Canines – Real Dogs – in the White House

At least one dog has lived in the White House for over 100 years — no matter WHO was President. Did you know that almost every U.S. President since George Washington has had at least one dog?  Thirty of the 44 presidents have had at least one dog in the White House, so it seems pretty fair to say that Dogs are the favorite pet. 

Take a look at the post: Other White House Critters (https://wetnosecentral.com/other-white-house-critters/).

Introduction

The White House is the home of the President of the United States of America and his or her family, as well as any family pets.  Most of the time, the pet of choice was a dog. The White House also serves as an American history museum. 

For over 200 years, together with First Families, more than 300 animals of many species, especially dogs, (www.theeconomist.com) have lived in or on the grounds of the White House. 

Having a dog in the President’s House dates all the way back to John Adams.  Over the following 222 years, presidential pets have become celebrities as well as beloved figures in American history.  (www.10news.com

The list of White House animals is wide-ranging.  Presidential pets include birds (Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson), menageries (Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy), cows and sheep (Rutherford B. Hayes and Woodrow Wilson) and more.  These are the Presidents who had dogs. 

Pet Appeal

Ed Lengel, chief historian at the White House, says that having a pet softens a president’s image, and it broadens their appeal.  Mr. Lengel told CNN, “They help create an atmosphere of the White House as a family, a lived-in place and not just a stiff museum, but a place where a family lives and plays and enjoys each other’s company.”  (www.thedenverchannel.com

George Washington – President from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797

George Washington served as the first President of the United States.  He might never have lived in the White House, but, like many of his successors, he certainly had animals.  Among them were 3 known American Foxhounds (Scentwell, Vulcan and Sweetlips); 4 different Black and Tan Coonhounds (Taster, Tipsy, Tipler and Drunkard); and 1 greyhound (General Cornwallis) (https://www.info-france-usa.org/presidents-of-the-usa-and-their-pets/), apparently named after British General Charles Cornwallis, who surrendered to Washington in the field at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, effectively ending the War for Independence. 

In addition to being the first president, Washington is credited as being the main developer of the American Foxhound.  (www.psychologytoday.com)

John Adams – President March 4, 1797 to March 4, 1801

After eight years of construction, John Adams, the second President, was the first President to live in the White House.  John and Abigail Adams took up residence in 1800 – even though it was not completely finished.

As the first resident, Adams was responsible for building the White House stables, so his dogs were the first ones to run on the White House lawn.

Historians believe that John and Abigail had several mixed-breed dogs (including Satan and Juno).

James Monroe – President from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825 

James Monroe only owned one pet, which was a Siberian Husky named Sebastian.  His daughter, Maria Monroe, owned a Spaniel.

John Tyler – President from March 4, 1841 to March 4, 1845 

John Tyler owned an Italian Greyhound named La Beau, among other animals, and a pair of Wolfhounds that he had imported for his wife, Julia. 

Franklin Pierce – President from March 4, 1853 to March 4, 1857 

One of President Franklin Pierce’s accomplishments was to open trade relations with Japan.  Among the gifts the Japanese government sent him after the treaty was signed were 7 tea-cup-sized dogs.  They were likely the breed known today as the Japanese Chin. 

President Pierce kept one dog and gave the others to friends.  

James Buchanan, Jr. – President from March 4, 1857 to March 4, 1861 

Among others, James Buchanan owned a terrier named Punch and a Newfoundland named Lara. 

Young black Newfoundland.
Newfoundland

Abraham Lincoln – President from March 4, 1861 to April 14, 1865 

Lincoln had two dogs, Fido (he stayed home in Springfield, IL) and Jip. 

Hiram Ulysses Grant – President from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877 

When Ulysses S. Grant and his family moved into the White House, they brought Rosie, a black-and-tan mixed breed, and his son Jesse’s Newfoundland, named Faithful.  Apparently, Jesse had previously lost a pet, and Grant did not want that to happen again.  To assure the safety of Faithful, Grant to the WH staff:  “If this dog dies, every employee in the White House will at once be discharged.”  (The Dogington Post (www.dogingtonpost.com))

Rutherford Birchard Hayes – President from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881 

Rutherford B. Hayes, apparently an avid animal lover, had a Cocker Spaniel (Dot), an English Mastiff (Duke), a Greyhound (Grim), a Newfoundland (Hector), a Miniature Schnauzer (Otis), two hunting dogs (Shep and Juno) and another dog named Jet.

