First Dogs of the White House: A History of Presidential Pups
Dating all the way back to POTUS #1, George Washington owned a ridiculous amount of foxhounds, two of which were curiously named Drunkard and Tipsy. Abraham Lincoln’s Jip sat beside him at every meal, and FDR even had a Great Dane named President, which was obviously very confusing for everyone in the White House.
Even the most historically famous presidents have experienced publicly humanizing and hilarious moments with their hounds that ultimately allowed them to better connect with the American public. Some First Pups have arguably aided in election year campaigns and may have even contributed to the prevention of war. (Not a hyperbole…read on)
President Harding’s Laddie Boy often crashed press photo opportunities and once made it into the paper for treeing a White House cat. It was rumored that he even helped the president cheat at golf by retrieving wayward balls.
In September 1944, (an election year) FDR had been accused by congressional Republicans of wasting taxpayer money by sending a destroyer to retrieve his dog, supposedly left behind on an island during a trip to the Pacific. He then worked with Orson Welles to write the following speech.
“You know, Fala is Scotch,” the president said. “And being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress... had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since.”
His audience went wild. The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that “the Fala bit was so funny, one reporter observed, that ‘even the stoniest of Republican faces cracked a smile.’” Roosevelt was re-elected two months later, with 53 percent of the vote.
Teddy Roosevelt loved dogs and had several of them, but no pictures exist of the infamous Pete.
That may be for a good reason, as the dog, had a habit of nipping, so photographers may have had some trouble getting close.
French Ambassador Jules Jusserand was visiting the White House when the poorly-trained Pete caught sight of him. He chased the man down a hallway, and when he caught up, ripped the bottom of the Ambassador's pants off.
Not surprisingly, the French government didn’t like that, and rather than strain international relations, Roosevelt sent Pete to live at the Roosevelt family’s home in Upstate New York.
In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy had to plan the nation’s response. It was a tight spot. “Everything was in an uproar,” the White House kennel keeper said. “It looked like war. Out of the blue, Kennedy suddenly called for Charlie to be brought to his office.”
The Welsh terrier arrived upon the scene. For a while the president sat there holding the dog, deep in thought, until a sense of calm at last settled upon him. Then he said, “I suppose it is time to make some decisions.”
The most famous Portuguese water dog, Bo Obama once tried to eat the microphone off of a member of the press’s camera, and Sunny had a habit of pooping in the White house near the Lincoln Bedroom and the Oval Office.
Not a dog but an honorable mention to Lady Coolidge, who’s pet Racoon was intended to be a part of the menu for Thanksgiving dinner (just...wow) but she looked it in the eyes and decided to keep it.
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