Dear Crabby, Has the White House Gone to the Dogs?

Dear Crabby,

I saw a blurb over the weekend that President Biden’s 13-year-old German Shepherd, Champ, had passed away. So, that got me wondering about presidential pets. Are they always dogs?


M.R. Ed

Dear M.R. Ed,

No matter your political affiliation, it’s always hard when a family loses a cherished pet. Unless it’s a goldfish. Then you just flush those suckers down the toilet and buy another before your daughter notices. But you ask an interesting question and I was surprised to find out that when it comes to the history of presidential pets, goldfish barely register.

Overall, dogs seem to be the preferred pet choice. Herbert Hoover had the most of any president with a whopping 15 dogs. Who wouldn’t want man’s best friend by his side after a long day of decision-making and putting politicians in time-outs? In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish Terrier, Fala, was a movie star. In 1943, MGM made a short film relating the World War II home front story from Fala’s perspective. After Roosevelt’s death, another film was made in 1946 showing Fala touring Hyde Park, the Roosevelt family estate. Not bad work if you can get it. Next in popularity are horses, birds, and cats. After that, the pet choices get a bit more varied and quite honestly, a little wild.

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For example, Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and John F. Kennedy all basically brought a zoo with them when they took office. Between those four presidents, there were various combinations of dogs, birds, cats, rabbits, hamsters, raccoons, a hippo, a bear, lion cubs, canaries, a squirrel named Pete, pigs, a barn owl, rooster and hen, a hyena, a lizard, snakes, guinea pigs, horses, and ponies! Can you imagine? When I was a kid all I wanted was a pet turtle! But my favorite presidential pets belonged to Woodrow Wilson and John Quincy Adams.

Wilson had sheep grazing the White House lawn, which served a dual purpose. First, it saved the government money because the sheep cut the grass, and second, during World War I, their wool was auctioned off to benefit The Red Cross. That’s good old American ingenuity right there. As for Adams, that rascal kept an alligator in the bathroom! I would have loved to see the faces of folks when they opened that door. Ha! Talk about a security system.

When Donald Trump was in office, I heard a lot of grumbling from folks because he was the first president not to bring a pet to the White House. But according to my sources (Google), that’s not true. Trump is actually one of three presidents who didn’t bring a single pet to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The other two are Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk. Maybe they were all allergic? As for the Biden presidency, even with Champ’s passing, they still have another German Shepherd, Major, roaming the White House grounds. So, I guess overall, the White House has really gone to the dogs.

Hope that clears things up.

Dear Crabby

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