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Bush pets just latest to join a president

When George W. Bush is sworn in as president Jan. 20, he won't be the only new White House occupant with a presidential pedigree.

He will be joined by Spot Fetcher Bush, a feisty English springer spaniel that is the daughter of former President George Bush's famous dog, Millie.

Millie was Washington's top dog in her time, and her canine view of life in the White House "as told to" then-first lady Barbara Bush became a bestseller that outsold even the president's memoirs.

Now it's Spot's turn to have the run of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He will share it with a 12-week-old Scottish terrier, Barney, and the Bushes' two cats: a short haired black cat named India and an orange and white six-toed kitten named Ernie that Spot found in a tree.

"Spot was born in the White House, so it will be a bit of a homecoming for her," said Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the president-elect.

Over the years, the White House has been home to more than 400 animals, from Abraham Lincoln's goat, Nanny, to President Clinton's Labrador, Buddy.

The Bush animal dynasty connection, however, is a historical first, says Dr. Ron Elmore, associate dean of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, who has researched the importance of pets in the lives of presidents. With more American households boasting pets than children, first pets have been a source of entertainment for the public and the press, and a boon to a president's image.

But first pets also have caused their share of headaches.

Lyndon B. Johnson provoked a firestorm of animal cruelty accusations when he picked up his Beagles, Him and Her, by their ears so that photographers could get a better shot.

And Theodore Roosevelt's bull terrier, Pete, was sent packing from the White House after he tore the pants off a visiting French ambassador.

Then there was Benjamin Harrison's goat, His Whiskers. When His Whiskers ran away, passers-by were treated to the sight of a cane-waving president chasing a goat down Pennsylvania Avenue.

While dogs and cats have figured most prominently as presidential pets, a menagerie, including snakes, an elephant and a hippo, has passed through the White House.

Thomas Jefferson kept grizzly bears in a cage in his garden, and John Quincy Adams is said to have let his alligator reside in a White House bathtub.

Calvin Coolidge walked his raccoons, Rebecca and Horace, around the White House grounds on a leash. And it took congressional intervention to force Martin Van Buren to relinquish his tiger cubs _ a gift from the sultan of Oman.

It's too soon to tell how Spot will be remembered. Perhaps, like her mother, she will inspire a bestseller, or like Socks, President Clinton's cat, she will be content with just her own Web site and fan club.

Then again, Spot may take a cue from Nixon's Irish setter, King Timahoe, and insist on meeting with foreign dignitaries when they come to visit.