Every day, unless you decide to hermit away in your Netflix shell, we hear damning stories about politicians and their compatriots. We tear presidents apart on Twitter, angrily discuss them over family dinners, and sloppily make cheers to them (OK, maybe about them) when we’re out drinking with our friends.
But, occasionally, it’s fun to remember that the presidents of the present, past, and future are people just like us. Not only are they just like us, but they also love animals almost as much as we do (because, seriously, who can top our level of love?). Since the grand era of George Washington to the present badass Barack Obama, an astounding variety of pets have made their mark, probably literally, in the home of the presidents and their families.
Let’s start at the very beginning with the illustrious George Washington. I guessed that because George Washington was busy getting the United States on the map that he maybe didn’t have a lot of time for pets. Oh contraire, my friends, it is estimated that over the course of his life, Washington likely owned upwards of 50 dogs. Other than, you know, being the first president of the United States, George was very well-known for his hunting dogs.
He had an interesting range of names for his furry companions, including: Drunkard, Mopsey, Taster, Cloe, Tipsy, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Sweetlips, and Searcher.
He even played matchmaker at one point for his dalmatian (also called coach dogs), Madame Moose: “A new coach dog [arrived] for the benefit of Madame Moose; her amorous fits should therefore be attended to.” (source)
Oh George, you really shouldn’t have…
Moving on to a fact that I’m sure, to this day, makes PETA shudder: both John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover had alligators as White House pets. Adams gave the alligator its own room and bathtub to frolic in before finally moving it to another location. Hoover had two alligators that would occasionally take a stroll on the White House grounds, which I’m sure made for interesting viewings for sightseers.
At this point, I’m wondering whether the presidents were having a contest over the ages to see who could have the weirdest pet ever. While Calvin Coolidge croaked during office, he still managed to acquire a small menagerie including a bobcat, lion cubs, an antelope, and a wallaby. Last but certainly not least, Coolidge was gifted a pygmy hippopotamus that was fondly named Billy. Apparently, Billy was quite the stud as before he came to the end of his life he managed to sire 23 calves in between his greeting of White House visitors.
Surely, in this grand line-up, we could not forget Teddy Roosevelt’s bear and guinea pigs—amongst a large assortment of other animals that rivaled Coolidge’s menagerie. In fact, Roosevelt’s bear is the origin of the term “teddy bear,” after a cartoon of Roosevelt saving the bear’s life dubbed it as such. And it seems the Roosevelt family also had a knack for names, as the guinea pigs sported impressive names, such as Bishop Doane, Dr. Johnson, Father G. Grady, Fighting Bob Evans, and Admiral Dewey.
Bill Clinton earns a special place in my heart (granted, a very tiny corner) for owning a dog, Buddy, and a lovely black and white cat named Socks. Seriously, if they showed me this picture when he was running I would have elected him right then and there.
Abraham Lincoln earns a much bigger place in my heart because, per his wife, his hobby was cats, which he could play with forever. He also granted a turkey reprieve from the chopping block on Thanksgiving, and had several rabbits and a horse named Old Bob. Well done, my tall friend from times past.
Finally, we can’t forget the most important current residents of the White House: Bo and Sunny. Bo and Sunny are Portuguese Water Dogs, a breed which is known for being hypoallergenic, which was a need for Malia Obama. Mad props to the Obamas who initially wanted to adopt a shelter dog, but understandably it’s difficult to find a purebred, hypoallergenic, Labradoodle or Portuguese Water Dog in shelters. So they went through the typical channels to get Bo and Sunny, but they still get some kudos…
In the end, perhaps U.S. presidents also take solace in a small fuzzy creature who loves them unconditionally. Granted, said small fuzzy creatures might take the form of an alligator or pygmy hippo, but to each their own.
Oh, and how could she forget? She has three cats which she loves to bits and pieces.
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