Saturday, October 7, 2017

Top Presidential Pets

Our current chief executive is a little unusual in that he doesn’t have any pets. He shares that distinction with only one other POTUS, James Knox Polk. At the other extreme, JFK had 21, Calvin Coolidge 26, and Teddy Roosevelt 31.

Though most of the presidential pets were dogs, there were also plenty of cats, bird, and horses. There were also no shortage of rather unusual ones as well. John Adams, for instance, had silkworms and an alligator. Teddy Roosevelt’s menagerie included a snake, lizard, rat, badger, bear, owl, and laughing hyena. Not to be outdone, the Coolidges kept a raccoon, donkey, goose, bobcat, bear, lion, wallaby, antelope, and pygmy hippopotamus.

Mrs. Coolidge with Rebecca

Pet names are on a similar spectrum. At one extreme, would you believe George W Bush had a dog named Spot, Reagan dogs named Rex and Lucky, Jefferson a parrot called Polly, and Lincoln a dog named Fido? At the other extreme, we’ve got:
  • Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau – lion cubs owned by the Coolidges
  • Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection – two opossums belonging to Benjamin Harrison
  • Misty Malarky Ying Yang – Amy Carter’ s Siamese cat
  • Emily Spinach – a garter snake that was part of the Teddy Roosevelt zoo
  • Satan, a dog owned by John Adams

So, how about those top presidential pets?

#10 – Bo, Portuguese Water Dog, Barrack Obama

I debated including this one. Don’t presidential scholars usually wait a little while before passing judgement on the most recent chief execs?

That said, Bo certainly was in the news. First of all, the Obamas did not come to the White House with a pet. In fact, one of the president’s first decisions was to choose what to get. Needless to say, the speculation that all produced resulted in more than its fair share of newsprint, videotape, and web pages.

And when the decision was announced, the strange breed that was chosen generated even more buzz. Readers may not remember that one of the main reasons for that choice was Malia’s allergies (and Bo’s hypoallergenic nature).

"U.S. Loses U.N. Membership After Soapy Bo Obama Jumps Up On Secretary-General" (The Onion)

#9 – Liberty, Golden Retriever, Gerald Ford

Am I dating myself here?

Liberty might be most famous for having puppies, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The Fords kept one of them, Misty. Liberty was actually given to the Fords by their daughter Susan (I had a major crush on Susan - now I'm really dating myself). 

#8 – Barney, Scottish Terrier, George W. Bush

Awesome – our first Scottie!

The Bushes actually had several well-known pets – including Miss Beazley, another Scottish Terrier, and India, an all-black cat. Barney will have to stand in for them all. A couple of interesting facts about Barney:
  • He was born Bernard
  • He has a brother named Clinton (!?!?)
  • He was famous for biting members of the press corps
  • He was the star of 11 videos, including Barney's Holiday Extravaganza, Barney Reloaded, and Barney Has Found Miss Beazley

#7 – Him & Her, Beagles, LBJ

LBJ was quite the classy fella. In addition to showing everyone his gall bladder surgery scars, talking to reporters while on the can, and urinating in a sink, Johnson also used to liked to pick up his beagles by the ears. 

This, in fact, may have represented the first presidential pet controversy. Yup, animal lovers all over the country called him to task. Somehow or other, he still managed to beat Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election.

#6 – Socks, cat, Bill Clinton

Socks was actually not the Clinton’s only famous pet. Buddy, a chocolate lab, was almost as well known. Readers may not remember, though, that Buddy basically forced Socks out. “I did better with the Palestinians and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy,” said Bill. Socks was actually a stray that the Clintons adopted in Arkansas.

God, I love these shots!

#5 – Millie, Springer Spaniel, George HW Bush

Heck, Millie’s a published author! How could I not include her in this list?

Yup, Millie “wrote” Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush. It was released in 1990, and actually made it to #1 on the New York Times bestseller nonfiction list. Millie was also portrayed on Murphy Brown, Wings, Who’s the Boss, and The Simpsons.

Millie and ghostwriter

#4 – Rob Roy, White Collie, Calvin Coolidge

Who? What? Rob Whuh? Hunh?

Rob Roy was arguably the first presidential pet celebrity. There’s not a lot out there on him, so let me share this wonderful profile of him from Wikipedia:
  • Species:  Canis lupus familiaris
  • Breed:  Collie
  • Sex:  Male
  • Born:  c. 1922, Oshkosh, WI
  • Died:  1928 (aged 5–6), Washington, D.C.
  • Nation from:  American
  • Occupation:  Companion animal
  • Owner:  Calvin Coolidge
  • Appearance:  White

Rob Roy even graced the FLOTUS’s official portrait

#3 – Laddie Boy, Airedale, Warren G. Harding

Now, here’s our first real presidential pet celeb. Some of Laddie Boy’s many firsts include:
  • Being welcomed at Cabinet meetings
  • Having White House birthday parties
  • Getting “interviewed” by the White House press corps
  • Having a statue made of him
  • Being immortalized in song

Laddie Boy was also made something of a poster … er, dog … for animal rights. 

Pulitzer material, no?

#2 – Checkers, Cocker Spaniel, Richard Nixon

Poor pup. Checkers’ owner actually made this little guy more infamous than famous. 

Yup, this little Cocker Spaniel was the subject of Tricky Dick’s famous Checkers speech. Nixon used this speech to defend against allegations of misusing campaign contributions. He pulled in Checkers as an example of a contribution, one he wasn’t about to give up.

"Get outta here, mutt!  Can’t ya see I’m readin’ the paper?"

#1 – Fala, FDR

Fala was a lot like Toto, of the Wizard of Oz – just so darn cute. And like all terriers – especially Scotties –  Fala had tons of personality.

Some fun facts about this adorable little fella:
  • An MGM film was made about him
  • He was made an honorary private in the US Army
  • He was a codeword for soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge (if you didn’t know the name of the president’s dog, you were probably a Nazi ... and would get shot)

Interestingly, Fala was also the subject of a scandal and a speech. FDR had supposedly sent a destroyer back for the little dog when the 32nd president mistakenly left him on one of the Aleutians. Roosevelt’s speech turned the accusations into a huge joke, insuring his triumph in the 1944 presidential elections.

The only thing we have to fear is thunderstorms, and firecrackers, and …