12 Presidents In History and Their Dogs
Just because you’re the president of the United States, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a furry companion in your (Oval) office. The White House has a long history of presidents and their dogs, and today it’s almost unthinkable for a president to take office without appointing a “First Dog” as well. So, while there are many, here are the most famous presidential pooches in our nation’s history:
1. George Washington and his hounds
Of course we can’t talk about presidents in history if we don’t address the father of our nation himself. But more than being the first president of the United States, George Washington is also known as the father of the American Foxhound (though he called them “Virginia Hounds”), since he was the one who first bread them (from English Foxhounds and French Foxhounds). Washington carefully bred and maintained over 30 of his beloved hounds with names ranging from Sweet Lips to Drunkard.
Washington’s love for dogs can clearly be seen in a story from the Revolutionary War. During the Battle of Germantown, the American troops were trying to contain General William Howe’s troops who were occupying Philadelphia. At one point, a terrier was seen wandering between lines. The Americans brought him back to their camp and identified him as the British General’s dog. The American troops advised Washington to keep the dog as a sort of victory trophy, which might also weaken the British morale. Instead, Washington took the dog back to his tent, fed him, brushed him, and cleaned him, then ordered a cease-fire so the dog could be returned safely to the General.
2. Theodore Roosevelt and Pete
While Teddy Roosevelt had many dogs, his Boston Bull Terrier, Pete, was the most troublesome. Pete gained some unwanted fame for biting several White House guests, including a government clerk, a utility worker, and two police officers. The dog even tore the pants off the French ambassador, Jules Jusserand.
3. Warren G. Harding and Laddie Boy
Harding’s Airedale Terrier was the first presidential dog to be regularly covered by the press with regular mock interviews with the dog being published in the newspaper. Laddie Boy followed Harding everywhere, from golf outings to Cabinet meetings (where he had his own hand-carved chair). Harding was known to hold birthday parties for Laddie Boy, inviting all the neighborhood dogs over for dog biscuit cake.
After Warren G. Harding’s death, in honor of the former-paperboy, newsboys collected 19,134 pennies, which were then melted and made into a sculpture of Laddie Boy.
4. Herbert Hoover and King Tut
This German Shepard joined the Hoover family while Hoover was in Belgium before his election. A famous photo of Hoover and King Tut was released and sent across America in an attempt to make Hoover’s stubborn personality more approachable. The photo worked and King Tut became an excellent guard dog at the White House, keeping an eye on anyone who visited and patrolling the White House parameter at night.
5. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala
FDR’s Scottish Terrier is perhaps one of the most iconic presidential pooches of all time. Fala followed the president everywhere and as such, became part of his presidential image (Fala even had his own press secretary). During the war, Fala was named an honorary Army private for setting an example for all Americans by contributing $1 for every day of the year to the war effort. American soldiers even used “Fala” as the “password” to guard against potentially infiltrating German soldiers in the American ranks.
In 1944 when FDR was visiting the Aleutian Islands, Fala was accidentally left behind. Roosevelt sent ships back to the islands to retrieve his dog, but was then ridiculed for spending taxpayers’ dollars to send the ship back. Many say Roosevelt’s responding speech, known as the “Fala Speech,” helped secure his re-election that year.
6. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Heidi
Eisenhower’s Weimeramer, Heidi, was rarely photographed, but she was known to be an extremely affectionate pet, despite her breed’s usual hunter temperament. She acted as both a playmate to the Eisenhower children, as well as a guard dog for their home. However, Heidi was the only dog that was banned from the White House after she had an accident on a $20,000 White House rug (and that doesn’t cover inflation since 1950).
7. John F Kennedy and Pushinka
Although the Kennedy’s had several dogs, Pushinka (Russian for “fluffy”) was famous for being a gift from Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. Pushinka was one of the puppies from the litter of Strelka, one of the first Soviet dogs in space.
8. Lyndon B. Johnson and Him and Her
This brother-sister pair of beagles were LBJ’s most famous dogs. He would often walk the dogs around the White House lawns while talking to the press. Him and Her were even featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1964. The two dogs were known for running around the White House and accompanying the president on walks and meetings around the property. Lyndon B. Johnson also had a number of other dogs throughout his presidency, including a litter of puppies that Him fathered.
LBJ received major criticism from animal activists when he was photographed lifting Her to a standing position by her ears for the photographers. The president later issued an apology statement.
9. Richard Nixon and Checkers
This famous Cocker Spaniel belonged to Nixon when he was the vice-presidential candidate for Eisenhower. While Checkers unfortunately died before Nixon became president, she is famous for what is known as the “Checkers Speech,” in which Nixon made an emotional response to being accused of having a secret slush fund. Nixon claimed the only political gift he received was Checkers the dog and that his children loved that dog, so he wouldn’t give her back, even if it was a crime. This greatly appealed to the American public, and Nixon went on to become Vice President.
10. Gerald Ford and Liberty
Ford’s Golden Retriever, Liberty was a dear pet that accompanied the president to Camp David, around the White House lawns, and was frequently photographed with him in the Oval Office. It is said that if Ford was in a meeting that he wanted to end, he would signal to Liberty to go up to the guest while wagging her tail, which would create a natural break in conversation.
One story goes that one night Ford decided to take Liberty out for a short walk on the South Lawn, but did not alert secret service first, and so he got locked out of the White House when he tried to come back.
11. George H. W. Bush and Millie
This English Springer Spaniel was famous for becoming the first author-dog in the White House (with some help from the First Lady) with her book Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush which outsold the president’s autobiography. When she wasn’t writing her book, Millie was accompanying the president to some of his important meetings and won the hearts of world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth and Vladimir Putin.
12. Barack Obama and Bo
This Portuguese Water Dog is a hypoallergenic breed chosen partially for Malia Obama’s allergies. The family’s decision-making process for getting a dog was widely covered by the media, but they finally accepted Bo as a gift from Senator Kennedy.