Many of our past and recent presidents have been animal lovers, and pets in the White House have long been popular with the public (sometimes even more so than their presidential owners!).
Presidential pets haven't been restricted only to cats and dogs. Though dogs seem to have been the favorite pets to have graced the White House lawn, there have been some other more unusual White House residents in the past.
Look a Little on The Bo and Sunny-side of Life!
Our recent White House occupiers, two hypoallergenic breeds of Portuguese Water Dogs known as Bo and Sunny are owned by President Obama and his family.
It all began when the President's daughter, Malia required a pet that wouldn't cause allergic reactions. Bo was the clear choice. Soon thereafter, Michelle Obama announced another addition to the family in a tweet, and thus Sunny entered the White House. Sunny Obama had been known to cause quite an uproar at White House Christmas Events—by knocking over a guest or two (by accident of course!)
President George W. Bush's First Dogs from 2001-2009 were Miss Beazley and Barney, both Scottish Terriers, Spot, an English springer spaniel, (offspring of his dad's dog Millie,) Bush's daughter's black cat, India who stayed at the White House when the twins were at college and Ofelia, a longhorn cow at the ranch not at the White House, but couldn't you just imagine that press?
Barney was definitely part of the family according to president Bush. Barney loved playing with his soccer ball. When the president gave Miss Beasley to his wife Laura, on her birthday, movie legends were born with the 'BarneyCam' which featured both pets and their many antics in White House Movies for years to come!
The Socks and Buddy Dispute
Bill Clinton's pets lived in the presidential palace from 1993-2001. Who could forget the famous Socks the cat and Buddy, the beautiful chocolate Labrador retriever.
Socks the cat was a black and white American Shorthair and First Cat from 1993 to 2001.The Clinton's weren't particularly happy when photographers tried luring Socks out for a photo op and had to keep Socks leashed while out in the yard. Socks loved the media and went on to become the first presidential pet to have a website! He also received a lot of fan mail he always returned with a paw print. In 1997 it all came to an end when the Clintons received a gift from a friend - a dog named Buddy. Buddy was the lovable Labrador Retriever First Dog from 1997-2002. But Socks never warmed up to Buddy, so Socks was voted out of the White House. Clinton later remarked,“You know, I did better with the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy.”
Hillary Clinton's fun and humorous book called Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets focused on the famous duo with over 50 questions directed towards them.
George H.W. Bush's presidential pets from 1989-1993 included Millie, the English springer spaniel and Ranger, one of Millie’s puppies which was often considered Bush’s favorite dog. Millie is credited to be the only White House dog to have written a book, "Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush." Millie had six puppies and two of them became White House dogs!
John F. Kennedy, although he and his family owned many pets, had a favorite pony named 'Macaroni' which was First Pet in 1963. Macaroni was given to Caroline Kennedy when she was 5 years old. Oftentimes you could see her riding Macaroni around the White House lawn.
'The Fala Speech'
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was rarely seen without Fala (First Dog from 1940-1945.) This expressive black Scottie had bushy eyebrows and scruffy whiskers. He followed the president everywhere and traveled with him to important events and even overseas on wartime trips. In 1944 there was a rumor that Fala had been left behind on an Aleutian Island trip and a naval ship made a special trip to retrieve him! These accusations forced the president to make his famous 'Fala Speech' where he denied these accusations and added he and his family didn’t resent the attacks against them, but “Fala does resent the attacks…his Scot soul was furious.”
Never Badger Theodore
One of the most unusual presidential pets was Theodore Roosevelt's 'Josiah the Badger.' The president was on a trip west in 1903 when he came upon a baby badger. He brought the badger home with him and gave it to his son, Archie, as a gift. Roosevelt's autobiography stated his son carried Josiah about, clasped firmly around his waist. The badger would nip his sons bare legs when they played games of tag. When asked about this, Archie replied, ‘He bites legs sometimes, but he never bites faces.' Archie earned the badger of merit for owning this pet!
One of the largest menageries to ever occupy the White House was owned by President Roosevelt. Besides the badger, he owned guinea pigs, ten dogs, two cats, a rat, a snake, a pig, a rabbit, a "small bear" (named Jonathan Edwards), a macaw, a hyena, a pony, and a lizard!
The White House again became a zoo from 1923 to 1929 during Calvin Coolidge's presidency. Most famous was his beloved white collie Rob Roy but the Coolidge's also cared for a terrier, another white collie, a Shetland sheepdog, two chows, more collies, a bulldog, a German Shepherd, a bird dog, canaries, a thrush, a goose, a mockingbird, some cats and raccoons, a donkey, a bobcat and animals given to them by dignitaries from other countries. (They included lion cubs humorously named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, a wallaby, a pygmy hippo named Billy, and a black bear! Whew, let's buy a zoo!
Don't Take a Bath at the Adams'
Some other popular exotic animals had taken up residence in the White House in the early years of our nation. John Quincy Adams allegedly kept an alligator left behind by the revolutionary war hero the Marquis de Lafayette. President Adams lodged the gator in the White House’s unfinished East Room in a bathtub where he displayed it to the unbelieving White House visitors for a few months before it was moved to a more permanent home.
Astonishingly, a century later and reptiles again appeared in the White House. Herbert Hoover's presidency during the depression in the 1930's had his younger son, Allan, owning two pet alligators that frequented the White House grounds—a terrifying sight no doubt to visitors!
Our first president, George Washington, although he never lived in the White House because it wasn't completed until the Administration of our 2nd president, John Adams, is credited with owning the first Presidential pet. Washington's devotion to animals was well known and at his Mount Vernon home he had many traditional farm animals and a parrot named Polly whom he didn't get along with which belonged to his wife, Martha. Washington's favorite animal, however, was his beloved horse, Nelson. President Washington was riding his favorite horse Nelson when he accepted General Charles Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown! This was the battle that ended the Revolutionary War! Nelson not only witnessed history unfold but also found himself a part of it!
For a complete list of Presidential Pets, checkout The Presidential Pet Museum.
By Tom Matteo
Photo By: Pete Souza