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Posts Tagged ‘US Presidents’

Copyright 2017, Susan DeLay

Every US President since Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) has had one. Only Chester A. Arthur and Franklin Pierce had none—at least not that we know of. When President Obama leaves the White House, he will take his with him, leaving an empty space available for the next one—and big shoes to fill. Make that paws.

Say what you will about politics and politicians—I’ve never heard many scathing remarks made about Presidential pets. One might think that since Presidents and their families live in fish bowls, a goldfish might be an appropriate pet, but since most of them end up getting flushed, the man in the Oval Office might prefer to give opponents any ideas.

The varied list of Presidential Pets has included horses, bears, birds and even a badger. Andrew Jackson taught his parrot, Polly how to swear. Teddy Roosevelt harbored a regular menagerie, which included the usual suspects—dogs, cats and horses, plus a few unique selections: a lizard, a rat, a pig, a rabbit, a rooster, an owl, and unfortunately, a snake, which he named Emily Spinach.

When Calvin Coolidge moved into the White House, he had dogs, a few cats plus raccoons, a donkey, a goose, a bobcat, a wallaby, a 600-lb. pygmy hippopotamus and two lion cubs that he named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.

John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator—a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, a French man with a flair for fashion who probably bestowed it with the idea that the sixth President of the US could turn it into a nice pair of boots. Instead the alligator took up residence in a bathroom in the East Room and JQ took great pleasure in using his ferocious pet to scare some of his guests—probably Whigs and Federalists, the biggest political parties of his day (1825-1829).

JQ wasn’t the only President to house an alligator. Republican Herbert Hoover allowed his son, Allan to have two pet alligators, which were often loosed to roam the grounds of the White House. Mostly when Democrats were expected. For dinner.

One of our most beloved Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was a cat lover. He frequently brought in strays and let his cats Tabby and Dixie dine at the table. And not just on meatloaf night. They were occasional guests at state dinners. Not to be catty, but his wife, Mary Todd, claimed her husband’s hobby was cats.

Dogs win the vote for favorite Presidential pet by a landslide, which makes sense seeing that they’re man’s best friend. Considering the 24/7 barrage of criticism Presidents receive, the unconditional love of a dog has to be appealing. Sort of warm and fuzzy. (See what I did there? Dogs? Warm and fuzzy?)

There are a few exceptions to the positive press Presidents get on their pets, but they’re few and far between. On a trip to the Aleutian Islands, Franklin Roosevelt was accused of forgetting his Scottish terrier Fala and sending a destroyer to rescue her. At the taxpayer’s expense. For days, it was a topic of heated conversation around dinner tables, in local drinking establishments and at water coolers across America. Finally FDR took to the air to assure Americans the rumor simply was not true. He had not left Fala behind. Nor had he spent millions of taxpayer dollars to rescue her. In fact, the very thought of spending all that money infuriated his little dog’s frugal Scottish soul.

Lyndon Johnson took heat when a photographer snapped a photo of him lifting his beagle by the ears. Most of the criticism came from poodle owners who did not know lifting a beagle by the ears was okay. Snoopy might disagree, but I’ve heard most beagles kind of like it.

Among Richard Nixon’s repertoire of memorable deeds is his Checkers speech. It had nothing to do with board games and everything to do with a Cocker Spaniel. Nixon was in political hot water for a slush fund he supposedly oversaw when he was Eisenhower’s vice-president. He publicly denied it, but did fess up to having received a gift that he would not be returning—his faithful dog, Checkers. His speech turned the tide of public opinion, and suddenly Nixon, the dog lover was truthful, warm, and kind in thought, word and deed. A regular Boy Scout. Amazing what a canine can do for a reputation.

At the moment, President-Elect Donald Trump does not have a pet. Perhaps he’ll get one. And if he’s smart, it will be a dog.

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