Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 5, 2012

Pet residents of White House focus of book


When the Kennedys were given a dog by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the dog named Pushinka — Russian for "fluffy" — underwent tests at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to rule out everything from listening devices to bombs.

One of Millie's puppies, Spot, was a resident of the White House twice. After being born there, she went to live in Texas with George W. Bush and Laura Bush before returning when he was elected to the White House.

Former first lady Barbara Bush writes in the foreword, "Not only are these animals important to each first family, but, as George points out, when you have the toughest job in the world, there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog."

Or a cat. Amy Carter, who was 9 when her father became president, says in the book, "Misty, my cat, was one of my best friends and she really turned the White House into a home."

Not long before her death last year, Betty Ford commented for the book that the family's golden retriever Liberty was her husband's "favorite advisor."

Inspiration for a book focused on pets came as Pickens was putting together her first book, "Christmas in the White House," which came out in 2009. Pickens, who worked as a staffer in the Texas finance office when George W. Bush was running for re-election and has worked as a consultant on various campaigns, turned to presidential libraries, old newspapers, first families and White House staffers as she put the book together.

"I think a lot of people have their own pets and a lot of people find comfort with their animals," said Pickens, who lives in Dallas with her husband, four young daughters and two dogs.

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