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Politics Goes to the Dogs

Bush, Kerry Chew Toys Are Hot Sellers

While romping on the White House grounds, President Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney, might be playing with a new toy — a vinyl John Kerry torso with a two-way squeaker, to be exact.

Political Pet Toys owner and creator Anthony Russell sent Bush a Kerry chew toy and sent the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), a Bush chew toy. He said he has not yet received a response from either.

“I am really considering offering a cash reward if anyone can get a picture of either of them with the chew toy during the election campaign,” Russell wrote in an e-mail.

The Australian-based company came to life during the 2000 presidential election between Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore. As Russell, a self-proclaimed political junkie, watched press conferences on television and played with his dog, the idea for chew toys modeled after politicians blossomed. He had prototypes made and flew to Los Angeles to find buyers for his product.

At first, sales were dismal, but Russell said they increased once his IRS Taxman chew toy began selling well nationally, and the Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton toys sold well in the Southern states. Following customer requests, Russell started manufacturing the Bush chew toy and has “never looked back sales-wise.”

The array of options for customers’ dogs also include chew toys of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

With the slogan “You can’t get even, but your pet can,” the chew toys are flying off shelves at pet stores. Dennis Bougault, owner of Doolittle’s Chateau-Animaux on Capitol Hill, said his store has trouble keeping the toys in stock. While customers also can buy a chew toy of the Capitol, the Washington Monument, a donkey and an elephant, Bougault said the Bush chew toy outsells all the others.

The Bush chew toy is also the most popular in California, but orders come in from all over the map, according to Bill Hunter, president of Color Pet Products in North Carolina. Hunter’s company, which mainly deals with nontraditional pet stores, is one of two distributors of the political chew toys. Hunter said the most popular toys right now are Bush and Kerry.

The Political Pet Toys Web site, www. politicalpettoys.com, offers brief descriptions next to pictures of the chew toys, such as, “This is the perfect toy for Democrats who think that Bush’s brother in Florida gave him the presidency” for Bush, and “Let’s see if this rich kid from the north can beat a rich kid from the south” for Kerry. The site also encourages owners to allow their dogs to decide the “fate” of those who have been turned into a chew toy.

While the Kerry chew toy has been out for mere months, it is still selling well. However, Russell said Bush is outselling Kerry at a 5-1 ratio.

“The only time Bush has not been the highest seller was for two weeks after [Saddam Hussein] was captured,” Russell wrote. “I can literally track my sales going up the more Bush went down in the polls.”

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