Doggedness

May 17, 2004

IS GEORGE W. Bush like a Scottish terrier? Does he exude ruggedness and power? Is he a fierce hunter? Hot-tempered?

These are the important questions raised by a recent study looking at the resemblance between dogs and their owners. A bunch of University of California, San Diego undergraduate students were given photographs and asked to match them, pet to person. With mutts, they couldn't do it, but with purebreds, they could - correctly matching almost twice as often as not.

But here's where things got interesting. According to the study's authors, it wasn't really about appearance - big dogs matching to big people or hairy dogs to hairy people. It was something the students saw in their personalities. Friendly looking people matched with friendly looking dogs, that sort of thing.

We decided to expand the research efforts from sun-drenched La Jolla to our nation's capital. Might the hounds in the White House tell us something about their dogs? (OK, OK, a cheap shot, but we couldn't resist.) President Bush's terrier Barney seems a bit of a war dog by nature. Courtesy of the American Kennel Club, the following are characteristics of five canine breeds that have inhabited the White House. Can you match the president?

A. Kind, friendly eyes, intelligent, outgoing and eager to please.

B. He gives the impression of great strength without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness in his overall makeup; steady, resolute.

C. Fairly broad ears, solid and big for his inches, with a wear-and-tear look.

D. Friendly, reliable; predominant body color may be extremely pale.

E. Reserved with strangers, but not timid or shy; color is rich; exhibits substance without coarseness.

The answers: Bill Clinton (Buddy, Labrador retriever), A; George H. W. Bush (Millie, springer spaniel), E; Gerald Ford (Liberty, golden retriever), D; Lyndon B. Johnson (Him and Her, beagles), C; and Ronald Reagan (Lucky, Bouvier des Flandres), B.

Preliminary findings suggest that every dog has his day in the White House. Note to the study's authors: There's a hefty federal research grant in this somewhere - for those rabid enough for politics.

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