(WASHINGTON) As the “first pet” of the Clinton era, Socks, the White House cat, allowed “chilly” Hillary Clinton to show a caring, maternal side as well as bringing joy to her daughter Chelsea. So where is Socks today?

It turns out that once the presidency was over, there was no room for Socks any more. After years of loyal service at the White House, the black and white cat was dumped on Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary and political janitor, who also had an embarrassing clean-up role in the saga of her husband’s relationship with the intern Monica Lewinsky.

Some believe the abandoned pet could now come between Hillary Clinton and her ambition to return to the White House as America’s first woman president. Her treatment of Socks cuts to the heart of the questions about her candidacy and her persona. Is she too cold, calculating and manipulative to win the presidency? Or does it signify political invincibility by showing she is willing to deploy every weapon at her disposal to get what she wants?

“In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list,” writes Caitlin Flanagan in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine. “But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet has been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference.”

Flanagan’s article, headed No Girlfriend of Mine, points out that Clinton wrote a crowd-pleas-ing book Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets, in which she claimed that only with the arrival of Socks, and his “toy mouse”, did the White House “become a home”.

Being Clinton, she also lectured readers that pets are an “adoption instead of an acquisition” and warned them to look out for their safety. (Buddy, the chocolate labrador, it should be noted, bounded into a road soon after leaving the White House and was promptly run over. [RIP Buddy])

Despite these misadventures, Peggy Noonan, President Ronald Reagan’s former speech-writer, believes Clinton is doing a good job of humanizing herself. “I am not saying she has learned to be herself,” she observed. “I think after a year on the trail she has learned how not to be herself, how to comfortably adopt a skin and play a part.”