Sunday, May 16, 1999

This election, let's stay out of litter box

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Murray hasn't decided how I should vote in the next presidential election. He claims he doesn't know where the candidates stand on critical issues. What is their policy regarding, for instance, drinking from the toilet bowl? Sniffing personal parts? Kibble versus canned food?

        Murray, I should note, is the collie in charge of our house.

        His responsibilities include teaching us not to leave things lying around on the floor. He has been obliged to shred certain shoes and books to illustrate his point. Murray also protects us from pizza delivery boys and mailmen, barking until they drop food and semi-important papers and leave. He knows this is due to his vigilance.

        Now he is sticking his very big nose in politics.

        He wants to know Al Gore's position regarding invisible fencing and he wants to know if Elizabeth Dole allowed her husband's late schnauzer, Leader, to jump on the furniture. (My guess is that she did not. My guess is that Bob Dole is lucky to get on the furniture.)

Can you spell retriever?
        Murray's impression is that these matters will be key in the upcoming race.

        He might have a point. Otherwise, why are the people running for office plastering their pets all over their web pages? Dan Quayle has a Labrador retriever, Steve Forbes has two poodles, Gov. George W. Bush has a springer spaniel named Spot and three cats, one with six toes.

        Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain has 16 pets — dogs, cats, rabbits and a snake. Pat Buchanan has a 14-year-old orange tabby, Gipper. Penny Bird, Rep. John Kasich's spaniel, craves Snausages and white wine and chews Tupperware. Al Gore has a lab named Shiloh and a mutt called Daisy.

        The role of political dogs, in the absence of shoes and pizza delivery, is to shill for their owners.

Cat people
        “It's hard not to love someone who's petting a dog,” said Ron Elmore, dean at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, at an opening this month of a New York Library photo exhibit of presidential pets. To date, presidential pets have included 23 dogs, 16 birds, 11 horses, 10 cats, four cows, four goats and four rabbits.

        And one snake named Emily during Teddy Roosevelt's administration.

        Murray hates snakes, and he doesn't trust cat people. Or cats. And I do know from bitter personal experience that just when you think they are completely lovable, they will throw up on something important. In his opinion, the Clintons are cat people, and Buddy was an afterthought.

        U.S. News & World Report's Washington Whispers asks, “Can a pet-less presidential candidate win election? Recent history says no, and many candidates struggling to break out of the crowded pack are trotting to the dog house or litter box to prove they're pet — and thus voter — worthy.”

        Almost 60 percent of American households own some kind of pet, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. The American Veterinary Association reports that this country is home to 59.1 million cats and 52.9 million dogs. And I don't want to scare you, but the association says that there are 4.8 million pet rodents here.

        Murray thinks his doggy questions are at least as important as the information humans use to pick the leader of the free world. You know the kind of information he means — Lamar Alexander's plaid shirt, Dan Quayle's spelling, Al Gore's bald spot, Bill Clinton's saxophone.

        He thinks we media people ought to look for more useful intelligence, such as experience and specific plans for domestic and foreign policy. He thinks we should be willing to dig for the facts. But not for dirt.

        The dog might have a point.

        Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at or call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.