James Abram Garfield – President from March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881 

James Garfield had a Newfoundland named Veto.

A 1954 article in the Lewiston Evening Journal, reports that “. . . when the barn caught fire, it was Veto’s barking that sounded the alarm.”

Grover Cleveland – President from March 4, 1885 to March 4, 1889.  He served as President a second, separate term, from March 4, 1893 to March 4, 1897 

Grover Cleveland had a Cocker Spaniel, a Collie, a St. Bernard, Dachshunds, Foxhounds.

His wife had a Poodle named Hector. 

Benjamin Harrison – President from March 4, 1889 to March 4, 1893 

One of Benjamin Harrison’s animals was Dash (a Collie).

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. – President September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909 

While the Roosevelt White House was a menagerie, the dogs that lived there were a Saint Bernard (Rollo), a Pekingese (Manchu) that actually belonged to Alice, the President’s daughter, Teddy’s son Kermit’s Manchester Terrier (Blackjack), and a Bull Terrier (Pete).  Pete is famous (or infamous) for ripping the pants of a French Ambassador. 

William Howard Taft – President from March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1913 

When Enrico Caruso came to the White House to visit William Howard Taft and his family, Enrico brought a gift to their daughter, Nellie.  It was a little white dog, and Nellie named him Caruso.  Apparently, he wad aptly named because he is said to have had a high-pitched tenor bark and that he howled “La Traviata.” 

Thomas Woodrow Wilson– President from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921 

The Wilson family had Davie, an Airedale Terrier, Mountain Boy, a Greyhound, and Bruce, a Bull Terrier. 

With respect to a dog’s ability to judge a person’s character, President Woodrow Wilson once remarked, “If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you ought to go home and examine your conscience.” 

Warren Gamaliel Harding – President from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923 

Warren G. Harding is the first president whose dog received national press coverage.  He was the first presidential Super Star Dog.  Laddie Boy lived in the White House, and he was the first First Dog! 

Warren G. Harding had an Airedale Terrier named Laddie Boy.  Laddie Boy was Harding’s faithful dog.  He had his own hand-carved chair to sit in during Cabinet meetings, and the White House celebrated his birthday with parties for him.  Invitations were coveted.  And they invited other dogs from the neighborhood and fed them dog biscuit cake.  Newspapers even did “interviews” with Laddie Boy.  It is said that he was so famous, he had a caretaker! 

Florence Harding, the First Lady, even employed Laddie Boy as a “poster child” to promote animal rights issues. 

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. – President from August 3, 1923 to March 4, 1929 

Calvin and Grace Coolidge were, like Theodore Roosevelt, White House animal collectors:  They had a female white Collie named Prudence Prim, a male white Collie named Rob Roy; two more collies:  Bessie and Ruby Rouch (a brown Collie); Peter Pan, a Terrier, Paul Pry, an Airedale Terrier, a Shetland sheepdog called Calamity Jane, two Chows, Tiny Tim and Blackberry.  Boston Beans was a Bulldog, King Cole was a Belgian Shepherd, and Palo Alto was a bird dog. 

Herbert Clark Hoover – President from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933

Both Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou, loved dogs.  The Hoover White House was filled with dogs:  two Fox Terriers (Big Ben and Sonnie), a Scotch Collie (Glen), a Malamut (Yukon), a Setter (Eaglehurst Gillette), another German Shepherd (Pat) and Weejie, the Elkhound. 

After they moved into the White House, they were given an Irish Wolfhound named Cragwood Padraic.  The Hoovers called him Patrick.

Of course, King Tut (Hoover’s German Shepherd “police dog”) was his favorite.  After all, King Tutt had helped him get elected.

