All the President’s Mutts: A History of Dogs in the White House

Posted by Lauren Barker

Dogs have long been a staple at The White House, beginning with its first resident, President John Adams. Even before Adams, George Washington was the owner of several Foxhounds and Coonhounds. But since its completion in 1800, the mansion has been home to a whole slew of animals. Many were gifted to the Commander in Chief. Some, like Jefferson’s grizzly bear cubs, John Quincy Adams’ alligator and Martin Van Buren’s tiger cubs, for obvious reasons, didn’t reside long and were moved to more appropriate habitats. Others, however, made a lasting impact. Here’s a look at some of the prestigious pups who have marked their territory at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sailor Boy, Rollo, Jack, Skip, Scamp, Pete and Manchu Roosevelt

Rollo was protective of the president’s children. Photo by Facebook.com/TRPresidentialLibrary

Throughout his presidency from 1901 to 1909, Theodore Roosevelt and his family welcomed a menagerie of pets--rabbits, pigs, chickens, a pony and more. The family also cared for many canine companions, including a Chesapeake Retriever named Sailor Boy, Rollo the Saint Bernard, Jack the Manchester Terrier, Skip the Rat Terrier, Scamp the Fox Terrier and Pete the Bull Terrier. Manchu the Pekingese was a gift given to Teddy’s eldest daughter, Alice, from an empress of China. Roosevelt often wrote about his “ruff” riders and his children’s relationships with them.

Laddie Boy Harding

A portrait of Laddie Boy in silver. Photo by Library of Congress

Although many pups preceded him, the first dog to take the spotlight at the White House belonged to President Warren G. Harding. The Airedale Terrier was born in Harding’s home state of Ohio and gifted to the president and first lady the day after the inauguration. Laddie Boy, as he was named, would receive regular coverage from newspaper reporters during Harding’s presidency. He accompanied the family almost everywhere, including cabinet meetings where Laddie had his own personal chair. To this day, he has received more media attention than any other White House pet.

Laddie Boy’s dog tags are part of an exhibit at the Harding Presidential Center in Marion, OH. One side of the tag is engraved with, “If found return to Warren G. Harding White House Washington D.C.” Although not currently on display, a life-size statue of Laddie Boy is part of a collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

Rob Roy and Prudence Prim Coolidge

Rob Roy “was a stately companion of great courage and fidelity.” Photo by Library of Congress

“Any man who does not like dogs and wants them about does not deserve to be in the White House,” President Calvin Coolidge once said.

The Coolidge family cared for many dogs as well as cats, birds and exotic pets like a black bear, racoon, wallaby and duck. However, it was Rob Roy, a white Collie, who became the head of the pack and often traveled with Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge on trips, even sleeping in the presidential bedroom. He was known for chasing squirrels at the White House, having a notable fear of riding in elevators, and being the first dog pictured in an official White House portrait.

Prudence Prim was also a white Collie, and was favored by Mrs. Coolidge. She was often spotted wearing a bonnet and can be seen in many photos, including on calling cards which the first lady would leave behind after visiting a new place.

King Tut Hoover

If anyone could win the vote of the American people, it was King Tut. Photo by Library of Congress

During his 1928 presidential campaign, Herbert Hoover distributed autographed photos of himself with his Belgian Malinois, King Tut. The goal was to give voters a more personable view of him, and it must have worked. After Hoover won the election and moved into the White House, King Tut was given a patrol job with the White House police force, and he was charged with monitoring the home’s perimeter.

Fala Roosevelt

“Maybe one day, they’ll make a statue of me.” Photo by fdrlibrary.tumblr

One of the most well-known first dogs belonged to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Fala, a Scottish Terrier, was a gift to the president and originally named “Big Boy.” FDR renamed him “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill” after one of his Scottish ancestors. Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed and was treated to a bone from the president’s breakfast tray each morning. He also was doted on by staff. He tagged along on FDR’s trips and met many world leaders. Fala even had followers from all over the country who would send him letters.

You and your dog can visit a statue of Fala at the FDR Memorial on the Tidal Basin Loop Trail in Washington, D.C.

Heidi Eisenhower

“You have something more important to do than play with me?” Photo by Facebook.com/IkelLibrary

Although her time at the White House was short lived, Heidi, a Weimaraner, was a beloved family member of the Eisenhowers. Unconfirmed stories suggest that Heidi had a weak bladder and after a few too many accidents--one involving a very expensive rug--she was moved to the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg, PA. She went on to live a happy life, even giving birth to a litter of four puppies.

Charlie, Wolfie, Shannon, Clipper and Pushinka Kennedy

Charlie and Pushinka were as photogenic as their human “pawrents.” Photo by Facebook.com/JFKLibrary

When the Kennedy family moved to Pennsylvania Avenue, they brought with them the family dog, Charlie, a Welsh Terrier. Charlie was a gift from Jackie to her husband during his presidential campaign. Later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy called for Charlie to sit in his lap for comfort as he made critical decisions.

It wasn’t long after his presidency began that the family’s pack began to grow. There was Woflie, an Irish Wolfhound; Shannon, a black and white Spaniel; and Clipper, a German Shepherd. Then, in 1961, Pushinka, whose name means “Fluffy” in Russian, was given to Jackie Kennedy from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Pushinka was the daughter of one of the first Russian dogs in space. She even had her own passport! When Pushinka and Charlie started their own family with a litter of four puppies, thousands of letters poured in from hopeful adopters.

