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President Bush and a tale of man's best friend

When U.S. presidents receive gifts, the items are acknowledged, then packed away in a government warehouse to await the opening of his future library.
/ Source: The Associated Press

When U.S. presidents receive gifts, the items are acknowledged, then packed away in a government warehouse to await the opening of his future library.

It's been the fate of many pairs of cowboy boots and hats, expensive rugs, glinting crystal and silverware, jewelry, fine fabrics, works of art and other items - all given to President Bush by foreign dignitaries since he took office nearly six years ago.

He received the most unusual gift from Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.

In addition to a Bulgarian edition of the 2002 book "The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush," Parvanov gave his American counterpart a living, barking, 2-month-old Bulgarian Goran shepherd pup named Balkan of Gorannadraganov.

Balkan for short.

Rules for presidential gifting
U.S. presidents receive thousands of gifts each year, from the very expensive to the very cheaply made and from foreign dignitaries to locals here at home.

The White House Gift Unit is responsible for acknowledging and recording gifts from domestic sources. The State Department has the same responsibility for those from foreign governments.

Most gifts from foreign officials are considered U.S. property, and presidents and their spouses are banned from keeping anything worth $305 or more without paying for it. They are free to keep gifts from constituents, but must list them on financial disclosure forms if they are worth $305 or more.

Gifts not kept for personal use go into "courtesy storage" at a National Archives warehouse, and eventually are shipped to the president's library.

Whatever the source, gifts have caused headaches for presidents.

An uproar ensued in 2001 after President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton left the White House with tens of thousands of dollars in gifts. Donors later said some of the items were not for the former first couple, but rather the White House. The Clintons ended up paying $86,000 for about half the gifts, and returning $23,000 in sofas, chairs and other furnishings they had eyed for their homes in Washington and New York state.

A similarly embarrassing episode for President Nixon played out decades earlier, in 1974, when it was discovered that jewelry given to Patricia Nixon and her daughters by Saudi Arabia's royal family had not been turned over to the proper office. The courts later ordered that impounded packing crates belonging to Nixon be opened in search of $2 million in state gifts. The items were then turned over to the government.

Purchase the pooch?
What would become of the black-and-white hound - descendent of an ancient mountain breed - President Bush received from the Bulgarian President?

Bush and first lady Laura Bush, both dog lovers, already have Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazley living with them at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Obviously, Balkan couldn't be sent to the National Archives with the rest of the presidential booty. The Bushes apparently considered taking him to their ranch in central Texas but realized he might not adapt well to the heat, said first lady spokeswoman Susan Whitson.

Presidents cannot keep gifts from foreign officials that are worth more than $305, for fear of the potential influence on U.S. policy. Those items are considered property of the American people, but presidents may pay the U.S. Treasury for any such present they want for themselves.

Bush did not keep the Bulgarian-language testament to his genius as a commander in chief, but he decided he wanted the shaggy pooch from his European ally. Just not for himself.

The Bushes bought Balkan and gave him to an unidentified friend who lives with her Bulgarian-American husband on a farm in Maryland, Whitson said, disclosing the dog's fate nearly a year later. Consider it a twist on regifting, the practice of giving away a present someone gives you.

The government valued the dog at $430 when Bush received him in October 2005, according to the State Department's annual report on gifts from foreign governments.

Call of the wild
It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a U.S. representative to accept gifts of living creatures.

In Mongolia last fall, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld received a horse as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. He left it behind in the care of a herdsman. Bush joked during his own visit there in November that he was on an important mission.

"Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to check on his horse," the president said.

During a 1962 tour of India and Pakistan, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy's gifts included a baby elephant, a pair of tiger cubs and a thoroughbred bay gelding named Sardar.

She sent the horse home by military transport, which brought complaints from a Republican congressman who said he could not catch a military flight from Pakistan to Greece as a result. The other animals eventually made it to U.S. zoos.

Generous gift-givers
In all, Bush accepted more than 100 gifts worth nearly $75,000 from the leaders of some 50 countries last year, including a Lalique crystal paperweight, a Hermes blanket and a Desert Ranger motorcycle. They ranged in value from the thousands of dollars to a few bucks.

"He can't use them personally. So that's too bad," Laura Bush seemed to lament when reporters asked about gifts as Japan's Junichiro Koizumi visited in June. The former prime minister gave her husband a bicycle and a blowup of a Japanese postage stamp featuring Babe Ruth.

Last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a beige rug with a diamond pattern and Saudi Arabia's crown prince gave a vermeil horse statue on a malachite base with a gold, mother of pearl and malachite octagonal clock. Each was worth $8,000.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a $5, 8-by-11-inch photo of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, and family on the rocks in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Putin also gave other photos, and a $250 silver horse shoe.