Presidential Pets

Steph Burkhart asked:




“If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,” said President Harry S. Truman. Since the days of our first President, George Washington, presidential pets have been loyal friends and have captured the interest of the American public.

President Washington adored his pets. His favorite was his horse, Nelson. When General Cornwalis surrendered at Yorktown, Washington was riding Nelson.

Lewis and Clark sent Thomas Jefferson two bears from their expedition, but it was probably John Quincy Adams who had the most unique pet in presidential history. The Marquis de Lafayette gave him an alligator that he kept in a bathtub in the East Room.

President Lincoln liked to indulge his boys, Tad and Willie. He let them have as many pets as they wanted. Perhaps the most famous was Jack, the turkey. Jack was intended to be on the Thanksgiving Day menu, but Tad took a fancy to the bird and asked his father to spare the turkey. Lincoln did so, issuing a presidential reprieve to Jack, thus starting the traditional Thanksgiving Day turkey pardon.

The last cow at the White House was owned by President Taft. Pauline was a gift from a Wisconsin senator. Pauline the cow was a Holstein and frequently slept in a garage next to the cats. Pauline was good for a fresh glass of milk a day. After Taft left office, Pauline went back to Wisconsin.

President Wilson followed Taft into the White House. During his tenure, he employed a flock of sheep to graze on the White House lawn. This helped to keep the grass tame and was cost effective while World War I raged on.

During the 1960’s when President Kennedy was in office, Soviet Premier Nikta Khrushchev presented Caroline Kennedy with a dog named “Pushinka.” The dog was descended from “Strelka,” one of the first dogs in space. Before Caroline could play with Pushinka though, the dog had to be checked for spying devices and hidden microphones.

President Lyndon Johnson made the cover of Life magazine with his beagles, Him and Her. He caused a scandal though when he was photographed holding Him by the ears.

More recently, President Reagan was known for his dog, “Lucky,” and “Millie,” belonged to Barbara and George H.W. Bush. Millie was voted “ugliest dog,” by a prominent Washington magazine while she was in the White House, but she’s most famous for her memoir, “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush.” The book earned over one million dollars in royalties for Barbara’s family literacy foundation.

Currently serving as first dog with George W. Bush is “Spot Fetcher,” a puppy of Millie’s.

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