01/03/2002 AT 01:00 PM EST
Sad news from the Clinton household: Buddy, the playful 4 1/2-year-old chocolate-brown Labrador who came to the family as a puppy in 1997 (shortly before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke), was accidentally struck and killed by a passing car near the family's Chappaqua, N.Y., home Wednesday afternoon, a family spokesperson said Thursday. Officer Bruce Cathie of the New Castle police said the incident occurred on Route 117, a busy two-lane road. It is unclear whether Buddy was on a leash being walked or was running free when the accident took place. "We are deeply saddened by Buddy's death," the Clintons said in a statement issued by family spokeswoman Julia Payne. "He was a loyal companion and brought us much joy. He will truly be missed." Neither the former president nor New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was home at the time of the accident, said Payne. Buddy "just darted out in front of a car," Officer Larry Green told the Associated Press. The driver, whose identity is being kept under wraps, was not at fault, said authorities. Buddy, often seen wagging his tail as he greeted President Clinton on the White House front lawn, was a present from a friend and was named after the president's great-uncle, Henry Oren "Buddy" Grisham, who had died in 1997. At the time of Buddy's arrival, White House spokesman Mike McCurry quipped that Clinton got the dog because, "It's the president's desire to have one loyal friend in Washington."