Presidential Pets continues with a look at the beloved pets of Presidents past and present. Part three details President Kennedy through current President, Barack Obama. Be sure to check Presidential Pets, Part One and Part Three.
John F Kennedy 1961-1963
Kennedy and his family were all avid animal lovers and during his term, the White House was filled with pets. Jacqueline Kennedy even created a special play area for her children near the West Wing, and included housing for their pets in the design. Caroline, Kennedy’s daughter, was given a pony by then-Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson. She named the pony Macaroni and children around the world fell in love with the animal as they wrote letters to the pony. During the bitterly cold winter, Macaroni often pulled Caroline and John all over the White House grounds in a sled. Other animals include:
- Cats: Tom Kitten, a cat who even had an obituary notice published by the press after his death in 1962.
- Dogs: Charlie, Caroline Kennedy's Welsh terrier; Clipper, a German shepherd; Shannon, a cocker spaniel; Wolf, an Irish Wolfhound; and Pushinka - a gift from Premier Krushchev in 1961 and father to space dog, Strelka.
- Birds: Robin, a canary; Bluebell and Marybelle, parakeets.
- Horses: Tex and Leprechaun, ponies; Sardar, Arabian (gift of Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan, 1962); Rufus, Palomino
- Exotics: Debbie and Billie, hamsters; Zsa Zsa, a rabbit; and Sardar, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy's horse
Lyndon Johnson 1963-1969
President Johnson's beloved Yuki was a mutt found at a Texas gas station by first daughter, Luci Johnson. Many photographs capture the image of Johnson howling, Yuki perched on his lap, joining in. Other pets include beagles, Beagle and Little Beagle, and Him and Her. Blanco was a white collie. Johnson also kept a variety of hamsters and lovebirds.
Richard Nixon 1969-1974
Checkers, Richard Nixon's dog while vice president, and while he was at the White House there were Vicky, the Poodle,Pasha, Terrier and King Timahoe, an Irish Setter.
Gerald Ford 1974-1977
Gerald Ford had a golden retriever named Liberty given to him by his daughter, Susan. The dog was a useful tool that Ford often used to escape meetings in the Oval Office. When he wanted the meeting to end, he would signal Liberty, who would approach the guest with her tail wagging. This would cause a break in the conversation and allow Ford to wrap up the meeting. Photos of Liberty were autographed with a rubber stamp of her paw print. Ford also had a cat named Shan.
Jimmy Carter 1977-1981
Grits the dog was given to Amy Carter, daughter of the President, by one of her teachers. Although the President's White House diary records a meeting on June 8, 1977 between Carter; Amy Carter; Mr. Herbert Ford, a dog handler; Mrs. Herbert Ford; and Grits himself; the dog was eventually returned to the teacher and replaced with Misty Malarky Yong Yang, a Siamese cat.
Ronald Reagan: 1981-1989
Rex was a King Charles Spaniel who replaced Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres when she grew too big and was sent to the ranch to live. Rex’s doghouse was designed by Theo Hayes, the great-great grandson of former President Rutherford B. Hayes and was formerly owned by William F. Buckley, Jr., the conservative columnist. Rex’s first official act as First Dog was to help the President pull the switch to turn on the White House Christmas tree. The dog often pulled very hard on his leash and was photographed many times pulling President Reagan away from reporters posing questions. Reagan also cared for Cleo & Sara, Tortoiseshell strays, and several unnamed cats.
George Bush 1989-1993
Millie, a Springer Spaniel belonging to George and Barbara Bush, holds the distinction as being the first dog known to have authored a book. With the First Lady's help, she penned Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush. In it, Millie gives a dog's-eye view of life in the Bush White House. In addition, Millie gave birth to several puppies while living at the White House, amongst the litter was Ranger and Spot – two more dogs that resided as Bush’s pets.
Bill Clinton 1993-2001
Socks the cat joined the Clinton White House while First Daughter Chelsea was a young girl - despite the fact that both parents were allergic to cats. Hillary Rodham Clinton later wrote a book titled, Dear Socks, Dear Buddy. The book contains a series of letters written to Socks and Buddy (the Clinton's chocolate Labrador retriever) by children from around the world. Socks was later adopted by Betty Curie, Clinton's White House Secretary, when Chelsea went off to Stanford University. Socks and Buddy’s intense rivalry became well known during Clinton’s term.
George W. Bush 2001-2008
George W. Bush kept both cats and dogs. Barney and Miss Beazley were both Scottish Terriers and Spot was a mix. Ernie, India, and Cowboy were their beloved cats. Cowboy, said to be the President’s favorite, died of a kidney disease in February 2000 at the age of 12. The Bushes' orange-striped polydactyl cat Ernie was judged too wild for White House life and now lives with a family in California.
Barack Obama 2009 +
Bo is a male (neutered) Portuguese Water Dog belonging to the family. President Obama was given the dog by Senator Ted Kennedy after months of research was done to find a hypoallergenic dog due to Malia Obama's allergies. Sunny joined the family in 2013. She is also a Portuguese Water Dog (female) and was selected from a breeder in the Great Lakes region. (We are still trying to educate our presidents on the importance of rescues!).