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Gov adds four-legged aide to office

2005-02-01T23:00:00Z Gov adds four-legged aide to officeThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 01, 2005 11:00 pm  • 

HELENA -- While most governors are accompanied by an aide or trailed by a bodyguard, Brian Schweitzer has Jag. Jag, the border collie.

The 10-month-old pet hangs out in the governor's Capitol office, attends meetings with his master and tags along when Schweitzer walks the halls, weaving in and out through throngs of legislators and lobbyists.

''He's a good icebreaker," said Schweitzer, whose wife brought the wiry black-and-white collie to Helena from the family farm last weekend. ''Most people like dogs. Most people feel comfortable with dogs. He puts people at ease."

For those visitors who may be uncomfortable, Schweitzer has Jag lay in a corner of his office out of the way.

The new governor insisted Jag is not a political tool. It's more personal than that, he said. Jag's mom and grandma are still part of the Schweitzer household, where the dogs are used to help herd cattle, and Schweitzer is used to having a dog around.

The appearance of Jag in the Capitol was predicted by Schweitzer himself during the gubernatorial campaign when he said at a September debate that he had no interest in maintaining a Highway Patrol officer as a personal bodyguard and, instead, would have one of his border collies with him.

Schweitzer said he walks the two blocks to work every morning, with Jag in tow, and considers that adequate security. The dog can sense trouble and be very protective, he said.

''He's not a Rottweiler or a German shepherd. But he's a student of people. He looks them over. People with a negative aura, he picks up on that right away."

Schweitzer does have a patrol officer assigned to his office during business hours and acting as driver in case he needs one, just as his predecessor Judy Martz did.

Legislative leaders don't seem bothered by the chief executive's pet being part of the Capitol scenery.

''You've got to love a border collie," said Senate President Jon Tester, a Big Sandy Democrat and himself a farmer. ''For a lot of farmer-ranchers, a dog and them are inseparable. It just kind of comes natural."

House Republican Leader Roy Brown, R-Billings, just shrugged. ''If he wants to have his dog, that's OK," he said, adding that the privilege of bringing pets to work in the Capitol does not extend to everyone.

''That wouldn't be acceptable," he said. ''It's just OK for the governor."

Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, called the governor's dog a gimmick worthy of a circus performer.

''It's P.T. Barnum all over again," he said. ''Everything's a show with him."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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