The cover of the current issue of the New Yorker is adorable. I’m still not sold on Portuguese Water Dogs – I once spent an afternoon with a few PWD’s a few years ago and although sweet, they are kinda ugly (just my opinion). I sometimes wonder why we American’s are so obsessed with presidential dogs. My best guess is that it’s the closest similarity “everyday” people can have with the President. The bond humans have with their family dog is much more similar, across the board, than the relationship people have with their children.
‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” said president Harry S Truman. The following is some history behind the most famous/influential presidential pups.
George Washington and his American Foxhounds
George was all about the American Foxhound (probably because he had no children of his own *cough* sterile *cough*). Names included Drunkard, Tipler & Tipsy. GW was a raging alcoholic frat guy…
Abe Lincoln and Fido
Abe had a dog named Fido (one hopes this was an edgy name in 1860) that was a mutt. Unfortch, Fido was left in Springfield When Lincoln was elected as Abe theorized he would never survive the trip to Washington. Looks like Fido got the last laugh – he outlived his master and attended the President’s funeral in 1865.
Warren Harding and his spoiled-rotten Laddie Boy
The first “celebrity” First Dog. Harding’s beloved Airedale Terrier, Laddie Boy (I can barely say that name out loud) was given his own carved chair to sit in during cabinet meetings and had a birthday blowout at the White House where neighborhood dogs feasted on dog-biscuit cake. The public loved Laddie Boy and newspapers even published mock interviews with him. In 1927, a statue of Laddie Boy was created out of 20,000 melted pennies and now lives in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala
Ridiculous. Perhaps the most iconic of the First Dog’s, Fala (a Scottish Terrier) starred in a movie, was named an honorary Army Private (During the Battle of the Bulge, American soldiers asked one another the name of the President’s dog, expecting the answer “Fala,” as a supplementary safeguard against German soldiers attempting to infiltrate American ranks), and had his own press secretary. Today, Fala’s likeness is represented alongside his owner’s at the FDR memorial in DC (and is the only Presidential pet to have this honor).
John F. Kennedy and Shannon, Clipper, Charlie and Wolf
The Kennedy’s had dogs? SHOCKING. JFK was the first President to request that his four-legged friends greeted Marine One upon its return to the WH.
Richard Nixon and his campaign finance gift, Checkers
Senator Nixon had been accused of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses. He delivered a 30-minute television speech regarding the accusations and stated that regardless of what anyone said, he intended to keep one contribution-a black-and-white dog which was named Checkers by the Nixon children. This speech is now dubbed “The Checkers Speech.”
Ronald Reagan and Rex
The Reagan’s had an original dog, named Lucky, who “grew too big” for the White House. That’s Reagan-speak for the dog was an unruly piece of shit and we’re sending it back to Cali. Within a few weeks the Gipper replaced Lucky with a King Charles Spaniel named Rex that looked just like Elizabeth Taylor from Sex and the City. Rex was far more beloved and in his first week flipped the switch that turned on the National Christmas Tree. Bad Lucky! Baaaad!
George H. W. Bush & Millie
The Springer spaniel’s book, Millie’s Book, ghost-written by First Lady Barbara Bush, outsold her master’s biography. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Bill Clinton and Buddy
Clinton received a 3-month-old Buddy (a Chocolate Lab – awesome) as a gift in December 1997, weeks before the surfacing of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Unfortunately Buddy never got to see a full life and was run over by a 17-year old girl near the Clinton’s NY house in 2002. What a dramatic life!
George W. Bush and Barney
Dubya is the second wartime President to own a high-profile Scottish terrier (remember?). Barney is the focus of numerous websites and the star of a series of Barney Cam movies. The Bush’s had about 30 of these little guys runnin’ around at one point.
Barack Obama and Bo
And here we are, full circle. The Obama family was given Bo by Ted Kennedy and his wife as a gift. They, themselves own a cadre of PWD’s. The daughters named the dog after Barack’s father’s nick-name, Diddely.
Info & Picture Sources: Time Magazine, Wikipedia and Google image search
For a more comprehensive pictoral essay of Presidential dogs visit Time Magazine