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Presidential pet not in the cards for Trump for now

WASHINGTON (AP) — While Vice President Mike Pence and his family have several pets, you may have noticed President Donald Trump does not.

A spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump says the family is still getting settled and there are no plans at this time to get a pet.

If President Donald Trump stays pet-free, he’ll be breaking a long-held tradition of pet ownership.

Historians said he will also miss easy opportunities to soften public opinion and gain companionship in a fluffy sidekick.

Ed Lengel, chief historian of the White House Historical Association, said, “They’ve not only been a public presence, but they’ve also been something real and tangible for the presidents themselves.”

Power and pets have long gone hand-in-hand.

At the turn of the century, President Theodore Roosevelt’s dog, Pete, was famous for biting White House guests — once tearing a piece out of the French ambassador’s pants.

“He got into a lot of trouble for that because he was rather a vicious little brute,” Lengel said.

Pete was eventually banished from the White House.

Later presidents and candidates often used their pets to get out of the dog house with the press and the public.

In the 1940s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dog Fala was a beloved diversion.

“There were times when the press criticized FDR for one thing or another, but Fala was so loveable that he just made everything softer and more personable,” the historian said.

Roosevelt said, “Of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them …. His Scotch soul was furious.”

Later, candidate Richard Nixon famously employed his pet to deflect criticism about receiving gifts on the campaign trail.

Nixon, as a vice presidential candidate, said “And you know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas — black and white, and spotted. And our little girl Trisha, the 6-year-old, named it Checkers.”

Recent presidents have banked on the easy goodwill that White House pets can bring, from first pet books — first lady Hillary Cinton celebrated the publication of “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets” — to first lady Laura Bush’s White House pet Christmas specials with Miss Beasely.

For now a new fluffy first pet isn’t in the works, but past presidents have often waited until later in their terms to bring in a four-footed goodwill ambassador.

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