Wednesday, August 7, 2013

First Dogs

This article is about dogs in the White House- that is, the canines of the  former (and current) US Presidents.

Which presidents had dogs while in office? An easier question is which ones didn't. Of the 43 different people that have held the office, only the following did not have dogs: James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin van Buren, William Harrison, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and William McKinley. In other words, 32 out of 43 presidents had dogs. And the last president who did not own a dog was our 25th president and served from 1897 to 1901.

 George W. Bush and Barney (Scottish Terrier) Theodore Roosevelt with Rollo (Saint Bernard)  Ronald Reagan with Rex (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) Bill Clinton and Buddy (Labrador Retriever)

It's not that surprising when you consider how much the United States adores its dogs. Even the old concept of a "nuclear family" often consists of two adults, two or three children, and a dog.

But is there significance to the furry friends living in the White House? Of course! Pets have helped shape a President's reputation.

For instance, Richard Nixon, who was being pressured from all sides to resign upon a financial scandal pre-Presidency, issued a speech entitled the Checker's Speech. In the televised speech, he denied claims of financial wrongdoing and worked in the topic of a dog that was gifted to him, a cocker spaniel named Checkers, talking affectionately of the canine. After the speech, public opinion of Richard Nixon dramatically rose, and Mamie Eisenhower described Nixon as a "such a warm person" following the speech. 


Additionally, LBJ's beagles, "Him" and "Her", may have damaged LBJ's reputation. Photographs came out of LBJ carrying the dogs by their ears. This sparked outrage from many US citizens and animal rights advocates, shocked to see the dogs handled so brutally by the Commander in Chief. However, former President Truman made clear his disagreement with the scandal, saying, "What the hell are the critics complaining about; that's how you handle hounds."

On the note of President Truman, he was gifted a dog named Feller in the Christmas of 1947. However, Truman had never asked for nor did he want the dog. He decided to give it away, which not only raised many people's feathers but led to an influx of mail from people asking to adopt the dog. Feller ended up being given to several different people over a period of time.

Noteworthy presidential dogs include the hounds of George Washington- the nation's first First Dogs. In fact, Washington was the 'father' of the American foxhound. He bred over 30 of them, three whom were named Drunkard, Tipler, and Tipsy.

 Not only the father of the U.S., Washington is also the father of the American foxhound.  He carefully bred and maintained his dogs, listing more than 30 hounds in his journals, including Drunkard, Tipler and Tipsy.

Sources: Wikipedia,, Sheppard 

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