Many presidential candidates soften their images with photo ops and stories about their pet dogs, but don't expect Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be one of them: He's allergic.
An aide confirmed to The New York Times
that dog dander is a real problem for Walker, a likely top-tier candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, meaning he may miss out on an unofficial American tradition — that candidates and White House occupants have at least one four-legged best friend.
After all, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first official candidate, has a fuzzy white rescue mutt, Snowflake, that became a member of the family after his also-cute daughters prayed for a puppy, according to his Facebook page. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has brought tears to dog-lovers' eyes about how cancer claimed his Labrador, named after his brother, Marvin. And there's always Hillary Clinton and her politically named toy poodle, Tally.
Not to be outdone, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has four dogs, a dachshund, a Labrador, a mixed-breed and a Griffon. Dr. Ben Carson has his German shepherd, Echo. In fact, most of the potential candidates have at least one dog, and even one who doesn't, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, says he plans to get a dog when he leaves office.
Over the years, dogs have become an important part of their presidential masters' legacy. Washington's Newseum features a display, "First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets," and late President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Mall memorial depicts his beloved Scottie, Fala, sitting at his feet.
"It humanizes them," Claire McLean, the founder of the Presidential Pet Museum
, told The Times. "It shows that they are just like me and you, with the kids and the dog."
Walker's spokeswoman said his situation is "unfortunate, because he loves animals." The Times reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is also allergic to dogs.
Walker's dog allergy doesn't appear to extend to other animals. Judith Domaszek, who runs the Wildwood Wildlife Park in Minocqua, Wisconsin, said Walker has done "encounters" with bears and giraffes, and fed a kinkajou, an animal often called a honey bear.
McLean told the Times, though, that Walker would be smart to take attention away from his allergy, as "nobody would let on if they didn’t like dogs."
But having dogs has not always meant good publicity for politicians. President Lyndon B. Johnson angered dog lovers
nationally when he lifted his beagles, Him and Her, by their long ears. And in 2012, Mitt Romney caught heat
after news broke of a 1983 trip from Boston to Canada, where he drove with the family's Irish setter, Seamus, in a crate strapped to the car's roof.
There may be some hope for Walker, though, if he decides he'd like a dog. President Barack Obama's Portuguese water dogs have low dander levels. The Obama family got their first one, Bo, in 2009 from Sen. Ted Kennedy, allowing the family to have a dog despite daughter Malia's allergies.
However, the Times notes, Obama's daughters reportedly like the dogs more than he does.
There are several other dogs that are considered to be good choices for allergy sufferers, according to the American Kennel Club,
including poodles, schnauzers, and other breeds that have non-shedding coats and produce low dander.
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