November 4, 2010
America’s Most Famous Political Pets
It’s all politics this week at Dog Tails. Tuesday was Election Day, and in honor of this annual tradition, Dog Tails is turning its attention to the pets of Washington, DC.
Small or large, young or old, cat or dog, Republican or Democrat, we salute all of the dogs who loyally follow their owners around the Oval Office or halls of Congress. The DogWatch Hidden Fences team dove into the past and came up with a list of the most memorable political pets. No matter which way you voted on Tuesday, we know you’ll love these famous furry friends!
Fala, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dog
Fala is arguably the most famous political dog of all time. The Scottish terrier moved into the White House in 1940, at the beginning of Roosevelt’s third term. He soon became a regular fixture in the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., begging for food and performing tricks for guests.
Fala also enjoyed traveling with his master, joining the President on his many trips across the country and around the world. In fact, the two were so inseparable that Fala is depicted alongside Roosevelt in his memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC (see picture at left). He is the only Presidential dog to be given such an honor.
Checkers, President Richard M. Nixon’s dog
Checkers, a cocker spaniel, never made it to the White House, but he still had a sizable impact on Presidential history. In 1952, then-Vice Presidential candidate Nixon was embroiled in a financial scandal. In an effort to save his candidacy, he gave a televised speech in which he spoke of his humble beginnings.
The most memorable line from the speech referred to his dog, Checkers, who had been given to Nixon for his then-6-year-old daughter by a campaign donor. “Regardless of what they say about it, we’re going to keep him,” he said. The address became known as the “Checkers Speech,” and not only did it save Nixon’s candidacy, but it is now a term used to describe any heart-tugging speech given by a politician.
Socks, President William J. Clinton’s cat
Why should dogs have all the fun? The Clintons’ pet cat, Socks, moved into the White House with the First Family in 1993. The black and white American Shorthair soon became a popular celebrity pet. His political duties included “hosting” the White House website for kids, and having two books based upon his whirlwind rise to fame.
But Presidential life wasn’t always rosy for Socks. When the Clintons adopted a Labrador retriever named Buddy, the First Cat was (predictably) not pleased. In fact, the two pets disliked each other so much that Socks went to live with the White House secretary after President Clinton left office. Socks lived out the rest of his days in peaceful seclusion, and died in 2009 at the age of 19.
Barney, President George W. Bush’s dog
The second most famous Scottie to roam the halls of the White House, Barney belonged to the second President Bush. He lived in the White House throughout President Bush’s two terms, and was joined in 2004 by his niece, fellow Scottish terrier Miss Beazley. Barney is a big sports fan, and spent many afternoons on the White House Lawn chasing after golf balls.
Barney’s most famous moment, however, came at the end of his time in the White House. In November 2008, Barney bit a Reuters reporter, and the incident was captured on film. The reporter’s finger was quickly bandaged, and all was soon back to normal in the press corp. The White House claimed that he was having a bad day.
We understand, Barney. Who hasn’t had one of those days? Barney now lives happily in Texas with the President and Mrs. Bush, free from glare of the paparazzi’s flash bulbs.
Bo, President Barack Obama’s dog
The current Presidential pooch, Bo comes from a political background. A gift from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Portugese Water Dog joined the First Family with great fanfare in April 2009. Check out our favorite Bo photo here.
For more information and photos of presidential dogs, check out this slide show from TIME magazine. We hoped you’ve enjoyed this political lesson. Hail to the Chief Pets of the USA!
Fala photo by joelogon via Flickr.
Socks photo by Barbara Kinney/The White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.