Thursday, December 23, 2004

Presidential Dogs

This is rather off topic for the season but it's something that I find a bit interesting. This will be my first ast of complete and utter plaigarism. Here's an incomplete chronology about presidential dogs:

George Washington (1789-1797): The father of our nation and the first President, Washington is also considered the father of American foxhounds. Washington enjoyed fox hunting and wanted to breed a new type of dog to handle the terrain around Mount Vernon. He crossed seven big stag hounds from Europe, a gift from his friend the Marquis de Lafayette, with his own smaller black-and-tan Virginia hounds. Washington listed 30 American foxhounds by name in his journal and hounds currently registered with the American Kennel Club are descended from those originals.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Jefferson was also interested in breeding dogs, but he wanted a breed that would be able to guard his sheep from predators. He became fascinated with the Briard, a sheepdog he came across on his travels to France, and brought a female home with him that gave birth crossing the Atlantic. Jefferson received two more Briards from Lafayette of which he named one Buzzy. As president, Jefferson was the originator of the dog license after people complained of renegade hounds destroying livestock.

James Buchanan (1857-1861): Buchanan owned a large Newfoundland named Lara who was notorious for lying motionless for hours with one eye open and the other closed.

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Lincoln's dog Fido, a yellowish-brown mongrel, was the first presidential dog known to be photographed. Fido had trouble dealing with all the noise from cannons and bells during Lincoln's Inauguration and all the new people around the White House. To make his life less stressful, Lincoln sent Fido back to Springfield, Illinois to live with family friends. Lincoln's two sons, Tad and Willie, had Fido's photograph to remember the dog by. After Lincoln was assassinated, Fido watched the funeral procession go by in Springfield. Fido is also thought to be the source of one of Lincoln's most famous quotes: 'Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.'

James Garfield (1881): Garfield named his dog Veto to warn Congress not to send any more bills to the White House that he did not want to sign into law.

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): Harrison owned a handsome Collie named Dash that had a fancy doghouse built right next to the White House.

Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909): Roosevelt had more dogs running around the White House grounds then people could keep track of, but there are two who stand apart from the pack. Pete was a mischievous bull terrier who got into a lot of trouble. He snapped at Cabinet officers, nipped the leg of a naval officer and was finally sent to the family home in Sagamore Hill in New York after he ripped the pants of French ambassador Jules Jusserand. Skip, a mongrel that is now believed to have been a rat terrier, was Roosevelt's personal favorite. He was picked up during a bear hunt in the Grand Canyon and would ride in TR's saddle when the snow was too deep. Roosevelt's son Archie would run races down the second-floor hallway with Skip and when everyone had gone to bed, Skip would climb up into the President's lap while he was reading.

Warren Harding (1921-1823): Harding owned one of the most infamous canines to ever inhabit the White House. Laddie Boy was a large Airedale that rose to celebrity status as the President's dog. He would retrieve golf balls on the White House lawn for Harding and sit on the front steps to greet official delegations. Laddie Boy had his own hand-carved chair to sit upon during Cabinet meetings and was often quoted by reporters in mock interviews. President Harding died while serving when he became ill on a trip to Alaska. It was said that Laddie Boy howled for three days before Harding passed away, sensing that something was wrong with his owner. When Laddie Boy died years later, 19,000 members of the Newsboys Association each donated a penny to be melted down and shaped into a sculpture of the Presidential pooch. That statue is now in the Smithsonian collection.

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): Coolidge had many dogs as President, but three really stood out in the public's eye. Prudence Prim and Rob Roy were both white collies that Grace, the First Lady, would dress in bows and bonnets for the annual White House egg-rolling contest. Paul Pry, an Airedale, was another member of the family.

Herbert Hoover (1929-1945): Hoover was a very private man and enjoyed the company of his Belgium police dog, King Tut, that he brought back from Europe after World War I. Hoover posed with King Tut for a campaign photo, showing man and dog begging for votes. King Tut was also a determined guard dog and would patrol the White House grounds at night, protecting his master.

Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945): Roosevelt owned a whopping 11 dogs in 12 years and one month as President, but the one who brought him the most joy was Fala, a black Scottish terrier given to him by his cousin in 1942. Fala would follow Roosevelt everywhere, and Secret Service agents referred to him as the Informer because they knew wherever Fala was, the President would be close behind. Fala thrived on all the attention given to him by reporters and was witness to the signing of the Atlantic Charter aboard the Augusta. The little Scottie was fed at 7 p.m everyday by Roosevelt after doing tricks for those looking on. Fala had his own blanket to sleep on next to Roosevelt at night. When Fala passed away after a long life, he was buried next to his master in the rose garden of the Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate. Fala is also depicted in the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C. sitting faithfully next to Roosevelt.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): Eisenhower also owned a Scottish terrier, but he named his Spunky. Heidi, a weimaraner, was the other member of the First Family. She would not allow Mamie Eisenhower to be photographed, jumping up in front of the cameras to block the view.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): Kennedy was an avid dog lover so there were many pets for his children to play with. Charlie, a Welsh terrier, was 'boss dog' and belonged to Caroline, the President's daughter. He would go swimming with the President and playfully bite the bottom of gardeners as they tended to the White House lawn. Wolf was an Irish wolfhound given to the Kennedys by a priest in Ireland with the same last name. Clipper, a German shepherd, was a gift from JFK's father and Shannon, an Irish cocker spaniel, was a gift from the Prime Minister of Ireland. The last dog on the Kennedy roster was Pushinka, a fluffy mutt given to Caroline by Soviet premier Nikita Krushev as an act of goodwill towards America. There was romance in the air at the White House as Charlie and Pushinka became the proud parents of a batch of puppies. President Kennedy was very good at making sure there was always a dog or two in the picture when the television cameras would start rolling, adding to his national popularity.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Johnson was a fan of beagles and owned two of them during his term as President. Him and Her had free run of the Oval Office, using it as a playground, and they would often join Johnson for a swim in the White House pool. Edgar, a gift from J. Edgar Hoover and also a beagle, and Blanco, a beautiful white collie joined the group later on. Johnson's favorite pooch of the bunch was Yuki, a stray mutt that his daughter found at a gas station in Texas. Yuki attended Cabinet meetings, was present in the East Room for the signing of the Wholesome Meat Act, and would dress up in a Santa suit for the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Yuki's claim to fame were his duet singing sessions with Johnson. The two would howl together to entertain White House guests.

Richard Nixon (1969-1974): Nixon owned three well-behaved dogs but kept them out of the national spotlight. Vicky the French poodle, Pasha the Yorkshire terrier and King Timahoe the Irish setter were a large part of Nixon's private life.
What? No mention of Checkers? The dog that won Nixon an election?

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Reagan's first dog as President was Lucky, a giant sheepdog. Lucky quickly grew too big for Nancy Reagan to control. Often it was Lucky that would take the First Lady on a walk and not the other way around, so the Reagans had to send him to the family ranch in Santa Barbara, California where Lucky would have plenty of room to roam. Reagan soon replaced Lucky with a smaller dog, Rex, a King Charles spaniel. Rex had a fancy doghouse built for him with red window draperies and framed pictures of the President and First Lady as decoration. It was designed by Theo Hayes, great-great grandson of President Rutherford Hayes.

George Bush (1989-1993): The Bush family owned a bright springer spaniel named Millie. Millie became the first presidential dog to write her own book. Millie's Book was a 141-page story of her life in the White House was dictated to Barbara Bush and made $889,176 in first-year royalties. All that money was donated to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to help other people learn how to read. Millie gave birth to six puppies in 1989 and retold the story in her book.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Clinton did not own a dog as President until five years into his term. In 1997 the Clintons welcomed a chocolate Labrador retriever into the First Family and sponsored a national contest to name the new pup. The name Buddy was chosen from all the entries.

George W. Bush (2001- ): The new President has two dogs to romp around the White House grounds. Spot is an 11-year old springer spaniel, and one of Millie's pups. She enjoys chasing tennis balls on the front lawn and playing with her new pal, Barney, a Scottish terrier puppy.
Above and beyond this, no one can forget the infamous Barnie-cam.

I hope you found this interesting reading. If you want to know more about presidential dogs ther is a book out on that topic. It can be found here. It might even make a good Christmas gift if you have an avid dog lover in your family.

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