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Presidential Pet Museum displays.

Barney Bush In Bronze At Prez Pet Museum

No one can say that Claire McLean isn't trying. The 73-year-old grandmother has opened her Presidential Pet Museum for the third time in eight years. It's now in a storefront in the Annapolis historic district, barely a block from the Maryland State House. The move from Claire's renovated barn in Lothian, Maryland, to a boutique-lined Annapolis avenue has significantly reduced the Pet Museum's exhibit space. Claire's goal, however, is to get exposure, and especially to draw attention from backers with deep pockets.

"We are a very small, humble museum," Claire told us, "but if we can go into the hands of a big corporation, like Del Monte" -- which has a large pet food division -- "they'll be able to invest millions of dollars into it."

Display at the Presidential Pet Museum.

We hope that Claire succeeds, because the only options for presidential pet tourists at the moment is the grave of Checkers, Richard Nixon's dog, and whatever small (perhaps temporary) tribute is deemed appropriate at each pet-friendly Presidential Library.

The White House has been home to over 400 pets, including a bobcat, an elephant, and an alligator. Woodrow Wilson had a tobacco-eating goat; Calvin Coolidge kept a pygmy hippo, and walked raccoons on the White House grounds. Claire's collection is sadly devoid of exhibits from the exotic animals, although she does have a portrait of Miss Beazley Bush made from the dog's hair; a portrait of Lucky Reagan made from that dog's hair (and crafted by Claire's mom), and a cowbell from Pauline Wayne Taft, the last cow to graze the White House Lawn.

"Whatever belongs to the pet," Claire notes apologetically, "usually ends up in the MASTER's museum."

On April 3, the mayor of Annapolis will visit the Pet Museum to unveil a life-size bronze of Barney Bush, a Scottish terrier. It's only the third statue of a presidential pet, according to Claire, joining a bronze Fala (another Scottie) at the FDR memorial in Washington, DC, and a copper statue of Laddie-Boy, Warren Harding's airedale, in the Smithsonian. "Newsboys saved their pennies to make the statue of Laddie," Claire told us. "He was more popular than Harding, just like Barney is more popular than Bush."


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