Wolf Files: Political Pooches

Can a Mutt in Florida Join
the Top Dogs in Washington?

By Buck Wolf

July 9, 2002 --   Katherine Harris may be laughing off the fact that a dog is the highest-profile Republican challenger in her bid for a seat in Congress. But the political power of a pooch should never be underrated.

Harris, the Florida secretary of state who supervised the five-week-long postelection battle that led to George W. Bush winning the White House, has a $2 million campaign war chest and appeared to be the unchallenged GOP candidate in her Florida district until a border collie-German shepherd mix named Percy came along a few weeks ago and drew national attention.

"My dog takes direction well. He responds when I call. He's obedient," says Percy's owner and campaign manager, Wayne Genthner. "Don't you wish your representative in Washington could do that?"

In reality, Genthner is actually entering his own name in the race, since dogs are not really eligible to hold office. But it's Percy's name that Genthner's grass-roots campaign is pushing, asking people to pick his pet as the write-in candidate.

The charter boat captain who describes himself as a lifelong conservative admits that while his campaign appears a little flaky, he's trying to make a serious point about voter disgust with the status quo and Harris' role in getting Bush elected in 2000.

You wouldn't have to worry about Percy getting involved in a vote-counting controversy. "He can't count and doesn't pretend to know how," Genthner says. "That might be a plus for a politician."

Bush Plays Wag the Tail

The political power of pooches and other pets has long been recognized. President Bush has been hesitant to talk of his daughters since taking office. When asked about his family, he often just raves about his two dogs — a 13-year-old English springer spaniel named Spot and a 1 ½-year-old Scottish terrier named Barney.

"The family's doing well," Bush told a crowd recently in Little Rock, Ark., according to The New York Times wire service. "Barney, the dog, is in great shape. Spot, the dog, who was born in the White House when Mother and Dad were there, is getting a little up in the years, but she's doing well, too. She's used to the confines of the South Lawn. And I invite her every morning into the Oval Office to start my day."