The Soviets made space dog Laika a national hero and Americans have fallen for presidential pets from Checkers to Bo.
In Venezuela, a rare breed of shaggy sheepdog has come to symbolize the patriotic legacy of the late Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela’s former president rescued the mucuchies, named for this Andean town where the breed originated 400 years ago, from near-extinction in 2008 by providing funding to breed the remaining 23 purebreds.
“Every time Chavez hosted a foreign leader the president’s office would call me up and make sure I brought the dogs,” said Walter Demendoza, president of the Nevado Foundation, which works to rescue the breed.
“He wanted the dog to be known around the world as a symbol of our country.”
Chavez died from cancer last March, but interest in the dog in Latin America surged after ally Argentine President Cristina Fernandez reappeared in public in November last year after brain surgery doting on a white puppy given to her by Chavez’s brother.
Overnight the dog Simon became a social media sensation.