Chirac banishes 'dejected' dog

Anti-depressants fail to tame former president’s pet
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To lose the trappings and status of high office can be deeply distressing, even if you were once just the First Dog.

Sumo, a tiny, cuddly-looking Maltese bichon belonging to the former president Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette, has never recovered from the shock of leaving his gilded, spacious surroundings at the Elysée Palace. Forced in 2007 to move into a mere luxury flat beside the river Seine, the fluffy white dog blamed the man he once followed everywhere through the apartments of state.

Sumo, who is named after the Japanese sport to which Mr Chirac is addicted, twice bit the retired president on the leg. The ex-top dog was placed on anti-depressants in the hope that he would grow used to his reduced status in life.

To no avail. Recently, Sumo sprang at his master and drew blood from his stomach. He has now been exiled to a new home in the countryside east of Paris.

"He never recovered from leaving the Elysée," Mrs Chirac told the newspaper, Le Parisien. "He came there as a puppy [a gift from the Chiracs' grandson, Martin]. After a while, living in an apartment, he got depressed and he started to become aggressive." Mrs Chirac told the newspaper how Sumo was lying peacefully one day in their split-level apartment when her husband came home. "He sprang at him. And a bichon can jump very high. He bit him in the stomach. I was scared because I saw blood. It's terrible what little teeth like that can do.

"He was out of control. He wanted to jump up and bite again. Luckily, because I had just taken him out for a walk, he was still wearing his lead and I put my foot on it."

Bruno Legrand, a dog trainer who once worked with Sumo, suggested that Mr Chirac himself was to blame for the misconduct by being too lenient – allowing the dog into bed and to sit up at the dinner table.

Sumo has now been sent to a farm belonging to friends of the Chiracs in Seine-et-Marne, to the east of Paris. Mrs Chirac insists that being "sent into the country" is not a euphemism for a visit to the vet's surgery. "He's very happy there with other dogs," she said. "He has not bitten again."