February 17, 2022
First Dogs: 5 Presidential Pups And Their Stories!
The White House has a long and storied history as the home of every U.S. President since 1800, and one of the most important buildings in the United States. The structure was initially completed in November of 1800 and since has been expanded, partially burnt down, rebuilt, and constantly updated while retaining its original character and charm.
During that time, the White House has also been home to a host of diverse canine residents. Here are some of the most famous!
Herbert Hoover and King Tut, Belgian Shepherd
The Hoovers adopted King Tut, a Belgian Shepherd, when he was just over one year old. Future President Hoover was in Belgium on assignment for the then-President Woodrow Wilson when King Tut was working as a police dog. Hoover adopted King Tut nearly on the spot.
When Hoover ran for president a couple of years later, King Tut served as part of his campaign. Hoover was known to be private and stoic, and his campaign managers thought utilizing his dog would be a way to make him relatable to potential voters. A photo of King Tut and Hoover was mailed out as part of campaign materials to potential voters (see photo above). Though it can’t be said for sure, it seems that King Tut helped secure Hoover the presidency in 1929.
Although King Tut held a special place in the hearts of the Hoover family throughout his life, he was not the only dog who lived at the White House with the family. Avid dog fanatics, the Hoovers also had two Fox Terriers, a Scotch Collie, a Malamute, a Setter, a German Shepherd, and an Elkhound!
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Fala, Scottish Terrier
Fala, a Scottish Terrier, was gifted to then-President Roosevelt in 1940. Roosevelt fittingly named the dog after a Scottish ancestor: “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill”. Fala was living in the White House full time by the time he was six months old, and dined with Roosevelt during every breakfast and dinner.
Fala frequently served as Roosevelt’s travel companion throughout his presidency and was witness to some of the most pivotal negotiations and meetings of World War II. Fala was heavily photographed during Roosevelt’s time in office and became somewhat of a celebrity for the American people. He received letters from fans across the country and even appeared on postage stamps!
Fala was a loyal companion to Roosevelt until the President’s passing in 1945. When Fala passed away in 1952, he was buried next to his beloved owner. A bronze statue of Fala is also included in The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
John F. Kennedy and Pushinka, Mixed Breed
While the Kennedys had dozens of pets during their time in the White House, including horses, birds, hamsters, and rabbits, the most memorable remains the family’s mixed-breed dog named Pushinka. In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, as tensions with the Soviet Union were reaching their peak, President John F. Kennedy received the dog as a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Due to security concerns, the dog was first brought to an Army Medical Center to be examined for potential bugging devices or weapons. Nothing was found, and Pushinka was delivered to the Kennedy family at the White House.
Pushinka was the daughter of one of the first Russian space dogs, Strelka. She was an instant hit amongst the Kennedy family. They lovingly nicknamed her ‘Fluffy’ and assimilated her into their pack. She was particularly popular with another Kennedy dog, a Welsh Terrier named Charlie, and eventually gave birth to a litter of puppies, some of which were offered as prizes for a national writing contest.
Pushinka served as a vital political bridge between the USSR and the United States and contributed to a strong and trusting relationship between Kennedy and Krushchev.
Gerald Ford and Liberty, Golden Retriever
Shortly before President Gerald Ford took office, one of the Ford family’s Golden Retrievers passed away. President Ford’s daughter, Susan, worked with a White House photographer, David Kennerly, to find the family a new dog.
Kennerly contacted several breeders, all of whom asked him for the new owner’s personal information. When asked what kind of house the owners lived in, Kennerly told them one that was big and white. Eventually, Kennerly came clean with the breeder, and Ford’s new dog, Liberty, was headed to Washington soon after.
Liberty became a national celebrity during Ford’s time in Washington. She had a litter of puppies that was highly sought after. Liberty remained a loving part of the Ford family long after their White House days. She passed away in 1986.
Bill Clinton and Buddy, Chocolate Lab
Buddy arrived at the White House in 1997, when he was just three months old. President Bill Clinton held a nationwide contest for the naming of the puppy. And though names like Barkansas and Big Mac were tempting, President Clinton eventually named the pup Buddy after his recently deceased great-uncle.
When Buddy arrived on the scene, the Clintons already had a cat, Socks. The two pets did not get along, and eventually had separate living quarters in the White House. Other than that, Buddy enjoyed a good life at the White House; President Clinton and Buddy were frequently photographed playing fetch on the grounds of the property.
Buddy remained a part of the Clinton family throughout President Clinton’s term and until his passing in 2002.