The reception was a low-key non-political affair. Invitees were mostly media, but Robbie Cooper brought his sixth-grade daughter for the chance to meet the governor and earn some extra credit at school by writing a report about the visit. A few of us were standing and talking with Perry in the library; nearly everyone else was in the room next door where the coffee and pigs-in-a-blanket were being served. Upon hearing that the girl had had to bury her dog last night, Gov. Perry took her out to the mansion’s canine graveyard and consoled her for her loss. Most of the rest of the reception’s attendees were in the adjacent room and never noticed that the governor had slipped outside for a few minutes. Her extra credit report should be a good one — she was the only person at the reception to spend a few minutes with Rick Perry being less the governor of a huge state than a dog lover and a father.

After the governor’s bannister remarks, we all went outside for a group picture. Rory was slipping in between everyone and ended up bounding around the lawn, enjoying the sunshine and the attention she was getting. The mansion must be a great place for a dog. What other dog gets to live in a pad like this?

It’s fair to say that Gov. Perry had a tough 2012, as have most Americans. But he is ending it in one of the nation’s most beautiful and historic homes and doing a job he clearly loves, and in which he has built up an impressive record for the Lone Star State.