It's true. Merkel was bitten by a dog as a child and has been very uneasy around them ever since. Not only would Putin bring his Labrador to meetings with the German Chancellor, but he also presented her with a puppy in 2006. Classy.
I can't help thinking that Tony Blair might have missed a trick by not making David Blunkett (with his lovely, slobbery friend Lucy) Foreign Secretary.
Koni, who is descended from a dog once owned by Brezhnev, has been at her master's side regularly since 2000. The only Russian employee allowed to bark orders at Putin, he once said of her: "I try to consult with my dog, who gives me good advice."
He also once told George W Bush that his dog is "bigger, tougher, stronger, faster and meaner" than Bush's terrier, Barney. Surprised that Bush didn't get Cheney to take out Koni with a twelve-bore.