Presidents Day is a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the third Monday of February. Originally established in 1885 to honor George Washington, it was later expanded to include all US presidents. While we honor the presidents and their achievements, it also provides us with an opportunity to remember the pets that have been faithful companions to many United States presidents.
Dogs have been a constant presence in the White House for centuries. These canine companions have played important roles in the lives of the presidents, offering them comfort and companionship during the tough times of their tenure. In this blog, we will take a closer look at some of the most famous presidential dogs and their impact on their owners.
- Champ and Major- Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s two beloved dogs, Champ and Major, are an important part of the President’s life and legacy. Champ, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, was adopted by the Bidens in 2008, while Major, a 4-year-old rescue dog of the same breed, joined the family in 2018. Major’s adoption is especially significant, as he is the first rescue dog to ever live in the White House.
Both dogs have played an important role in Biden’s public appearances since he took office, and they have become beloved symbols of the current presidency. The Bidens’ love for their dogs highlights the importance of animal adoption and the joy that pets can bring to our lives. Overall, Champ and Major are important members of the Biden family and a reflection of the president’s commitment to animal welfare.
- Bo and Sunny – Barack Obama
Bo and Sunny were two Portuguese Water Dogs that were beloved pets of the Obama family during Barack Obama’s presidency. Bo was adopted in 2009, and Sunny joined the family in 2013. The two dogs quickly became fixtures in the Obama White House and were often seen at public events and in official photographs.
Both Bo and Sunny were highly popular with the public. In addition to their roles as beloved family pets, the dogs were used to promote important causes, including a public service announcement that encouraged Americans to adopt shelter pets. The Obama family’s dedication to animal welfare and adoption remains an important part of their legacy.
- Buddy – Bill Clinton
Buddy was a chocolate Labrador Retriever that belonged to Bill Clinton and his family during his time as President of the United States. Buddy was adopted in 1997 and quickly became a beloved member of the Clinton family, often seen at public events and in official photographs. Unfortunately, Buddy passed away in 2002 after being hit by a car, but he remained an important part of the Clinton family’s history and legacy.
- Checkers – Richard Nixon
Checkers was a dog that played a significant role in Richard Nixon’s political career. In 1952, Nixon was the Republican nominee for Vice President, and his campaign was facing allegations of financial impropriety. In response, Nixon gave a speech on television, during which he addressed the accusations and discussed his personal finances. At the end of the speech, Nixon mentioned that his daughters had received a gift, a black and white dog named Checkers, and that he would not be returning the dog, regardless of the outcome of the election. The speech, which became known as the “Checkers speech,” was a huge success and helped to save Nixon’s political career.
Checkers, a Cocker Spaniel, became a beloved member of the Nixon family and was often seen with the family in public. The speech that Nixon gave about Checkers is now considered a landmark moment in political history and is remembered as a turning point in Nixon’s career. Despite the controversy surrounding the speech, it helped to humanize Nixon and showed the public that he was a devoted family man with a deep love for his dog.
- Fala – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fala was a Scottish Terrier that belonged to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. Fala was gifted to the President by a cousin in 1940, and quickly became one of Roosevelt’s closest companions. Fala was often seen with the President and was known for his friendly personality and his love of attention.
Fala’s most famous moment came in 1944, when Roosevelt gave a speech in which he addressed rumors that he had left Fala behind on a trip to the Aleutian Islands. Roosevelt’s speech, which became known as the “Fala speech,” was a humorous and lighthearted response to the accusations and helped to boost his popularity. Fala became a beloved member of the Roosevelt family and was even buried next to the President at the Roosevelt family estate in Hyde Park, New York.
- Liberty – Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford’s dog, Liberty, was a Golden Retriever who often accompanied the president on his trips to Camp David. Liberty was known for her loyalty and affection and was a beloved member of the Ford family. Liberty gave birth to a litter of puppies while in the White House, and one of the puppies, named Misty, went on to become the first seeing-eye dog to live in the White House.
- George Washington
Washington was known to be an avid animal lover. Throughout his life, Washington kept a number of dogs, which he used for hunting and as companions. Some of his most notable dogs include hounds Sweet Lips, Vulcan, Venus, and Drunkard, and the Greyhound True Love. In addition to his love for his own dogs, George Washington played a significant role in the history of the American Foxhound breed. He wanted a hound that could handle the Virginia terrain, so he combined English and French Foxhounds renowned for their speed, agility, and hunting ability to create the breed we know and love today.
While dogs have been the more common pets at the White House, there have been a few notable cats that have called the presidential residence their home. These feline residents have added their own unique charm to the presidential residence. Here are a few of the most notable:
- Socks – Bill Clinton
Socks was a cat that belonged to the Clinton family during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Socks was adopted by the Clintons in 1991, and quickly became a beloved member of the family. Socks was often seen with the President and the First Lady, and was even featured in a children’s book written by Hillary Clinton. Socks was known for his friendly personality and his distinctive black and white fur.
Socks was also used to promote animal welfare during the Clinton presidency. In 1994, Socks was featured in a public service announcement that promoted responsible pet ownership and encouraged Americans to spay and neuter their pets. The ad was a huge success and helped to raise awareness about the importance of pet sterilization. Overall, Socks was an important member of the Clinton family and played a significant role in promoting animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.
- India “Willie” – Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford adopted a Siamese cat named “Willie.” Willie became known as “the first cat” during Ford’s presidency and was often seen around the White House. Willie was often seen with Susan, who would carry him around on her shoulder.
- Misty Malarky Ying Yang – Jimmy Carter
While Jimmy Carter did not own a cat during his presidency, his daughter Amy brought a Siamese cat named Misty Malarky Ying Yang to the White House. Misty was known for her playful personality and was often seen climbing on the furniture in the White House.
- Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln’s love for animals was not limited to dogs, as he was also a known cat lover. When Lincoln took office as the 16th President of the United States, he was quick to bring his beloved cats to the White House. In fact, Lincoln was the first president to bring a cat to the White House, which marked a significant moment in the history of presidential pets. Lincoln’s two cats, Tabby and Dixie, quickly became fixtures in the White House, often following the president around and keeping him company during his long hours of work. Lincoln was known to be very fond of his cats and would often play with them, even bringing them into his office during important meetings. There are even reports that Lincoln was once seen holding Tabby during a cabinet meeting, as the cat purred contentedly in his lap.
Presidential pets have been a constant presence in the White House for centuries, providing their owners with comfort and companionship during the tough times of their tenure. These pets have played important roles in the lives of the presidents and have even helped to shape political history. These dogs and cats have left their paw prints on the history of the United States, and their legacies will continue to be remembered for years to come.
As you celebrate President’s Day, take the opportunity to thank your pets for their love and comfort during trying times in your life. Even if times are tough, we can always count on our pets to be there for us and to help us through.