As so much attention has been given in the media recently to the presidential election in the US, I thought we should take a look at the various dogs that have resided in the seat of power in Washington. Of the various pets that Presidents kept during their term of office, dogs are by far the most popular, with 32 out of 45 Presidents having a dog.
The first President, George Washington, was a pure dog lover who, over his lifetime, kept over 50 dogs and has been credited as the developer of a new Foxhound breed, the American Foxhound.
The first dogs to take up residence in the White House were a pair of mixed breed puppies called Juno and Satan in 1800. This was during the time when the building was being completed and the second President of the United States, John Adams and First Lady Abigail held office.
Most modern day Presidents have had dogs, except the current President, Donald Trump. I am pleased to see that the President Elect, Joe Biden, is a dog lover and, once again, we will see dogs at the White House. In fact, Biden’s 2 dogs, Champ and Major, are the first dogs rescued from an animal shelter to live at the White House.
Some Presidents have gone to extreme lengths to rescue their dogs. In 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for his fourth term when rumors surfaced that his Scottish Terrier, Fala, had accidentally been left behind when visiting the Aleutian Islands. After allegedly sending back ships to rescue his dog, Roosevelt was ridiculed and accused of spending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to retrieve his dog. At a speech following this, Roosevelt said, “you can criticize me, my wife and my family, but you can’t criticize my little dog. He’s Scotch and all these allegations about spending all this money have just made his little soul furious.”
There doesn’t seem to be any standard benchmark for the types of dog that have been chosen over the years. From Corgis to Irish Wolfhounds and everything in the middle, pure breeds and mutts, have slept in the White House. Thank goodness no one has written an Executive Order defining what a Presidential dog must look like (yet)! Having said that, there are some criteria to be considered when moving a dog into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: the dog needs to be highly trainable, robust enough not to get trampled in all the hustle and bustle, and be able to get regular exercise, thorough socialization and proper training. When the Obama’s were looking for a dog, they also had to factor in that their daughter, Malia, was allergic to dogs so they needed to find a dog that was hypoallergenic. They chose the Portuguese Water Dog.
One thing is for sure, being President of the United States is not an easy job. Having a dog to help you through those stressful times has to be a huge help in terms of therapy. Maybe the first question to any prospective presidential candidate should be “what’s the name of your dog?”