Him and Her, Blanco and Yuki Johnson

“Oh say can you seeeeeee….” Photo by @lbjlibrarynow

When Lyndon B. Johnson and his family moved into the White House in 1963, they were accompanied by two Beagles, Him and Her. The pair were often photographed with the president and once drew scores of letters and phone calls after Life Magazine published a photo of LBJ raising Him by the ears. The president issued a public apology for the incident.

The Johnsons had other dogs during their time on Pennsylvania Avenue. Edgar was a Beagle gifted to the president by J. Edgar Hoover after Him’s death in 1966, and Blanco was a white Collie gifted to the family by a young girl from Illinois. Then, there’s Yuki, the famous singing dog. The president’s daughter, Luci, found the mixed breed pup at a gas station on Thanksgiving Day in Texas. She gave him to her father on his birthday, and the two were nearly inseparable. Yuki and the president would often “sing” together for White House guests, always drawing laughs from the crowd. Today, Yuki’s dog collar is on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, TX.

King Timahoe, Vicky and Pasha Nixon

“Is there room for all three of us in the chair?” Photo by Facebook.com/NixonPresidentialLibrary

In 1969, when President Richard Nixon was inaugurated, his daughters’ dogs, a French Poodle named Vicky and Yorkshire Terrier called Pasha, joined the family in the White House. However, not long after his inauguration, the president’s staff presented him with an Irish Setter puppy for his birthday. Nixon named the dog King Timahoe (“Tim”), after a hamlet in Ireland where the president’s family was from. The three dogs got along well, and resided together in a heated enclosure behind the West Wing, although they were frequently brought into the mansion or let loose to run on the White House lawn.

Liberty Ford

“Now, this is the life.” Photo by FordLibraryMuseum.Tumbler

What better name for a presidential pup, than Liberty? The Golden Retriever’s full name on her registration was “Honor’s Foxfire Liberty Hume,” and she was given to President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty by their daughter, Susan, soon after his term began. Liberty was often spotted and photographed in the Oval Office. In 1975, she was bred with an award-winning Golden Retriever, and gave birth to nine puppies. Mrs. Ford didn’t immediately allow photos to be taken of the pups, so when the public started to request them, a rubber stamp of Liberty’s paw was made to sign all the requests.

Grits Carter

“It's an honor to be First Canine.” Photo by @carterlibrary39

Grits Carter, a Springer Spaniel-mix, was born the same night that Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election. The first family moved into the White House with their cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, but at 12 weeks old, Grits soon joined them. He was gifted to President Carter’s daughter, Amy, by her fourth grade teacher and was named after Carter’s campaign slogan, “Grits & Fritz.” You can purchase your own plush version of Grits Carter at the bookstore at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Lucky and Rex Reagan

Lucky dogs ride on Marine One. Photo by @reaganfoundation

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, two fortunate pups resided in the White House. Lucky, a female Bouvier des Flandres, was a gift for first lady Nancy Reagan, who named the puppy after her mother, Edith Luckett Davis. Although the Reagans loved having Lucky, her size and energy proved to be too much for the presidential mansion, and she moved to the president’s ranch in California.

Rex, a male King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, was gifted to Nancy Reagan by the president for Christmas in 1985. He was named after retired White House chief usher, Rex Scouten. The pup lived with the Reagans throughout the presidency and often participated in public events like the lighting of the Christmas tree. Upon leaving the office of First Dog, Rex was given a dog house replica of the White House.

Millie Bush

“Oh, this is going to be so much work!” - Millie Photo by George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

After the heartbreaking loss of the family’s dog, Fred, George H.W. Bush gifted his wife Barbara with an English Springer Spaniel. Barbara named her Mildred Kerr “Millie” Bush after one of their longtime friends. When the Bush family moved into the White House in 1989, Millie accompanied them and made herself at home. She sat in on meetings in the Oval Office and on morning briefings. She even gave birth to a litter of puppies during her reign.

In 1992, Barbara Bush published “Millie’s Book,” which gives readers a dog's-eye view of what a day in the White House was like during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. Millie Bush Bark Park in Houston, TX, is named after her.

Buddy Clinton

“It’s the president’s desire to have one loyal friend in Washington.” Photo by Clinton Presidential Library

Buddy, a Chocolate Labrador Retriever, joined the Clintons when their daughter, Chelsea, left for Stanford in 1997. Buddy’s bond with the president was strong. However, he did not get along with the family cat, Socks, and the two had to be kept in separate quarters. Nevertheless, Buddy was often allowed in the Oval Office and took walks on the grounds of the White House. He became a star of his own, even getting a fan club. Children would often write letters to him, and in 1998, Hillary Clinton published the book, Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.

Barney and Miss Beazley Bush

That feeling of excitement when Dad comes home from work. Photo by @georgewbush

Shortly after taking office, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura were gifted a Scottish Terrier named Barney. He was loved by the public and even had his own website with a “Barney Cam,” so viewers could see what he was up to and what famous White House guests he was meeting.

Miss Beazley, another Scottish Terrier, was given to the first lady by the president in 2005. Laura Bush named her new puppy after a character in the 1956 children’s book, “The Enormous Egg.” Miss Beazley was the niece of Barney, and the two became inseparable friends. She was even a guardian of the family’s two cats.

Sunny and Bo Obama

“The city is our playground, Bo.” Photo by Pete Souza

The White House’s most recent furry residents were two Portugese Water Dogs, Sunny and Bo Obama. During his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama promised his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they would get a dog. During his acceptance speech, he told the girls they had earned the puppy that would accompany them to The White House. Bo first joined the family in April of 2009, followed by Sunny in August 2013. Since leaving the White House for a “regular” home in Washington, D.C., the former first lady says it’s taken two years for Sunny and Bo to figure out the doorbell--something they never experienced on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Do you have a favorite presidential pet? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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