During this election cycle, perhaps the one thing upon which we can all agree is that US presidents love their pets. George Washington himself had several horses and a few dozen hounds, used mostly for hunting. Some presidents had barnyard pets—Howard Taft (1909-1913) had a cow, and Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) had a ram and sheep. In fact, only one president—Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)—had no pets at all. But the vast majority of First Families have had at least one dog.
Here are a few fun facts about some of the presidential pooches of the last century:
Warren Harding (1921-1923)
Laddie Boy, an Airedale, was the first presidential dog to receive wide coverage in the press. It is said he even had his own hand-carved chair, in which he’d sit during cabinet meetings. Because what dog wants to be left out of a major policy decision?
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
The Coolidges had several dogs, the most famous of which was Rob Roy, a majestic white collie who would accompany Coolidge to the Oval Office each morning. Rob Roy was immortalized in a portrait of Grace Coolidge painted by Howard Chandler Christie.
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
Hoover, like Coolidge, had many dogs, though perhaps his favorite was King Tut, a Belgian Shepherd whose name reflects the national obsession with ancient Egyptian history and style. King Tut was not accustomed to stress and died after a long stomach illness. He became known as the first presidential dog to worry himself to death.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1944)
Fala, a black Scottish Terrier, is likely the bet remembered of FDR’s dogs. Fala was able to perform tricks and his antics soon made him a darling of the press. He even worked his way into one of Roosevelt’s famous speeches, in which the president used Fala to mock Republican attacks against the First Family. It must have worked, because FDR won his re-election.
Harry S. Truman (1944-1953)
Truman was not a pet lover, but when a supporter gave him a Cocker Spaniel puppy named Feller, he accepted. Soon after, however, the press noticed that Feller was no longer seen around the White House, as Truman had gifted the dog to his physician. Feller ended up living a long and happy life on an Ohio farm, but could never shake the moniker of “the unwanted dog.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Heidi, a Weimaraner, kept a lower profile than many of her predecessors. She was a gift from a friend. At first, Mamie Eisenhower wasn’t sure she wanted a dog, however the two later became friends. Once Heidi got the full presidential treatment when she was given a solo limo ride from the White House to the family farm in Gettysburg, PA. Wonder if there were dog biscuits in the mini bar.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
When the Kennedys moved into the White House, they brought with them Charlie, a Welsh Terrier that was a gift from Jackie during the presidential campaign. Though they’d have many other dogs, Charlie was referred to as “Jack’s dog” and would even swim laps with the President in the pool.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
The Johnsons had a pair of Beagles, named respectively Him and Her. Johnson enraged pet lovers when a press photo showed him lifting Him up by the ears.
Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)
Richard Nixon’s most famous dog, Checkers, actually was from Nixon’s term as Eisenhower’s Vice President. During a now famous 1952 speech, Nixon made rhetorical use of Checkers (as FDR had done with Fala) to silence critics who’d accused Nixon of accepting inappropriate gifts from supporters.
Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)
Liberty, an affable and photogenic Golden Retriever, was the Ford’s family dog during his brief term in office. It was said that Ford, who was widely mocked in the press for his clumsiness, once became locked in a secure stairwell at the White House after returning from a walk with Liberty.
James Earl Carter (1977-1981)
Grits, a Border Collie, was given as a gift to Carter’s daughter Amy from her teacher. The fit was less than perfect, as the dog did not get along with the Carters’ cat, Misty Malarkey Ying Yang, and the dog was retuned.
Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989)
Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had an instant dislike for the Lincoln Bedroom and would not enter it—instead barking at the doorway. There was some jocular speculation that the room was haunted and that Rex was able to sense the presence of a ghost, perhaps that of Lincoln himself.
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)
Millie, a Springer Spaniel whose full name was Mildred Kerr Bush, was yet another dog to find herself mentioned in a Presidential speech. During his 1992 election campaign, Bush claimed that Millie had a better grasp of foreign policy than did his opponents. Despite the speech, Bush remained a one-term President.
William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001)
Buddy, a Chocolate Lab, was a late arrival to the Clinton White House, whose sole pet to that point had been Sox the cat. Buddy met an untimely end in 1997 when he was struck by a car. Secret Service agents were supposed to be watching him.
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
Spotty Fetcher, a Springer Spaniel, was one of the pups of George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie, and an unusual presidential legacy pet. She was named for a former player on the Texas Rangers baseball team, which had been owned by the younger Bush.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
Bo and Sunny, both Portuguese Water Dogs, were selected because of the hypoallergenic nature of the breed’s fur and dander. Malia Obama, the First Family’s older daughter, suffers from a dog allergy.
Looking to the future, Donald Trump has a yellow Lab (Spinee), and Hillary Clinton has a toy poodle mix (Tally) and a curly-haired mutt (Maisie). The title of next presidential pooch remains up for grabs.
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