The fact that Hoover used King Tut on the campaign trail, and allowed people to take pictures of them, became a nationwide “happening.” 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – President from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945 

FDR had a black Scottish Terrier named Fala (the “unofficial” war dog), who, it is said, received more fan mail than many presidents.  He slept in a chair, near the President’s bed. Roosevelt also had two Irish Setters (Jack and Jill), a Bulldog (Pal), an English Setter (Winks), a second Scottish Terrier (Meggie), a German Shepherd (Major) and a Great Dane (President). 

Fala was named after a Scottish relative of Roosevelt, “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill.”  “Fala” is the shortened version.

Blaze, the Bull Mastiff, was Eleanor’s dog. 

Wonder how often people referred to “President” (the Great Dane) and other people thought the reference was to FDR? 

Harry S. Truman – President from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 

Harry Truman reportedly detested dogs, but, thanks to gifts, he and his family seemed to have (at least) two different dogs during their eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Both were gifts and neither stayed for the entire presidency. 

In May 1945, right after Truman took office, Postmaster General Robert Hannegan gave Margaret Truman (Harry’s daughter) an Irish Setter puppy.  Margaret named him Mike.  Mike spent his first summer with the Trumans at the family home in Independence, MO, where he had a dog house with his name on it.  In Washington, Mike was sick a lot, and Margaret decided to find another home for him.  The report is that Mike was sick a lot because the WH staff was always giving him treats. 

Mrs. Peter Joseph Marsden of Galena, IL, had formerly worked as a nurse to Harry Truman’s mother.  Mrs. Marsden felt that Mr. Truman would benefit from having a dog, so, in December 1947 she presented the family with Feller, a 5-week-old silver Cocker Spaniel. 

Feller didn’t seem especially happy about being the “First Dog,” and eventually Truman gave him to Brigadier General Wallace Graham, the White House physician.  Truman got a lot of bad press for this – the public said he was “anti-canine.” 

Ironically, Harry Truman is credited with the statement:  “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” 

Dwight David (“Ike”) Eisenhower – President from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961

Weimaraner at the beach on the shore.
Weimaraner

Two years into the administration, the Eisenhowers acquired a Weimaraner named Heidi.  The problem was that Heidi seemed to have bladder issues (a priceless carpet and a WWII general), so she had to be moved to their Pennsylvania farm in Gettysburg.  After Heidi, they got two Scottish Terriers (Caacie and Telek), who didn’t have those issues.  

John Fitzgerald Kennedy – President January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963 

Even though the President was allergic to dogs, the Kennedy family had lots of animals, but the dogs were:  Charlie, a gift from the First Lady to the President.  Charlie was a Welsh Terrier that used to swim with JFK; Wolf, an Irish Wolfhound, Clipper, a German Shepherd, and Shannon, an English Cocker Spaniel. 

Jackie, the First Lady, had a Standard Poodle named Gaullie. 

In addition, the family had a mixed-breed dog named Pushinka (Russian for “Fluffy”) that was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.  Pushinka and Charlie’s puppies were Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie and Streaker.

Lyndon Baines Johnson – President November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969

LBJ had four Beagles (Him and Her and Edgar and Freckles), as well as a Collie named Blanco and Yuki, a mixed-breed dog. 

Johnson “lost a lot of points” with the public when a photo was published of Johnson picking Him up by his ears.  Johnson wasn’t being cruel to Him; Him was actually Johnson’s favorite dog. 

Him and Her were born on June 27, 1963.  Unfortunately, Her died on November 27, 1964, after swallowing a rock, and Him passed in 1966 after accidentally being hit by a car driven by a Secret Service agent.

Richard Milhous Nixon – President from January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974 

There were four dogs in the Nixon White House:  A Cocker Spaniel named Checkers, a Yorkshire Terrier called Pasha, Vicky, the Poodle and King Timahoe, an Irish Setter.  Checkers may be the most famous of all the Presidents’ dogs.  He is certainly the first – and only – one who saved the political career of a senator who would become President. 

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. – President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977

Gerald Ford had a Golden Retriever named Liberty.  While they lived in the WH, Liberty had a litter of puppies.  Ford kept one of the puppies and named her Misty. 

