President Harry Truman once famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Quite a few presidents over the centuries have followed that advice.
The latest dog in the White House is Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog. Bo came to the White House through the Obamas’ friendship with Senator Ted Kennedy who has three Portuguese Water Dogs. President Obama had promised his daughters that they could have a dog once the election was over. The family needed a dog that was considered hypoallergenic due to the fact that Malia Obama has allergies. Portuguese Water Dogs often make very good pets for people with allergies. Portuguese Water Dogs are active, outgoing, intelligent family dogs. They make devoted pets and often love the water.
Our very first president was also a dog lover. George Washington’s journals mention at least 30 hounds, including “Drunkard,” “Tipler,” and “Tipsy.” President Washington is also credited with creating and breeding the American Foxhound from hounds he imported from England and hounds he was given by the Marquis de Lafayette from France.
Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with dogs is less impressive. He owned a sheep dog but he also had a dog hanged for attacking a sheep. Jefferson instituted the first dog license in America.
Founding Father James Monroe owned a Spaniel.
Abraham Lincoln had two dogs named Fido (“a dog of uncertain ancestry”) and Jip. Fido was alledgedly killed violently by a drunk on the street when he jumped on the man with muddy paws.
Ulysses S. Grant brought his son’s Newfoundland Faithful with him to the White House.
Rutherford B. Hayes had several dogs. He had a Mastiff named Duke, two shepherds named Hector and Nellie, and a Greyhound named Grim.
Grover Cleveland was a Poodle man.
Benjamin Harrison’s wife, First Lady Caroline Harrison, had a Collie mix named Dash.
Teddy Roosevelt had a virtual menagerie. He had a Bull Terrier named Pete, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Sailor Boy, perhaps for the breed’s love of water, a terrier named Jack, and a mongrel named Skip. Pete the Bull Terrier is said to have nearly caused an international incident by ripping the pants off the French ambassador when he was visiting the White House. Pete bit so many people that he was exiled from the White House. President Roosevelt seems to have been quite a dog lover! Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, had a small black Pekinese named Manchu who was a gift from the last empress of China.
Woodrow Wilson does not seem to have owned a dog while he was president but he was the first president to shake hands with a war dog. The dog was named Stubby, a Bull Terrier who had captured a German spy during WWI. Whether he was a dog lover or not, Wilson is remembered for the following quote: “If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
Warren G. Harding had an Airedale named Laddie Boy and a Bulldog named Oh Boy. Laddie Boy was such an integral part of the workings of the White House that he had his own chair so he could sit in on Cabinet meetings.
Calvin Coolidge may qualify as the biggest dog lover to ever occupy the White House. President Coolidge had at least 12 dogs: a terrier named Peter Pan; an Airedale named Laddie Buck; two Collies named Oshkosh/Rob Roy and Prudence Primm; a Shetland Sheepdog named Calamity Jane; two Chow Chows named Tiny Tim and Blackberry; another Collie named Ruby Rough; a Collie named Bessie; a Bulldog named Boston Beans; a police dog named King Kole; and a bird dog named Palo Alto.
Herbert Hoover was also a dog lover. He had at least nine dogs: two police dogs named King Tut and Pat; two Fox Terriers named Big Ben and Sonnie; a Collie named Glen; an Eskimo dog named Yukon; a Wolfhound named Patrick; a Setter named Eaglehurst Gillette; and an Elkhound named Weejie.
Following in this tradition, Franklin D. Roosevelt had at least seven dogs: A German Shepherd Dog named Major; two Scottish Terriers named Meggie and Fala; a Llewellyn Setter named Winks; an English Sheepdog named Tiny; a Great Dane named President; and a Mastiff named Blaze. FDR is generally remembered for Fala, the Scotty. Fala was a gift from the president’s cousin, margaret Suckley. Fala starred in an MGM Hollywood movie about the “typical” day of a White House dog. Fala was also made an honorary Army private. Fala is shown with FDR at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The other Scotty, Meggie, was a bit naughty. She once bit a senator.
Harry Truman had a mutt named Feller and an Irish Setter named Mike. Truman is credited with saying, “Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the Railroads.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower had a Weimaraner named Heidi.
John F. Kennedy owned quite a few dogs, perhaps because he had young children. He had two Welsh Terriers named Charlie and Pushinka; a German Shepherd named Clipper; a Cocker Spaniel named Shannon; and Irish Wolfhound named Wolf; terriers named White Tips, Blackie and Streaker. JFK requested that his dogs come out to mee the presidential helicopter when arriving at the White House. Some of the Kennedy dogs were gifts. The Soviet Premier gave them Pushinka, the daughter of one of the Russian space dogs. Pushinka had four puppies that JFK called “pupniks.” The Prime Minister of Ireland gave the president the Cocker Spaniel Shannon.
Lyndon Johnson also had several dogs in the White House. He had a mutt named Yuki; five Beagles — Beagle, Little Beagle, Him, Her and J. Edgar (perhaps naming dogs wasn’t LBJ’s strong suit); and a Collie named Blanco. Blanco was a gift to LBJ while he was president. He shook hands with the dog whenever he left of returned to the White House. Johnson got into a bit of trouble when he was photographed picking Him and Her up by their ears. His favorite dog was said to be the Beagle named Him. Unfortunately Him was run over on the White House grounds. J. Edgar gave the president another Beagle to replace Him. The president named him J. Edgar. Yuki, the mutt, had notoriously bad manners, even in the Oval Office in front of the Shah of Iran. Yuki also bit a White House police officer in the groin. Nevertheless, Yuki’s photo appeared on the front page of the Wall Streeet Journal. They say that all publicity is good publicity.
Richard Nixon had four dogs. They included a Spaniel named Checkers; and Irish Setter named King Timahoe; a Yorkshire Terrier named Pasha; and a Poodle named Vicky. King Timahoe was a gift from a staff member when Nixon became president. He was named for a village in Ireland where Nixon’s maternal ancestors hailed from. Nixon’s daughter Trisha had the Yorkshire Terrier Pasha.
Gerald Ford had a Golden Retriever named Liberty. She had nine puppies while living in the White House in 1975.
Jimmy Carter didn’t have a dog himself but he did give a mutt to his daughter Amy. The dog’s name was Grits.
More recent occupants of the White House have continued to have dogs. Ronald Reagan is usually associated with his dog Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A Bouvier des Flandres named Lucky also lived at the White House for a time but he seemed to be a little unruly and he was sent to live at the Reagan ranch in California.
George H. W. Bush’s wife, Barbara Bush, had the English Springer Spaniel Millie while they were in the White House. Millie wrote a popular book (with human assistance) and produced a litter of puppies during her time as a White House dog.
Bill Clinton had a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Buddy when he was president.
George W. Bush had two Scottish Terriers during his time in the White House, Mrs. Beasley and Barney. Barney gained something of a reputation for being a grouch during the later years of the Bush presidency, biting a reporter on a couple of occasions. President Bush also had one of Millie’s pups from the English Springer Spaniel litter born during his father’s presidency. The dog’s name was Spot or Spotty Fletcher, named after Scotty Fletcher, a baseball player for the Texas Rangers — the team that Bush had once owned.