- WEIGHT: 88 to 176 lbs
- HEIGHT: 24 to 32 inches
- COLOR(S): Brindle, reddish brown, white, gray, black; solid or tri-colored.
- BREED GROUP: Working
Dogs of the White House
by Jack Russell
Several U.S. Presidents have introduced a variety of pets to the White House, going as far back as George Washington. It has traditionally been dogs, however, that have stolen the hearts of the media and public alike. In recent years, some presidential dogs have even garnered the title, First Dog, to mark the pet as an official member of the President’s family. First Dogs are special because their natural amiability help the public to see the lighter side of a President. Read on to explore some of the presidential dogs of the last several decades.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy did not have an official First Dog but he certainly did keep several dogs, along with other pets. Of all his dogs, JFK's favorite by far was Charlie, a Welsh Terrier. Another notable dog in the Kennedy household was Pushinka (the Russian equivalent of “Fluffy”), who was gifted to the Kennedys by the Russian Premier. Other dogs included a German Shepherd named Clipper, an Irish Wolfhound called, Wolf, and Shannon, a Cocker Spaniel.
- Even though Kennedy was highly allergic to canines, he kept nine of them!
- The Kennedys had so many pets that they set up a play yard close to the West Wing.
- Pushinka and Charlie later had a litter of puppies for sale, which ended up being given to close friends.
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson loved dogs, especially beagles. He kept a total of five dogs during his term in office. The most famous of the lot were two beagles that were simply named Him and Her. There was also another beagle called J. Edgar, a white collie named Blanco, and Yuki, a mixed breed.
- LBJ stirred up controversy in 1964 when he was photographed lifting his dogs by their ears.
- Johnson also had several other dogs, including one of Her’s puppies called Kim and Freckles. These puppies were given to Johnson’s daughter, Luci.
Richard Nixon’s loyal four-legged friend was a Cocker Spaniel named Checkers. The dog actually became quite famous when he was mentioned in a speech. Before he was President, Nixon had been accused of accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts, but he publicly declared that the only gift he had received was the dog, who he intended to keep. This famous speech came to be known as the Checkers Speech, and the phrase is now used in reference to overly emotional political speeches.
- Checkers actually died before he could ever live in the White House!
- Nixon’s other dogs included Vicky (a poodle), King Timahoe (an Irish Setter), and Pasha (a terrier).
Gerald Ford first received his golden retriever, Liberty, as an eight month old pup. They quickly became close friends, with Liberty spending much of her time in the Oval Office. According to one rumor, Ford had trained Liberty to disrupt conversations that had run on for too long by approaching the guest in a friendly manner. Liberty became so well-known that the White House distributed printed photographs of the dog, complete with a paw print autograph!
- Gerald Ford found his dog through his photographer, David Kennerly.
- When Liberty had puppies, Ford kept one and named it Misty.
Jimmy Carter’s primary dog was an Afghan hound, a unique type of dog breed that he named Lewis Brown. His family was also given another dog, a border collie that they named Grits when he was a puppy. Grits was a gift for Carter’s daughter, Amy, from her teacher. He had to be returned a little later, however, for some unknown reason.
- Lewis Brown and Grits had to share the White House with another family pet: a Siamese Cat with the unusual name, Misty Malarky Ying Yang.
Rex, Ronald Reagan’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was the very first official First Dog. He was actually given to Reagan’s wife as a gift, but became very attached to the President. Rex made such an impact with the staff, press, and public, that upon leaving the White House, he received a special dog house modeled after the White House. The Reagan's also had a Bouvier des Flandres named Lucky.
- Rex didn’t like the Lincoln Bedroom, which some people believe is haunted by Lincoln’s ghost.
- When the Reagans first received Rex, in the same week he made his first public move by helping to turn on the lights for the National Christmas Tree.
George H.W. Bush
Unlike many presidents who preceded him, the senior George Bush had one main dog in his life, Mildred. She was an English Springer Spaniel. Millie made the news when Bush was running for a re-election. In one of his speeches where he was speaking out against Bill Clinton and Al Gore, he mentioned, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”
- Mildred’s full name was Mildred “Millie” Kerr Bush.
- Millie was featured or portrayed in several TV show episodes, such as Murphy Brown, The Simpsons, and Who’s the Boss.
Buddy was a Labrador Retriever who lived with the Clintons. They received Buddy when he was a mere three months old. The dog was named after Henry Oren “Buddy” Grisham, Bill Clinton’s great-uncle. Sadly, Buddy passed away at age four, after he was hit by a car while chasing after someone.
- Hillary Clinton published a book of children’s letters to Buddy and Socks.
- Buddy and the other White House pet, Socks the cat, were unfortunately not very fond of each other! They had to be kept in separate areas.
George W. Bush
Although George Bush had three dogs, only one of them, Barney, was known as the First Dog. Barney was a small, black, Scottish Terrier. He got on quite well with Miss Beazley, the other White House dog at the time, who was incidentally his niece. Other pets in the Bush household included Spot, an English Springer Spaniel, and a black cat called India.
- Bush’s dog, Barney, became an Internet hit through his series of videos filmed by the Barney Cam. They depicted life in the President’s quarters, as seen by Barney.
- Barney was the first White House pet to have his very own official page on the White House website.
The Obamas did not have a dog when they first came to live at the White House. This was mainly because Malia Obama is allergic to dog fur. There was much media scrutiny as the Obamas tried to find a hypoallergenic dog breed. They eventually settled on Bo, a Portuguese Water dog. Naturally, one of his first public appearances included an introduction to the press, along with a photo shoot in front of the White House.
- Bo was named after the famous singer, Bo Diddley.
- The Obamas received Bo from a litter produced by Cappy, a dog in the Kennedy family.
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