James Earl Carter, Jr.  – President from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981

When Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy was 9 years old, Verona Meeder, her public school teacher, gave Amy a good-looking Border Collie mix named Grits.  Grits arrived at the White House on June 8, 1977.  Grits had gotten his name because he was born on the same day Jimmy Carter won the presidential election. 

Black and white Border Collie, lying in the dirt, smiling at the camera.
Border Collie

Some said Grits had a few accidents on the White House carpets.  Some speculated that Grits didn’t get along with Misty Malarky Ying Yang, the Carters’ Siamese cat.  The definitive answer to Grits’ leaving the White House came from Mary Finch Hoyt, First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s Press Secretary.  Ms. Hoyt told the Associated Press that Amy gave Grits back to Ms. Meeder to ease Ms. Meeder’s grief after her Border Collie mix – Grits’ mother – died.  (http://www.presidentialpetmuseum.com/pets/grits/)

Ronald Wilson Reagan – President from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989

The Reagans had a Bouvier des Flandres they called Lucky and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex. 

Even though they were dog-lovers, the Reagans had no dog when they first moved into the White House in 1981.  In 1984, Kristen Ellis, the 6-year-old March of Dimes Poster Child, gave them a 9-week-old, cute-as-a-button Bouvier des Flandres puppy. 

According to First Lady Nancy Reagan, that dog (Lucky) grew from a “ball of fluff” to “be the size of a pony.”  (www.presidentialpetmuseum)  Lucky wasn’t too lucky because she got pretty big pretty quickly and had to be moved to their California ranch.  They also had a Golden Retriever (Victory), an Irish Setter (Peggy), a Belgian Sheepdog (Fuzzy), and a Siberian Husky (Taca). 

George Herbert Walker Bush – President from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993

George H. W. Bush had an English Springer Spaniel named Mildred Kerr Bush, Millie to her friends, and Ranger (one of Millie’s offspring).  Millie is the author of her dogobiography (Millie’s Book). 

On November 1, 1992, the New York Times reported, “Reaching new heights of eloquence in describing Bill Clinton and Al Gore, President Bush declared that ‘my dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.’” (https://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/01/opinion/foreign-affairs-george-bill-and-millie.html

William Jefferson Clinton – President January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001

Bill Clinton owned a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Buddy. 

“. . . Buddy was killed by a car while ‘playfully chasing a contractor’ who had left the Clinton home in Chappaqua, NY, on January 2, 2002.  The Clintons were not home at the time of the accident . . .  [secret service] agents rushed Buddy to an animal hospital where he was pronounced dead.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_(dog)

George Walker Bush – President from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009

George W. Bush had two Scottish Terriers named Miss Beazley and Barney, respectively, and an English Springer Spaniel named Spot (daughter of Millie.)  You may remember that Millie (the Senior Bush dog) was a famous author.  Unfortunately, Barney passed in 2013. 

Barack Hussein Obama – President from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017

On April 14, 2009, the Obamas accepted a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy of a 6-month-old Portuguese Water Dog puppy named Bo.  (www.wikipedia.org)  Four years later, Sunny, “Bo’s little sister,” was purchased from a breeder in Texas. 

Black and White Portuguese Water Dog - Bo Obama look-a-like.
Black and White Portuguese Water Dog

“.  .  .  [I]t’s fair to say the first dogs of the Obama administration were rock stars.  Their schedule was so packed that they had a monthly agenda of appearances, overseen and approved by the [F]irst [L]ady.  They were regulars at the White House Egg Roll and on Christmas visits to hospitals.  They sometimes visited with foreign dignitaries at the White House, and the [F]irst [L]ady was accompanied by Bo on White House Tours she gave on her husband’s inaugural anniversary.

“Children wrote them fan letters, because it is an American thing to do.”  (www.washingtonpost.com

sk.

Resources: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org), United States Presidential Pets (Wikipedia.org), Newsmax (https://newsmax.com), The Presidential Pet Museum (www.presidentialpetmuseum), (www.theeconomist.com), (www.10news.com), (www.thedenverchannel.com), (https://www.info-france-usa.org/presidents-of-the-usa-and-their-pets/), (www.psychologytoday.com), The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/01/opinion/foreign-affairs-george-bill-and-millie.html), The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com

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