Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tampa paper solves mystery of Gov. Scott's 'missing' dog

Reagan the dog (Gov. Scott?s Facebook page)Reagan the dog (Gov. Scott?s Facebook page)

During his successful 2010 campaign for Florida governor, Republican Rick Scott adopted a rescue Labrador retriever and named the pooch Reagan. Scott won the election, but the dog isn't living it up in the governor's mansion.

So where the heck is Reagan? Has the dog entered the witness protection program?

[Related: Lucky the dog reunited with owners after 5 months, 380 miles]

The Tampa Bay Times vowed to find out?and eventually did.

Reporters who noticed that Reagan hadn't been seen since early 2011 asked members of the governor's staff for answers, but were rebuffed. The paper then conducted a Woodward and Bernstein-style investigation into the missing dog, and the resulting article is definitely worth a read, especially for the passive-aggressive back and forth between the governor's director of communications and the reporters.

Reporters doggedly pursued the story, and Brian Burgess, who served as communications director during the Scott campaign and now works for the Florida GOP, dodged questions.

"At one point an exasperated reporter asked Burgess if he had killed the dog," wrote the paper, "and Burgess denied ever killing a dog, but still wouldn't say where Reagan was."

And then comes the money quote:

Late Wednesday, Burgess testily emailed that he was working on an answer and recognized "the potential for a PR nightmare if the Tampa Bay Times doesn't receive a photo of Reagan next to today's copy of the Tampa Bay Times. So take it to the bank I'm getting you every bit of info I can lay my hands on."

At last, the reporters asked Gov. Scott about Reagan. The governor said, "He was a rescue dog, and he couldn't be around anybody that was carrying anything, and so he wouldn't get better." Scott said that Reagan "scared the living daylights" out of people at the governor's mansion. A kitchen employee, he added, threatened to quit and a photographer was scared of the pooch's barking.

[Related: Dog who wouldn't die home after surgery]

So Reagan was sent back. The Scott family now has a new dog, Tallee, who comes with his own set of challenges.

"This dog is the neediest dog," said Scott. "When I worked out this morning, he wants to be right next to you the whole time. If you do a pushup, he wants to be underneath you as you do a pushup. He's a sweet dog."


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