Presidential Pets

Harry S Truman is reported to have once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”. Ironically, Truman didn’t like dogs and never kept one. But in its long history, the White House has been inhabited by a long list of furred, feathered and scaled friends.


“Bo”, the Obama family’s First Dog.

The most recent furry friend to take up residence at the White House is Bo and his companion Sunny.  Both are Portuguese Water Dogs, chosen because Barack Obama’s daughter Malia has allergies and Water Dogs don’t shed.

George W Bush had two Scottish terriers, named Barney and Miss Beazley. Barney made the newspapers when he bit Reuters reporter Jon Decker. Bush also had a black cat named India.

When Bill and Hillary Clinton moved to DC in 1993, they brought Socks the cat, who belonged to daughter Chelsea. Socks was the first cat in the White House since the Carter administration. The Clintons also kept a chocolate Lab named Buddy.

During the George HW Bush years, First Lady Barbara Bush had a Springer Spaniel named Millie. A children’s book titled “Millie’s Book”, ghost-written by Barbara, featured an account of Millie’s life at the White House, along with photo ops with world leaders. “Millie’s Book” became a best-seller, and the Bushes donated all the royalties to a literacy fund.

Ronald Reagan had a number of dogs, but the two most often seen with him were Lucky and Rex. Lucky was a breed known as Bouvier des Flandres. He quickly grew too big for the White House and was relocated to the Reagan’s ranch in California, and Rex, a much smaller “Cavalier King Charles” breed, moved into the White House.

Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy was given a border collie named Grits by her teacher, but Grits was returned when he proved too hyper-active for the White House. Instead, Amy got a Siamese cat that she named Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

Gerald Ford’s Golden Retriever, named Liberty, made the news when she had a litter of puppies inside the White House. His daughter Susan kept a Siamese cat named Shan.

Richard Nixon had three dogs while President–a Poodle named Vicky, an Irish Setter named King Timahoe, and a Yorkshire Terrier named Pasha. Nixon’s most famous dog, however, never lived in the White House. In 1952, while running for Vice President with Eisenhower, Nixon faced accusations of receiving improper financial gifts, and gave a TV speech to defend himself. Nixon listed all his gifts and donations, which included a black and white puppy named “Checkers”, and announced “we’re keeping the dog”.

Lyndon Johnson shared the White House with two Beagles, named Him and Her. Johnson got some criticism from animal lovers when, during one photo op, he lifted Him up by the ears. In 1966, Johnson’s daughter found a stray dog at a gas station in Texas, and brought him to the White House. They named the mutt “Yuki”.

The John F Kennedy White House had a lot of pets. Soviet Premiere Nikita Kruschev gave a dog named Pushinka to Kennedy’s daughter Caroline (Pushinka was a puppy from Strelka, one of the first dogs to be sent into space). Other dogs included a Welsh Terrier named Charlie, a Cocker Spaniel named Shannon, a German Shepard named Clipper, and a Poodle named Gaullie. The family also had three ponies named Tex, Leprechaun, and Macaroni, a cat named Tom Kitten, two hamsters named Billie and Debbie, two parakeets named Bluebell and Marybelle, a canary named Robin, and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa.

Ike Eisenhower’s Weimaraner, named Heidi, lived in the White House only briefly–she pee’d on one of the very expensive antique rugs and was then banished to the family farm in Pennsylvania. Heidi was replaced in the White House by a parakeet named Gabby. When Gabby died in 1957, she was buried in the White House lawn.

Harry S Truman wasn’t an animal lover, so when he was gifted two dogs during his term, a Cocker Spaniel named Feller and an Irish Setter named Mike, he gave them both away.

Franklin D Roosevelt had several dogs, but his favorite was a Scottish Terrier named Fala. Fala often accompanied FDR on trips (including the wartime Quebec Conferences with Churchill). On one inspection trip to the Aleutian Islands, it was rumored that Fala had been accidentally left behind. When political opponents accused FDR of wasting taxpayer money by dispatching a US Navy destroyer to retrieve Fala, FDR responded with “The Fala Speech”, in which he denied the story and declared that, while he expected political criticism, the dog was off-limits.

When Herbert Hoover ran for President in 1928, he tried to counteract his public image as a stiff and formal man by posing for a photo with his dog, a Belgian Shepard named King Tut. After the election, King Tut shared the White House with a number of other dogs, including an Irish Elkhound named Weejie, a Malamute named Yukon, and two Fox terriers named Sonny and Big Ben. In addition, Hoover’s son Allan had two pet Alligators that sometimes were allowed to roam on the White House lawn.

Calvin Coolidge was an animal lover, and had an extensive collection of pets (most given to him by foreign dignitaries), including a white collie named Rob Roy, at least ten other dogs, several parakeets and a canary, two raccoons named Horace and Rebecca, a donkey named Ebenezer, two lion cubs named Budget Bureau and Tax Reduction, a Bobcat named Smokey, and a Pygmy Hippopotamus named Billy.

Warren G Harding’s White House was less crowded–he had an Airdale named Laddie Boy. But Woodrow Wilson was also an animal lover, and kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn (led by a ram named Old Ike who liked chewing tobacco). Wilson also had an Airedale named Davie, a Greyhound named Mountain Boy, a cat named Puffins, and several caged songbirds. Wilson’s sheep were kept in the same fenced-in area that had been home to Howard Taft’s two cows, Mooly Wooly and Pauline.

Certainly the most enthusiastic animal lover in the White House was Teddy Roosevelt. An avid naturalist and explorer who had established the US national park system to protect wildlife, Roosevelt had over a dozen horses, six dogs, and two cats. There was also a Badger named Josiah, five guinea pigs, a hooded rat named Jonathan, two kangaroo rats, a flying squirrel, and a Hyacinth macaw named Eli. On one occasion, Roosevelt’s son Quentin brought home four snakes that he had purchased in a DC pet store, and his 17-year old daughter Alice kept a pet Garter Snake that she named Emily Spinach and carried around in her purse. At various times, the Roosevelts also kept a lion cub, a coyote, five different bear cubs, a barn owl, and a raccoon.

Other unusual animals had inhabited the White House prior to Teddy Roosevelt’s term. These included William McKinley’s Yellow-Headed Parrot named Washington Post (and his two Angora cats named Valeriano Weyler and Enrique DeLome), Benjamin Harrison’s goat Whiskers and his two opossums named Reciprocity and Protection, and Grover Cleveland’s fish pond with Japanese koi. Rutherford B Hayes kept the first Siamese cat imported into the US. Ulysses S Grant naturally kept his Civil War horse (named Jeff Davis) on the White House grounds, while during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad kept two goats named Nanny and Nanko and a Turkey named Jack, in addition to Lincoln’s dog Fido. James Buchanan kept two Bald Eagles, while Martin Van Buren kept a pair of Tiger cubs that were given to him by the Sultan of Oman and later donated to the National Zoo. Andrew Jackson had a parrot named Polly that he taught to swear, and John Quincy Adams had an Alligator, given to him by the French General Lafayette, that he kept in a spare bathtub. James Madison’s wife Dolly kept a parrot; Thomas Jefferson kept two bear cubs. George Washington never lived in the White House, but at Mount Vernon Martha Washington kept a pet parrot.


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