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But today, to highlight how important pets were to some of our presidential leaders, I want to take a moment to mention a few of them whose love for animals may have added a special touch to the White House and its grounds, by sharing their with their beloved pets. And several of these “First critters” were quite unique; not commonly kept as companion animals even today. Let’s begin our trip down memory lane of the Presidents who had pets, with the Father of our country, George Washington. Washington kept a parrot, 38 hounds, and several horses. Thomas Jefferson was gifted by Lewis and Clark with two bear cubs and also kept a Mockingbird. James Monroe lived with a Spaniel, and John Quincy Adams owned silkworms and an alligator. James Van Buren kept two tiger cubs.
Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt kept a veritable menagerie. Some of the animals included in his collection was a badger, a flying squirrel, a coyote, a lion, a zebra, a hyena, a raccoon, an owl, several varieties of snakes, five bears, five guinea pigs, two kangaroo rats, lizards, a garter snake named Emily Spinach, Eli the macaw, Jonathan the piebald rat, Algonquin the pony, dogs, cats, and twelve horses. I cannot even begin to imagine the size of Teddy’s feeding bill!
Herbert Hoover was owned by a collie, a malamute, a setter, an elkhound, two fox terriers, two shepherds, an Irish wolfhound, and an opossum. William Taft owned a cow named Pauline Wayne. Grover Cleveland kept mockingbirds canaries and a poodle.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a dog lover extraordinaire, warmed many peoples’ hearts with Fala, a Scottish terrier who remains one of the most famous “First Canines”. Roosevelt also owned Meggie, another Scottish terrier, and a German shepherd, an English sheepdog, a Llewellyn setter, a mastiff and a Great Dane.
Tom Kitten the Cat owned John F. Kennedy along with Zsa- Zsa the rabbit, a horse, three ponies, several parakeets, hamsters and eleven dogs. Gerald Ford had a Golden retriever and a Siamese cat. Ronald Reagan had a King Charles spaniel and a Bouvier des Flandres sheepdog.
Never to be forgotten is Barney, President George W. Bush’s Scottish terrier. His “First Doginess” will always be remembered for biting a reporter visiting the White House. Winding down our tour of presidential pets, now gracing the White House is Bo, a Portuguese water dog. He was given as a present to President Barack Obama and his family by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. This adorable pooch is a kids’ delight who has made guest appearances at charity events. And as “First Dog” in the nation, he may be the canine spokesperson for all American dogs.
Who is your favorite “First Pet”? Share with a comment.