryland