WHITE HOUSE DOGS: 1789 TO CURRENT PRESIDENT
Nel Liquorman and TheDogPlace Staff
We may see pets in the White House with Joe Biden because his wife Jill persuaded him to get a family dog back when he ran for VP with Barack Obama.
Historically, when someone rises to the highest office in the land, they take along their beloved pets or because image is so important, they adopt a pet. It may be accomplished with less thought than choosing a new campaign suit and the chore is often delegated to an aid or family member. Whatever. Image is important.
The Bidens chose a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder and that set off a firestorm among animal rights activists who said he should have adopted a shelter dog.
It will be good to see pets in the White House again. Former President Donald Trump had no pets. We were told it was simply not practical because he has always been a "high-rise" dweller... We accepted the answer and let it go at that.
While dogs and cats have often been Presidential pets, an amazing variety of animals have resided at the White House. When our first president George Washington moved into the big house, he brought along five French hounds, a parrot, and many horses, including two he used during the American Revolution.
Woodrow Wilson felt at home while sitting in the oval office watching his pet sheep graze on the White House lawn.
President Hayes had the first Siamese kitten in America, and President Fillmore was a founding member and president of the Buffalo chapter of ASPCA.
James Buchanan had the customary man’s best friend - along with a herd of elephants and a pair of bald eagles! William Taft was the last to have a cow...the four legged kind anyway. She wasn't a working cow, the White House had a milkman. Congress banished two tiger cubs to a zoo when they were given to Martin Van Buren by the Sultan of Oman.
Recognition for the strangest combination of pets owned by a presidential family could go to the family of John Quincy Adams,
proud owners of an alligator and silkworms.
Andrew Johnson is believed to have fed a family of mice. Of course this was during the days of impeachment, so he could have had an ulterior motive. Or perhaps he didn't have a dog and just needed a friend.
Only three other presidents are believed to have had no pets while in office. They were Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and James Polk. Significantly, you're saying to yourself "who the heck were they?"
Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” An astute observation in the early 50s and no less true today. The nation's capitol has lost it's allure for many potential leaders. Some Presidents feel the call to duty, some just seek personal power. Either way, personality and character is often reflected by a person's breed choice and the depth of their relationship with a dog, or by not owning a dog at all.
England's legendary Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proved women can be leaders. She fancied the Cavalier King Charles spaniel but genuinely loved all dogs and would often stop to pet an owner's dog on her strolls through the park. Her husband and son were not dog lovers so she only had a cat in her later years. The Prime Minister is shown here with her good friend President Ronald Reagan and his rather infamous Bouvier des Flandres "Lucky".
President and Nancy Reagan's love for dogs and horses was who they were. The film industry brought them together but their love for America and animals is what made "Ronnie and Nancy" a legendary love story. Insiders say the President's beloved wife was the dominant influence in his life and aided his unerring judgment.
Nancy and President Reagan had many pets at the ranch, including their horses. For the White House dog, the President gave Nancy a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. "A dog fit for a queen" he said and Nancy is often photographed with her "Charlie" as in this at-home moment.
George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush were typical Texans in that they had a ranch and multiple dogs. Notably, many of our past Presidents had farms and ranches and came to the Oval Office with the soil of America in their shoes and hearts.
President Bush's Miss Beazley was a Scottish Terrier and her nickname says it all; he called the scrappy little Scottie “Beazley Weazley”. When you think about it, the number of presidents who owned Scotties is amazing. Among the most famous is General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Queen Victoria's Scotties were always "in the picture" and even the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski favored the famously independent little dogs.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was seldom seen without his sidekick Fala, the Scottie. During the height of WW2, Fala traveled the world with President Roosevelt. Given what we now know about therapy dogs, Fala must have been a great comfort to a great man.
During those terrible years, 1939 - 1945, there was another great leader who became as famous as the President. General George Patton was the epitome of courage and a man not to be trifled with... which is why no one dared make fun of Willy, his gun-shy Bull Terrier.
Actually, the courage of that mighty warrior's dog became legendary as he rode beside the General in his jeep. The heavy artillery and "bombs bursting in air" right over their heads would have sent any other dog scurrying for cover. Not Willy.
On a later note, 23 years later to be precise, another dog lover made history as the only president to end a war and then resign! President Richard Nixon ended the Vietnam War and our soldiers came home from a war that many Americans felt should never have been fought. Sadly, his presidency was tainted by the Watergate break-in.
One thing that stood in his favor to supporters; President Richard Nixon genuinely loved animals. One of his favorites, destined to become a very famous White House dog, was Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel. The Checkers speech, as it came to be known, was the first time a politician used TV to appeal to the voters. Sadly, snooping on one's opposition would seem like small potatoes in today's political garden.
