February 22, 2012
The Presidential Pups
This Monday we celebrated Presidents’ Day, where we honor two intrepid men who were essential in establishing the United States as we know them today: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In leading the U.S., Washington and Lincoln, as well as all our other presidents, obviously had a solid team of advisors, experts, and confidantes who helped them handle the stressful decisions required by the role. While we at DogWatch are sure those experts are essential to a successful presidency, we are also inclined to believe that a good canine companion is just as important! So today, on Washington’s birthday, we’d like to celebrate some of the First Dogs who provided our nation’s leaders with love, laughter, and a whole lot of cute!
The Washington Dogs
George Washington had numerous dogs throughout his presidency, all with quite interesting names. Among them were American Staghounds Sweet Lips, Scentwell, and Vulcan, and Black and Tan Coonhounds Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy.
The Lincoln Dogs
Abraham Lincoln was known to have two dogs, Fido and Jip. Lincoln had determined that Fido would not survive the trip to Washington, D.C. from Illinois and left him behind, despite his son Tad’s objections. When Lincoln’s body was returned to Springfield after his assassination, Fido was brought out to meet the mourners.
The Hoover Dogs
Herbert Hoover’s most well-known dog was his police-trained bodyguard of a Belgian shepherd, King Tut. He also owned two fox terriers named Big Ben and Sonnie, an elkhound named Weejie, and an Irish wolfhound named Patrick, among others.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala
Fala was FDR’s beloved Scottish terrier, who not only received his meals with the president and slept on a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed, but was also made an honorary army private! One of the most iconic and famous presidential dogs, Fala knew how to perform tricks and his antics were frequently covered by the mainstream media and often referenced by FDR and his wife, Eleanor. Fala outlived Roosevelt by seven years, and was ultimately buried alongside him. A statue of Fala alongside Roosevelt can be seen at Washington, D.C.’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
The Kennedy Dogs
The Kennedy clan is well-known for being dog lovers; current presidential puppy Bo is actually related to one of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Portuguese water dogs. When JFK was in office, he brought 4 dogs with him to the White House: Shannon, Clipper, Charlie, and Wolf. He was the first president to request that his dogs come out to meet the presidential helicopter when he returned home to the White House.
The Nixon Dogs
The infamous Richard Nixon was, among other things, known for his “Checkers Speech,” in which he claimed that he took no illegal campaign donations and the only thing anyone ever gave him was his cocker spaniel, Checkers. Sadly, Checkers passed away before Nixon took office, so she never saw the house she played a crucial part in securing for her owner. While residing in the White House, Nixon had 3 dogs: Vicky, a poodle; Pasha, a terrier; and King Timahoe, an Irish setter.
Gerald Ford and Liberty
Liberty was Gerald Ford’s trusted golden retriever. She was an energetic dog who loved swimming at Camp David and accompanying the president during meetings. It is said that Ford actually had a special signal he used to get Liberty to wag her tail when he wanted to cut meetings short. Liberty was known to make unapproved, late-night excursions outside the White House to “take care of business” without the Secret Service knowing.
The Reagan Dogs
Reagan had two dogs during his terms in office: Lucky and Rex. Lucky was a Bouvier des Flandres known for chasing the media around the White House, playing hide and seek with the Reagans, and accompanying the president to strategy sessions and conferences in the Oval Office. Ultimately, Reagan felt that Lucky had physically outgrown the White House, and she was sent back to Reagan’s estate in California. After Lucky’s departure, Reagan got Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whom he gave as a gift to wife Nancy. Rex evidently took a great dislike to the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House (which is thought to be haunted by Lincoln’s ghost), refusing to enter the room and frequently standing outside it and barking. When Reagan left office, Rex was presented with a dog house replica of the White House, complete with a patch of carpet from Camp David.
George H. W. Bush and Millie
Millie was the senior President Bush’s prized English springer spaniel, and the first dog to ever write a book. In fact, Millie’s memoir, “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush,” went on to sell more copies than the president’s own autobiography! While in the White House, Millie gave birth to a litter of puppies; one of those puppies, Spot, became a two-time White House resident when her owner, George W. Bush, took office in 2000.
Bill Clinton and Buddy
In his fifth year in office, President Clinton adopted his chocolate lab, Buddy, and took thousands of suggestions from the public on what to name the pup. Buddy was a lively companion, very much a typical lab, and provided many laughs and memories, including when TV cameras once caught him relieving himself on the White House carpet! Buddy’s life was cut tragically short when he was hit by a car in January of 2002 at just five years old.
The Other Bush’s Dogs
While in office, George W. Bush had 3 dogs: Spot, Barney, and Miss Beazley. As mentioned above, English springer spaniel Spot was a two-time White House resident, having been born there to George H. W. Bush’s dog, Millie. Barney and Miss Beazley were Scottish terriers, and at one point, Barney had his own official web page which redirected to an extension of the White House web site! Barney is said to enjoy playing with volley balls and golf balls and observing a lively game of horseshoes. Barney and Miss Beazley starred in several films called “Barneycam,” as well as the White House’s annual Christmas videos during the Bush administration. In his later years in the White House, Barney began to tire of media attention, biting a Reuters reporter’s finger, as well as the Boston Celtics’ PR director’s wrist. First Lady Laura Bush’s spokesperson joked that “I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi.”
Barack Obama and Bo
This brings us to our current first puppy: Bo Obama, the adorable Portuguese water dog, a gift from late Senator Ted Kennedy and related to one of Kennedy’s own dogs. When Obama first ran for office, he promised daughters Sasha and Malia that no matter the outcome of the election, they would get a dog. Well, we all know how the election turned out, and some months after the Obama family settled into the White House, Bo came to live with them. Most recently, the White House was decorated with various replicas of Bo for its Christmas festivities.
For more information on presidential dogs, visit: