May 1, 2015
Most Americans can hum a few bars of the well-known presidential tune, “Hail To The Chief” and upon hearing it, immediately associate it with either a current or past Commander In Chief. However, it made us wonder… what would be an appropriate song to signal the arrival of a presidential pet? “Diamond Dogs”…”Cat Scratch Fever”…or even “Great White Horse”… but what about “Eye Of The Tiger” or “Teddy Bear”?!
That’s right, in honor of our SEVENTH annual Paws For Smiles event, we’re celebrating not only “Puppy Love,” but the diverse collection of pets who have called the White House home.
Obviously, in the early days of the U.S., horses could be expected…and you would not be disappointed. Starting with the very first president to live in the White House, John Adams, the list of “First Horses” is exhaustive:
- John Adams;
- Andrew Jackson: who had horses named Truxton, Sam Patches, Emily, Lady Nashville and Bolivia;
- John Tyler: with a horse named The General;
- James Knox Polk;
- Zachary Taylor: along with his horse, Old Whitey;
- John Adams;
- Rutherford B. Hayes;
- Ulysses S. Grant: with a whole herd of horses named Jeff Davis, Julia, Jennie, Mary, Butcher Boy, Cincinnatus, Egypt, and St. Louis; along with two ponies named Reb and Billy Button, thrown in for good measure;
- James Garfield: paled in comparison with his one horse, Kit;
- Calvin Coolidge: who did not keep a horse but did have Ebeneezer, a donkey;
- John F. Kennedy, Jr.: more than halfway through the 20th Century had Sardar, the horse;
With all those horses, it kind of makes you wonder if they kept them in the garage, along with modern cars! However, we’ve saved the best for last…Theodore Roosevelt, who had an entire menagerie. And no “garage” for one steed, when the president’s son, Quentin, brought the family pony INTO the White House to cheer up his brother, Archie, who had the measles. He loaded up Algonquin, the pony, into an elevator so he could bring it into Archie’s upstairs bedroom!
And, this was just the beginning during TR’s administration…as the president had the most extensive collection of pets imaginable. It included:
- Sailor Boy, a Chesapeake Bay retriever;
- Manchu, a Pekingese;
- Skip, a mutt;
- Terriers named Jack and Pete;
- Cats named Tom Quartz and Slippers;
- Josiah the badger;
- Algonquin the pony;
- Eli the macaw;
- Jonathan the piebald rat;
- Emily Spinach, a garter snake;
- PLUS, twelve horses; five bears; five guinea pigs; other snakes; two kangaroo rats; lizards; roosters; an owl; a flying squirrel; a raccoon; a coyote; a lion; a hyena; and a zebra!
And “First Son” Quentin’s hijinks did not stop with the Algonquin stunt. After borrowing a bunch of snakes from a local pet store, he was so excited to show his father, he ran into the Oval Office during an important meeting and dropped the whole load of snakes onto the president’s desk!
Whoa!! But, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t the only president to host exotic pets. The list is quite jaw-dropping…
John Quincy Adams’ wife, Louisa (by the way, the only First Lady born outside of the United States!) kept silkworms in the White House. Not to be outdone by his wife, John Quincy Adams had an alligator!
Thomas Jefferson had a mockingbird, along with two bear cubs, a gift from explorers, Lewis and Clark.
AND, two presidents, Herbert Hoover and Benjamin Harrison, kept pet opossums
Two presidents were recipients of some rather unusual gifts, that were added to this list of pets:
- James Buchanan received a herd of elephants from the King of then Siam, which we now know as Thailand. He kept one of the pachyderms as a pet. I wonder how well it got along with his pet eagle
- And, the Sultan of Oman gave Martin Van Buren a pair of tiger cubs…and the wild and woolly list doesn’t end there!
Calvin Coolidge might have been known as “Silent Cal” but during his presidency, you can bet the White House wasn’t so silent! In addition to his opossum, he had a wide assortment of garden-variety pets including dogs, cats and birds, PLUS Smokey, a bobcat; Old Bill, a thrush; Enoch, a goose; a bear; an antelope; a wallaby; a pygmy hippo; and some lion cubs! Add into this mix two raccoons, named Rebecca and Horace, that he would walk on a leash.
While the White House may sound like more of a zoo than you ever could have imagined, during many administrations it more closely resembled a barnyard with cows, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigs, rabbits, roosters (the first presidential alarm clock?) and even sheep!
In fact, during World War I to support the war effort, Woodrow Wilson kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn. They grazed to save on gasoline and the labor used to cut the grass! And, he even auctioned off their wool to benefit the American Red Cross.
Farm animals and wildlife aside, by far the most popular presidential pets have been, without a doubt, dogs. And that brings us back to our original Presidential Pooches!
We could go on for pages listing the famous canines, from George Washington to Barack Obama without skipping a beat. And we will dig a bit deeper into that in a future post. But, most telling is the list of presidents who had NO pets: Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and Chester A. Arthur, some of the most-frequently forgotten names when listing presidents!
This COULD be a coincidence, but some of the most influential and memorable Presidents of the United States all HAD pets! So the moral of this message might be, if you want to leave a lasting legacy, pet parenthood might be the path.
To ensure your place in history…or at least change the history of an abandoned dog seeking a furr-ever home, come on out to The Smile Center at Military Plaza this Saturday, May 2 from 10 AM – 2 PM and join us at Paws For Smiles! And we can guarantee it’ll be “Puppy Love” at first sight.