President Bill Clinton had a Chocolate Labrador Retriever named Buddy. Their daughter had a cat named Socks but by the time they left the White House, they were cat-less. Not much is known about Hillary Clinton's pet ownership but it is obvious that Bill Clinton had a genuine affection for Buddy as shown in this "puppy picture."
When the Clintons moved back to Chappaqua, Buddy was run over. President Clinton is quoted as saying Buddy’s death was “by far the worst thing” to happen to him since he left the White House. Hillary quickly bought Seamus, then a 4-month-old puppy, from a breeder in Maryland and presented him to her husband as a Father’s Day gift.
Barack Obama and Michelle seem to have never had pets but he's quoted as saying that he would get a dog if he won the election. He did and he did. Well actually, Senator Ted Kennedy gave President Obama a Portuguese Water Dog puppy named "Bo" from the same lineage as the Kennedy's own dogs.
There are dozens of press photos of President Obama and his Portie. Photos and TV coverage show the dog forging ahead of the family, straining against the leash. That doesn't say much about the professional trainer we heard so much about or perhaps it reveals the distance between a man and his dog.
We used this photo, which for dog owners, speaks volumes. Contrary to rumors of the dog being flown separately, this photo proves the President's dog "Bo" flew on Air Force One at least once...
Barack Obama's opponent in the presidential race was Senator John McCain. McCain has two dogs (a mutt and an English Springer Spaniel), plus turtles, parakeets, a ferret, a cat and 13 salt water fish. His running mate was Sarah Palin, an animal lover whose outdoorsy candor did not fit the Washington rhetoric.
McCain lost the election to someone who never had a pet. It was not a campaign issue and it might not have mattered but pet ownership dropped significantly. In fact, a poll conducted by the NY Times found that among people who have NO pets "Obama leads McCain 48 percent to 34 percent."
Does the decline in pet ownership show a change in humanity? Or does it simply reflect a shift from living on the land to "moving in to town" and thus, a disconnect with animals which since recorded time, have fed, clothed, comforted us and "kept us grounded"?
Anthropologists are concerned. It is feared that when most of the human population resides on concrete we lose touch with the "grounded" values that made this country great. Something to think about in future elections but thankfully, there's this...
A decade ago The American Veterinary Assoc. reported 59.5% of American households owned pets. In 2018 that number rose to 68% or about 85 million (up from 79.7 in 2015). Pet ownership may not be a deal breaker in the voting booth but most animal lovers appreciate a candidate who will work for them and their pets.
Running against Barack Obama was the former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Hillary suspended her campaign in 2008 but in 2016 she made a valiant effort to challenge Donald Trump. Most political observers say Benghazi was her undoing, not pet ownership.
One press release promoted Hillary as having a poodle-mix as shown in this widely circulated photo of her and Bill Clinton in casual attire, followed by the Secret Service guard. Noting Hillary's appreciation for Designer clothes, one might assume her mixed-breed pet is called a Designer Dog. She had several "candid" photos taken the same day, all designed to depict the real Hillary, a devoted dog lover, just like everyone she hoped would vote for her.
The fact is that neither of the 2016 Presidential candidates seemed to have much affinity for pets. National Dog Day in August would have been the ideal opportunity to showcase a beloved canine pet. Perhaps that is why in mid-August, there was a little buzz on the net re Donald Trump tweeting about his Labrador Retriever. Unconfirmed reports say
Donald Trump asked for prayers for his beloved pet Spinee. There does NOT seem to be any press release, just idle gossip along the lines of "The dog underwent a risky surgery and is now recovering well..."
It was indeed news that Donald Trump owned a dog. We toss the Retriever story where it belongs - in the junk file. It would be hard to live with a big breed in the 66th floor penthouse of Trump Tower.
Next question... what about Donald Trump's grown children? As a presidential candidate Mr. Trump uses the limelight well but they are a close-knit family that shuns attention other than what they, the family, release.
Can someone who is so far removed from the earth be "grounded"?
He can. When Donald and Melania Trump move to the White House, were they will be able to enjoy the luxury of having a "top dog" for their home on the spacious grounds of the White House?
Turns out they didn't, President Trump said "he didn't
have time" and the idea he should get a dog seemed "phony".
In the evolutionary anomaly mentioned earlier, a majority of Americans are now living "in town." Those who live in the inner cities find it hard to manage a large dog where there's no grass, no trees and only the occasional fire hydrant. Perhaps that's why even non-dog owners instinctively vacation to the natural world. An interesting anthropological study but for now, let's just observe that dogs keep us "grounded" and in touch with the world around us.
Pets have faired well under most administrations because so many presidents genuinely loved animals. Voters would be well advised to not elect officials who fail to recognize that dogs are an important part of our lives. We trust whoever that is will realize that nearly one third of the population own pets and that we take pet legislation very seriously.
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