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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Coney, a Labrador retriever bitch, is the best loved of President Vladimir Putin's pets. She is constant presence at events on his country residences-but the dog has never had such an extensive television coverage as what she received, Monday last, when her master was entertaining Alexander Lukashenko, his Belarussian counterpart, on the seaside presidential residence in Sochi, reports Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

    Coney made stop-press news at the latest parliamentary election, December 2003, when the Putins made an unexpectedly early appearance at the polling station. "We have private reasons for that," the President vaguely explained to newsmen. Details immediately came from his wife. "We haven't had a wink of sleep all night long. Coney was whelping. She brought eight pups," said Ludmilla Putin.

    Coney and her litter cozily settled in a spacious wooden cage made for the purpose at Novo-Ogarevo, presidential residence near Moscow. Two of the puppies found their new home in Smolensk, Russia's west, and the Rostov Region in European Russia's south-the President sent them as gifts to local children. Another two went to Federal President Thomas Klestil as cuddly symbols of Russo-Austrian friendship.

    Things were hard on Coney one day last year as Mr. Putin was receiving Leonid Kuchma, then Ukraine's President-she found herself under lock and key in the next room. The dog was whining, whimpering and yapping all through the summitry till her exasperated master ordered her to shut up.

    Coney made a spectacular presence at a State Kremlin Palace children's party, December last, as she accompanied the President on the stage while he was making the kids New Year's wishes.

    Coney hates like poison to see her master busy, though she finds nice pastimes for those frequent spells-she either slumbers or plays with the other family pets, the poodles Tosya and Rodeo.

    The Putins have a more exotic pet, too. That's a white goat named Skazka (Fairy Tale), New Year's gift from Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow mayor.

    Coney also came to the family as gift-from Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Emergency and Calamity Relief. Connie Paulgrave is her full name.

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