WHITE HOUSE — He was going to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey anyway, but President Bush figured he really owed the bird this time. His dog had just scared the stuffing out of it.
Bush spared the turkey -- named "Flyer" in an online vote -- during a Rose Garden ceremony on Wednesday. The backup bird, "Fryer," was also pardoned but nowhere to be seen on this raw day.
The president explained that his Scottish Terrier, Barney, got involved this year. The presidential dog typically gets his exercise by chasing a soccer ball around the Rose Garden.
"He came out a little early, as did Flyer," Bush said. "And instead of chasing the soccer ball, he chased the bird. And it kind of made the turkey nervous. See, the turkey was nervous to begin with. Nobody's told him yet about the pardon I'm about to give him."
A pardoning gift
Bush announced that the birds would be sent off to Disneyland in California to be the honorary grand marshals of a Thanksgiving Day Parade, just like their predecessors a year ago.
At one point, Bush moved in for a closer look at Flyer, a well-behaved bird raised in Missouri. He petted the turkey's head and back before inviting a couple dozen Girl Scouts to come up and join him.
"It's a fine looking bird, isn't it?" Bush said.
The popular pardon ceremony dates to the days of President Harry Truman in 1947.
Yet savoring turkeys, not saving them, is the agenda for millions of people on Thanksgiving Day.
The typical American consumes more than 13 pounds of turkey a year, with a good serving of it coming at Thanksgiving.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged Bush to send the pardoned turkeys to an animal sanctuary, where "they will get the exercise and socialization that they need to live longer, happier lives."
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In return, the group offered Bush a feast of Tofu turkey, vegetarian stuffing and a vegan apple pie.
Just back from a trip to Asia, Bush and his wife Laura will spend the holiday at Camp David before another international trip early next week to the Baltics and the Middle East.
The Bushes left the White House early Wednesday afternoon and arrived at the presidential retreat.
The first family's menu for Thanksgiving includes free-range roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, zucchini gratin, whipped maple sweet potatoes, basil chive red potato mash and pumpkin pie.
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